January 08, 2019

Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest

Written by Sarah Hampson
Illustrated by Kass Reich
Kids Can Press
32 pp.
Ages 3-7

Wherever and whenever there are judgements that something or someone is better, you have discrimination. It's done with people, animals, places, movies, and more. In the bird world, it's rampant, with some birds considered good birds, worthy of protection, and others dismissed as too ubiquitous for consideration. Pigeons were once revered as signs of peace and couriers of messages but are now often repudiated to be "rats with wings," in itself a judgement against rats. That is, until Dr. Coo and his pigeons take action.
From Dr. Con and the Pigeon Protest by Sarah Hampson, illus. by Kass Reich
Dr. Archibald Coo is a sophisticated urban pigeon who appreciates the best places to hang out and takes note of humans' attitude to pigeons. When he meets with his pigeon pals, Hootie Claw, Vern Birdman and Dove Blanchett, they begin to discuss the lack of respect afforded them.
     "Calm down?" hooted Hootie. "No one appreciates us! I'm the voice of the next-generation pigeon, and I'm not standing for it!"
     Oh, yes, he was in a flap.
From Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest by Sarah Hampson, illus. by Kass Reich
They've seen which birds are revered for their colour or song and Dr. Coo, the academic of the group, recalls how they were once the companions of the gods of ancient worlds and carriers of messages during battle. He comes up with a plan that they share with other pigeons in the city. They disappear. When the community finds a way to show their respect for the pigeons, helped with a few suggestions in a missive to the mayor, the pigeons show their own gratitude with a final message they drop on the humans.
From Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest by Sarah Hampson, illus. by Kass Reich
This final message makes Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest an effective allegory about acceptance of differences and give-and-take in relationships. The pigeons want to be respected and find a way to educate and share important information with humans while accepting that their droppings may be problematic and are willing to direct them to compost areas. It's a win-win situation but only if both parties are willing to accept responsibility and work together to find solutions to their perceived deficiencies.

Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest is Sarah Hampson's first book, yet she tells the story with the flair of a seasoned author.  She knows to use her words with frugality and punch, telling the bulk of the story but leaving openings for readers to see more than is written.  While Kass Reich is an illustrator whose artwork has graced her own darling Hamster books (Orca) as well as those of others, her illustration style seems to evolve with each project. In all honesty, I was swayed into believing that Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest was a book of non-fiction about people protesting pigeons–it could happen!–based solely on the cover which suggested a realism to the story. But Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest is a fictionalized story, albeit a whimsical one with an important message, told about some pigeons who recognize the need to take a situation under their own wings to effect change. In its own way, Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest is a big story about taking small steps.

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