Only a Pigeon

Overview

A lyrical picture book inspired by the daily life of "pigeon boys" in Ethiopia

Some might say that Ondu-ahlem's favorite bird, Chinkay, is only a pigeon. But to the young boy from Addis Ababa, Chinkay is everything that is proud, beautiful, and free. Ondu-ahlem watches over his flock like a mother, feeding the orphaned chicks and guarding the birds from the attacks of stray animals. Finally, his care and training are put to the test as two birds are set free in a nerve-wracking ...

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Overview

A lyrical picture book inspired by the daily life of "pigeon boys" in Ethiopia

Some might say that Ondu-ahlem's favorite bird, Chinkay, is only a pigeon. But to the young boy from Addis Ababa, Chinkay is everything that is proud, beautiful, and free. Ondu-ahlem watches over his flock like a mother, feeding the orphaned chicks and guarding the birds from the attacks of stray animals. Finally, his care and training are put to the test as two birds are set free in a nerve-wracking game that tries their homing instinct and loyalty. Left on the ground, Ondu-ahlem can only hope that Chinkay will return. Elegant prose and stunning watercolor paintings dramatically capture both the poverty and beauty of life in a modern Ethiopian city.

Ondu-ahlem carefully trains his pigeons and prepares them for the day when he and other Ethiopian boys test the homing instinct and loyalty of their precious birds.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
Ondu-ahlem, a young Ethiopian boy, raises and trains homing pigeons. His homeland is poor and his pigeons are his major possession. All of his spare time is spent caring for and training his birds. While he attends school each morning, his younger brother watches the birds to keep them safe from predators. In the afternoon, Ondu-ahlem earns money by shinning shoes. On certain days he and his friends release their pigeons to see which one will arrive home and perhaps lure in a competitor. Ondu-ahlem hopes that his favorite pigeon will arrive safely home. Throughout the story, readers see a close relationship between the brother, and a real concern for the pet birds. The soft watercolor illustrations show life in contemporary Ethiopia and the joy that these kids take in a very simple pursuit. A glossary and author's note with information about homing pigeons complete the text.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5"In Ethiopia,/a land of ancient churches and castles" begins this beautiful book, moving swiftly from broad, poetic images of the country to a narrative about the life of an individual boy. Lewis's watercolors accurately portray the city of Addis Ababa, from morning sunshine to evening darkness, and to the breaking of the next day. The full-page, realistic paintings are rendered in dusty tones of brown and green. The story focuses on Ondu-ahlem and his relationships with a brother, his friends, and his pigeons. The birds are all that he owns in the world, and he nurtures them tenderly and protects them from a hungry mongoose. He shares his delight in some ready-to-hatch eggs with his little brother and competes with his friends as they race their favorite pigeons home. As Ondu-ahlem gets up in the morning from the mat he shares with two brothers, goes to school for half a day, and shines shoes in the afternoon to earn money, readers learn about how few possessions he has and that it is necessary that he contribute to the family's income. Beyond this, however, children will respond to the suspense of the pigeon race and the threat of a predator, and they will identify with Ondu-ahlem. An author's note provides factual support. Here, finally, is a picture book about an African boy who lives in a city. In well-crafted, sometimes lyrical language and visual images, his life is made very real.Loretta Kreider Andrews, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, MD
Kirkus Reviews
Jane Kurtz (Trouble, p. 383, etc.) and her brother, newcomer Christopher Kurtz, offer an unusual and well-written story set in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia—a tale that could be a jumping-off place for a number of topics.

Upon rising, Ondu-ahlem, who looks 12, hurries to tend his beloved homing pigeons and their eggs, which will hatch soon. This is his passion, and as he goes through the routine of his day—a half-day at his crowded school, a job shining shoes on the streets—the birds are always on his mind. He allows his little brother to accompany him while he plays a suspenseful game with other boys who keep birds: They release their birds far from home, hoping their own will entice one of the others to defect to their coop. Watercolors in earth tones perfectly capture the terrain, the markets, the hodgepodge outfits the boys piece together. Scenery and portraits alike exhibit great skill in portraying the city and one boy's place in it, while the elegant storytelling is suffused with the quiet tension of the pigeons in danger.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689800771
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 5/1/1997
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.80 (w) x 11.35 (h) x 0.45 (d)

Meet the Author

Jane Kurtz
Jane Kurtz

Amy June Bates has illustrated many books for children, including Hillary Rodham Clinton: Dreams Taking Flight by Kathleen Krull, The Dog Who Belonged to No One by Amy Hest and You Can Do It! by Tony Dungy. She graduated from Brigham Young University and now lives in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, with her husband and three children. Illustrating books has always been her dream.

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