Thursday, October 01, 2020

Coo, by Kaela Noel

Raised from birth by pigeons, Coo is only indirectly aware of humans and how they live.  They don't live in dovecotes and they don't scavenge for food like her flock does, they don't fly, and they talk strangely.  Aside from a curiosity about humans and that pesky lack of ability to fly, Coo is perfectly happy living with her flock.  But when a retired postal worker named Tully notices that there is a girl living with the birds, Coo's life starts to change.

Tully rescues Coo and takes Coo back to her apartment.  There are certainly advantages like running water, heat, and a plentiful supply of food, but for Coo, the ways of humans are strange and scary. There are many strange things like money, police, and rules that prevent Coo from staying with Tully forever.  Most scary of all, someone in the city is trying to poison the pigeons. Coo is determined to use her position as both a human and a member of a flock to save the birds.

A curious middle reader. Noel struggles a lot to explain away the more implausible parts of the story (like how a child could survive for years being cared for by birds) and that can grow distracting.  But setting skepticism aside, there is an enjoyable story here about Coo's discovery of how she fits within a community (whether it is pigeon or human).  Coo wants to be independent and struggles against restrictions on her independence, but gradually she learns to accept help from others and to understand that even if people and pigeons seem largely selfish, there is an instinct to look out for each other to solve our shared challenges.

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