Feb 16, 2009

Gay-Neck

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:
Rebecca Reads
Children's Lit and Other Bits
The Newbery Project
Semicolon
Shelly's Book Blog

5 comments:

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

I'm hoping read this one eventually as I make my way through the Newbery's. But I'm in no rush.

Jeane said...

It's interesting, most of the other bloggers who reviewed this book picked it up because it was a Newbery. I had no idea when I found it at random at The Book Thing.

____Maggie said...

I read a great book titled Pigeons that told the Gay-Neck story. The book talks about pigeons mostly in New York City, but hubby liked it too!

Jeane said...

Maggie- I'd like to read that one! I'm definitely more familiar with pigeons in the city than trained carrier pigeons, so it would be interesting.

Rebecca Reid said...

I never would have read this one if not for the Newbery. I think I'd probably give it a similar rating -- not a winner in my book but not horrible. I also felt the prose was awkward.