the Story of Pigeon
by Dhan Gopal Mukerji
As you can gather from the title, this is about a pigeon. Gay-Neck (named for the iridescent feathers on his throat) was raised by a boy in India who kept pigeons as pets. The boy trained him until the pigeon was so skilled he was used in the army to carry messages. Gay-Neck has lots of adventures outflying predatory birds (a lot of other pigeons in the book get killed by owls, hawks, eagles, crows, etc), frequently gets lost, and the boy tramps all over trying to find him again. He passes through the hands of strangers a few times before being reunited with his owner. Some of his encounters with danger make the pigeon too fearful to fly again, so he and the boy seek healing from a holy man. Gay-Neck: the Story of a Pigeon has lots of descriptions of animals killing each other, and men killing each other in warfare. The author laments this brutal behavior, then exhorts the reader to find peace and courage in his own heart.
I wanted to really like this book, because it has so much lore about bird behavior, how pigeons are trained, and wildlife in India. But the prose is often awkward, the style feels very dated, and I found myself frequently bored, in spite of all the exciting events running through its pages. The narration frequently shifts from the boy's perspective to that of other minor characters, and sometimes the pigeon tell his own story as well. This was only midly confusing to me, but might make it more difficult for a child to follow (if the unfamiliar prose style and scenes of killing don't already put him off). But if you're interested in life in India during World War I, the role pigeons played in it, or aspects of their training (far beyond the life of a city-dwelling "rat with wings") this book might interest you.
A lot of other readers had praise for this book, so don't take my word for it, but check out some of the links included below.
Rating: 2/5 ........ 192 pages, 1927
More opinions at:
Children's Lit and Other Bits
The Newbery Project
Shelly's Book Blog
My Life in Books