Alastair is an African grey parrot with dreams of a life beyond the pet shop he calls home. Fiercely dedicated to his sister, Aggie, he sometimes fails to notice how his protective instincts can be suffocating, or worse. When the two siblings are separated, Alastair must learn to adapt to change without plucking himself bald. Suddenly, for Alastair, The Simple Art of Flying never seemed so complex.
Debut author Cory Leonardo weaves together multiple character perspectives seamlessly. The widow who buys Alastair can’t understand why he keeps trying to escape when it’s clear some part of him likes her. Young Fritz, who buys Aggie, has his own complicated reasons for wanting to keep something precious alive. The animals at the pet shop have distinct voices and personalities, not unlike the farm animals in Babe, and while some are wise, others are less trustworthy.
There’s a fair amount of heartbreak in this story, but it’s balanced with bursts of slapstick humor, from escaped tarantulas to wild dance breaks with feathered boas. There’s also a clever twist where Alastair, who enjoys tearing paper, discovers poetry and begins composing his own verses based on what he’s currently “reading.” When this angry parrot learns to reconsider his rigid ideas, a new world opens up to him: One where he can finally be happy in the realization that wherever he is, he’s home.