The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya

( 1 )


An orphaned African grey parrot who can speak 127 words. A girl so sick, she has forgotten what it means to try. Fate––and a banana nut muffin––bring them together. Will their shared encounter help them journey through storms inside and out? Will they lose their way, or will they find what really matters?

Here is a story that will remind readers how navigating so many of life’s desperate adventures requires friendship and, above all, hope.

See more details below
$11.39 price
(Save 28%)$15.99 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (17) from $1.99   
  • New (8) from $8.78   
  • Used (9) from $1.99   
The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$9.99 price
Note: Kids' Club Eligible. See More Details.


An orphaned African grey parrot who can speak 127 words. A girl so sick, she has forgotten what it means to try. Fate––and a banana nut muffin––bring them together. Will their shared encounter help them journey through storms inside and out? Will they lose their way, or will they find what really matters?

Here is a story that will remind readers how navigating so many of life’s desperate adventures requires friendship and, above all, hope.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Two hurting souls—a newly homeless African grey parrot nervously plucking out its feathers, and an 11-year-old Brooklyn girl enduring endless treatments for leukemia—cross paths briefly, recognize themselves as kindred spirits, and understand that somehow they must find each other again. Zeno knows he is a “Booful, briyant bird,” because his late “servant,” Dr. Agard, told him so. Alya, too, knows her family loves her (“Mrs. Logan hugged Alya and stroked the top of her forehead for the 9,595th time”). However, the physical and emotional stress of their respective situations demands extraordinary hope. In one moving scene, a frail Alya manages to open her window in case Zeno should return because “believing was absolutely essential when you had a battle to fight.” Kelley (The Girl Behind the Glass) moves seamlessly between Zeno and Alya’s perspectives, capturing their humor, fear, desperation, and hope, while occasionally offering the viewpoints of supporters like Alya’s brother and Zeno’s new bird acquaintances, who convey the message that “Girl wants Zeno.” An uplifting story of courage, resilience, and cross-species friendship. Ages 8–12. Agent: Linda Pratt, Wernick & Pratt. (Oct.)
School Library Journal
Gr 3–7—Zeno, an African grey parrot, knows 127 words, but when his human suddenly dies, his advanced vocabulary does nothing to prepare him for life outside his Brooklyn apartment. Not comprehending what has happened to Dr. Agard, he embarks upon a journey to find food, friendship, and understanding. In another part of Brooklyn, a girl named Alya has all but given up hope as she battles leukemia. In a desperate search to find his favorite food, banana-nut muffins, Zeno appears at her window where he sees his beloved food within. Bedridden, Alya fantasizes that the mysterious talking bird can give her strength. Zeno, unfortunately, is facing his own obstacles as he is famished, lost, and kidnapped by an evil woman, and he has frustrating encounters with birds that can't comprehend his words. Alya's older brother, Parker, sets out on his own journey to try to find Zeno to bring him back to Alya, in a frantic attempt to save his ailing sister. The story is alternately told in Zeno's and Alya's voices, and both characters are compelling, believable, and likable. Sprinkled with humor, particularly with Zeno's gaps in vocabulary, the plot is fast paced and will appeal to a wide range of readers as they root for a satisfying ending for both the bird and the young girl.—Michele Shaw, Quail Run Elementary School, San Ramon, CA
From the Publisher
"The story is alternately told in Zeno’s and Alya’s voices, and both characters are compelling, believable, and likable. Sprinkled with humor, particularly with Zeno’s gaps in vocabulary, the plot is fast paced and will appeal to a wide range of readers as they root for a satisfying ending for both the bird and the young girl." — School Library Journal

"For animal lovers looking for something unique, this story of true friends missing each other will fit the bill." — BCCB

Children's Literature - Carrie Hane Hung
Two characters intersect at a critical moment in their respective lives. Zeno is an African grey parrot that speaks over 120 words and imitates over 60 sounds; he loves banana nut muffins. He suddenly must fend for himself in a world outside of his home due to his owner’s death. Alya is an eleven-year-old girl who is diagnosed with leukemia. She is undergoing chemotherapy. Her world is limited to her bedroom because she is too weak to walk. When Zeno and Alya both feel down, the two meet. While searching for food, Zeno spots Alya’s banana nut muffins and perches on the window bars outside her window. This initial meeting begins the glimmer of hope for both characters. During the events of the story Zeno and Alya reveal their inner thoughts and perspectives about the events around them. Individually, they face their personal challenges. The story has a satisfying ending that seems to stop short. Some readers may want to know more about the bond that continues to grow between Zeno and Alya. Reviewer: Carrie Hane Hung; Ages 8 to 12.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250023483
  • Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
  • Publication date: 10/15/2013
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 665,639
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 520L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

JANE KELLEY is the author of the middle-grade novels NATURE GIRL and THE GIRL BEHIND THE GLASS. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their daughter.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt




An alarm buzzed. A phone rang. Theme music from a news program played. A clock chimed ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen times. The alarm buzzed again louder and louder. And louder. No one turned it off. No one got up and put food in the shiny aluminum bowl that was, alas, completely empty.

