Gary is a racing pigeon, but for reasons unknown, he cannot fly. He dreams of adventure, just like the other racing pigeons, and he even keeps a scrapbook filled with travel mementos. He’s fond of listening to his friends, all clad in bright red racing uniforms, discuss “wind directions and flight paths” at dinner, and it is in this way that he is able to build the scrapbook.
One evening, Gary falls into a travel basket and is taken via a vehicle far into the city. He sees his friends race through the sky and then disappear. After he assumes he is stuck in the city forever, he remembers his scrapbook and uses what’s inside to successfully plot his way home.
Author-illustrator Leila Rudge, originally from England and now living in Australia, renders the story delicately in full-bleed, earth-toned spreads with consistent pastel blues on nearly every spread. The one where Gary imagines his route back home looks, fittingly, like a scrapbook page—with a stamp, bus ticket, train ticket, map and more. Rudge’s endpapers have the same mementos, inviting readers into Gary’s journey.
Ultimately, the other pigeons long to replicate the nature of Gary’s own adventure, and readers see that they’ve hopped on some mass transit at the story’s close to take a trip into the city. Passengers seem pleased to be sharing their space with the birds. Gary may be different—readers don’t know why he can’t fly (perhaps it’s a physical handicap or even an emotionally traumatic one)—but that doesn’t stop him from mastering his fears and having a grand adventure of his own. That he inspires his friends in the process is icing on the cake. After all, it was their memories he relied upon to create his vivid new ones.
This story passes with flying colors—a charmer through and through.
Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.