Written and Illustrated by Leila Rudge
Candlewick Press, 2016
Most of the time, Gary was just like the other racing pigeons.
The plot in a nutshell: A non-flying homing pigeon learns to travel.
Gary lives with a group of racing pigeons, but he never does any racing himself because he can’t fly. He keeps a scrapbook of mementoes from places that the other birds have been and loves listening to them talk about their travels. One night, he and his scrapbook fall off his perch into the travel basket and are inadvertently taken along on the race day trip. All the other pigeons fly away home, but Gary is stuck in the city. As Gary looks though his scrapbook, he realizes that the maps and notes in his scrapbook can help him find his way back. He takes a bus back to his home and now has adventure stories of his own.
Author/illustrator Leila Rudge gives us a scrappy little character with Gary. We don’t learn what limitation he has that keeps him from flying and there’s something I really like about that. It’s a good reminder that people can have limitations that aren’t readily apparent, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Gary has a great attitude, doing what he can to be a part of the racing team by collecting memorabilia and keeping a scrapbook, without ever feeling sorry for himself. When he finds himself lost and alone in the city, he admirably uses his resources to solve the situation for himself.
The mixed media illustrations carry the scrapbook motif into the actual story, presenting several pages with detailed collages that resemble scrapbook pages. When Gary makes his way home, the illustrations show us his journey as a two-page scrapbook spread and while I like the presentation, I wish it had gone into more detail. I feel like this was a real missed opportunity where we could have seen him experiencing travel and collecting mementoes of his own and it felt like part of the story was missing. But overall, the story’s message is wonderful and Gary’s character is lovably upbeat.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that there are almost always resources around you to help you with any goal, if you keep your wits enough to use them.