“Once upon a time” is how this novel begins. Once upon a time in the recent past, a mother leaves her baby in a vacant lot. A flock of nearby pigeons find the swaddled bundle and carry it up to their dovecote and care for her. They name her Coo. Raised by the pigeon family, Coo is fed and loved and cared for, learning the ways and language of the birds.
A few years pass. As Coo grows older she becomes increasingly aware of the world of humans on the street below. Things change quickly when a kind woman named Tully discovers the unkempt little girl living among the pigeons she is feeding and nurturing back to health whenever necessary. This girl clearly has no family and no home.
Tully coaxes Coo to her home and soon discovers that this little person speaks the language of the pigeons but has no idea about how humans live together in a city. Tully and Coo grow to love each other, but they also encounter difficulties as they try to understand and trust each other’s reality.
Children will most certainly enjoy this present-day fairy tale. It opens up conversations at a very basic child level about human and animal interaction and intersection, the nature of love, imprinting, and nurture within a family, and the role of civil authorities for good and ill within the story’s context.
An excellent read-aloud but also an easily accessible novel for independent young readers. (Ages 6-12) (Harper Collins Childrens)