The source of all these sounds rapped his beak on top of the bookcase. The house was silent for a moment, as if everything in it, even the walls of leather-bound books, hoped for a response. There was none. So the alarm buzzed, the phone rang, the music played, the clock chimed, the alarm buzzed, and a raucous voice proclaimed, “Zeno wants!”

Zeno was an African grey parrot. He could imitate sixty-three sounds and speak 127 words. Since those two were by far his favorites, he repeated them again, “Zeno wants!”

He flapped his gray wings and spread his tail that was as scarlet as the lining of a magician’s cape. Then he flew over to the shiny aluminum bowl. He cocked his head to one side to see if his servant had filled it with food. There were no nuts, no fruits, no greens—nothing except Zeno’s own reflection. He admired his sleek gray head and the sharp curve of his dark beak. Then he carefully lifted his left foot, grasped the rim of the bowl with his long gray toes, and flipped the bowl onto the floor. The metal clattered so delightfully on the hard wood that Zeno repeated the sound himself.

Then he paused, waiting to be praised and rewarded. No one said, “Brilliant bird.” No one gave him an apple chunk. No one recorded the sound and the date in the notebook. No one said, “That makes sixty-four distinct sounds.” And no one started a discussion of whether words should count as sounds. What was the difference between a sound and a word? Sounds had meanings, too. Didn’t the buzz of the alarm mean “wake up”?

“Zeno wants,” Zeno muttered mournfully. He flew over to perch on the desk so he could look down at his servant.

Dr. Agard was still sleeping on the floor. Zeno didn’t understand this. Dr. Agard was a man of regular habits. He had never lain down on the floor for even a moment in the twenty years that he had been Zeno’s servant. He had certainly never slept there.

The real phone rang. Zeno cocked his head and glared at the black rectangle. It rang seventeen times. Dr. Agard didn’t get up to answer it.

Zeno made the sound of the buzzing alarm again. This was always very effective at waking up Dr. Agard, even when it was the middle of the night. However, nothing was as it should be.

Dr. Agard hadn’t even put away his papers before taking his nap. He was always careful to keep them where Zeno couldn’t get them. Several stacks were on the desk, including one that Dr. Agard had described as final exams. You see, in addition to being Zeno’s servant, Dr. Agard was also a professor of Greek literature at Brooklyn College. He had named Zeno after a Greek philosopher. He often quoted the human Zeno to the parrot Zeno.

“Extravagance is its own destroyer,” Zeno squawked. He waited for Dr. Agard to reward him for saying what the human Zeno said. There was no response. Surely it was extravagant of Dr. Agard to lie on the floor instead of feeding Zeno.

“Pfft,” Zeno muttered. He put his foot on the stack of final exams and used his beak to tear a long strip off the top paper. This was one of Zeno’s favorite things to do. He loved the feel of the paper in his mouth, loved the little bit of resistance from the paper, and then the soft sighing sound as the paper abandoned itself to Zeno’s will. Rip, rip, rip, rip. What could be more satisfying than to turn a flat white sheet into a muddle of curls?

Zeno glanced at Dr. Agard again. He still hadn’t moved. Zeno didn’t understand this. Usually Dr. Agard would rush over at the first little rip, waving his hands and shouting, “Those are my papers, Zeno. Mine.”

Well, perhaps they were Dr. Agard’s. However, Zeno didn’t see why he wanted them. He never did anything interesting with them. He just held them in his hand. Occasionally he made marks like bird tracks with that short stick, which Zeno wasn’t supposed to gnaw, either. What was enjoyable about that? Nothing. In fact, Dr. Agard often moaned as he was marking the papers. Sometimes he would say things like, “You could have written a better essay than this, Zeno.” And Zeno would nod his head several times yes yes yes. Even though he couldn’t really claim to know the words “essay” or “written,” he did know that he could have done a better job at whatever it was because he was, of course, Zeno.

Finally all the papers had been shredded. Dr. Agard hadn’t rescued a single one.

“Mine?” Zeno said.

He turned his head upside down to stare at Dr. Agard. Then he turned his head the other way to ponder the situation from that point of view. What was Dr. Agard doing down there? Dr. Agard often told Zeno that Zeno had to control his emotions if he wanted to achieve wisdom. This was called being stoic. The human Zeno was supposed to be very good at that and at accepting his fate. The parrot Zeno wondered if that was why Dr. Agard was lying there? Had he found wisdom by not being angry at Zeno?

“Pfffft,” Zeno muttered.

If that were true, being stoic didn’t seem like a good thing. Of course Zeno was delighted that Dr. Agard wasn’t angry. However, Dr. Agard didn’t seem happy, either. And Dr. Agard seemed to have forgotten all about sharing their Sunday morning treat.

Unlike his human namesake, Zeno the bird never suffered in silence. “Zeno wants!” he squawked.

And what did Zeno want? Since you are no doubt much better at understanding your feelings than poor Zeno, you know that Zeno wanted Dr. Agard to get up. He wanted the life they had shared for twenty years to continue. He wanted not to feel alone in the house. He wanted to be rid of that little throbbing knot of fear and dread in his stomach. He wanted …

“Banana nut!” Zeno squawked.

Well, he wasn’t the only one who thought everything would be all right if he could just eat his favorite food.

Sharing banana-nut muffins was one of their rituals. Unfortunately Dr. Agard had decided to take a nap on the floor like a stoic instead of going out to get their special Sunday treat.

Zeno flapped down and stood right next to Dr. Agard’s head.

Dr. Agard didn’t move.

“Banana nut?” Zeno muttered mournfully.

The phone rang again.

Dr. Agard didn’t move.

Zeno rubbed the side of his beak against Dr. Agard’s finger—the one Dr. Agard used to scratch the top of Zeno’s head, right in the dark gray patch of feathers, between the pale gray circles that surrounded his yellow eyes. Dr. Agard always stroked Zeno’s head as he said that Zeno was the most beautiful, brilliant bird in all of Brooklyn.

“Booful, briyant bird,” Zeno muttered.

The doorbell rang—the real one. Then someone knocked on the door. “Dr. Agard? Dr. Agard?”

The knocking turned to banging.

“Dr. Agard!”

Zeno recognized the voice of Dr. Agard’s assistant. There had been many over the years. Zeno never liked them. They didn’t seem to understand that since Dr. Agard was Zeno’s servant, the servants of Dr. Agard must be Zeno’s servants, too. The current assistant frequently referred to Zeno as “that bird.” He had yelled at Zeno in a most un-stoic-like fashion just because Zeno had ripped open the assistant’s backpack to help himself to a packet of mixed nuts.

“Dr. Agard? I’m opening the door.”

The locks turned. The door opened. Zeno flapped his wings and flashed his scarlet tail feathers. “BRAWWWK!” Zeno squawked, ready to defend Dr. Agard against these intruders.

The assistant and two other men in blue clothes rushed into the room.

“Get that bird out of here,” the assistant shouted.

That bird? The assistant should have learned Zeno’s name by now. Dr. Agard had told the assistant often enough.

“Zeno,” Zeno squawked. “Booful, briyant Zeno.”

The humans weren’t listening. One actually shoved Zeno away from Dr. Agard. Zeno was so shocked by this rough treatment that he flew up to the bookshelf. He pulled a book of Greek tragedies off the top shelf and dropped it to the floor. Plop. He kept pulling books until he had cleared the entire shelf. Plop, plop, plop, plop.

The men in blue knelt by Dr. Agard. They loosened his clothes, poked him with needles, stuck tubes in his arms, and covered his face with a mask.

And still Dr. Agard didn’t move.

After several frantic moments, the men in blue stopped what they were doing and became almost as motionless as Dr. Agard. “That’s all we can do,” one said.

The assistant nodded and hid his mouth behind his hand.

The men in blue gently lifted Dr. Agard onto a little cot, covered him with a white cloth, and wheeled him out the front door.

Zeno was shocked. Where were they taking Dr. Agard?

“Mine!” he squawked, because of course Dr. Agard was his servant. He flew out the front door after them and perched on the lowest branch of an oak tree.

The assistant hovered close by as the men in blue put Dr. Agard in the back of a white van. They slammed the doors shut. Bang.

Zeno watched the van drive up the street and disappear around the corner. He looked at the door to the house. Should he go back inside? What for? His dishes were empty. The papers were shredded. And Dr. Agard, his devoted servant, had gone.

“Zeno want?” Zeno muttered.

No one responded to him. So Zeno flew off to make his own way in the great wide world.


Copyright © 2013 by Jane Kelley

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 1 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2013

    I thought this book was exceptional. I was a little leery of the

    I thought this book was exceptional. I was a little leery of the parts told in the parrot's voice, but Zeno was quite charming, particularly as he grew in his understanding of the world. I loved Alya's character, so brave and also so genuine in her fears and her way of looking at the world. I thought the author did a particularly good job of capturing the complexities of a loving family in the midst of a stressful situation. I am a children's librarian and I'm hoping to use this book in my girls' book club in the spring. Usually I don't choose brand new titles because it can be hard to get enough copies from other libraries but in this case I think it will be worth the effort. Highly recommended, along with another title by Jane Kelley: Nature Girl.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)