by Kaela Noel


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“An unforgettable story of friendship, love, and finding your flock.” —Erin Entrada Kelly, Newbery Medal-winning author of Hello, Universe

In this exceptional debut, one young girl’s determination to save the flock she calls family creates a lasting impact on her community and in her heart. Gorgeous and literary, this is an unforgettable animal story about friendship, family, home, and belonging. For readers who love books by Kate DiCamillo and Katherine Applegate.

Ten years ago, an impossible thing happened: a flock of pigeons picked up a human baby who had been abandoned in an empty lot and carried her, bundled in blankets, to their roof. Coo has lived her entire life on the rooftop with the pigeons who saved her. It’s the only home she’s ever known. But then a hungry hawk nearly kills Burr, the pigeon she loves most, and leaves him gravely hurt.

Coo must make a perilous trip to the ground for the first time to find Tully, a retired postal worker who occasionally feeds Coo’s flock, and who can heal injured birds. Tully mends Burr’s broken wing and coaxes Coo from her isolated life. Living with Tully, Coo experiences warmth, safety, and human relationships for the first time. But just as Coo is beginning to blossom, she learns the human world is infinitely more complex—and cruel—than she could have imagined.

This remarkable debut novel will captivate readers from the very first line. Coo examines the bonds that make us family, the possibilities of love, and the importance of being true to yourself. Fans of Katherine Applegate, Kate DiCamillo, and Barbara O’Connor will devour this extraordinary story.

Features black-and-white spot art throughout.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly


When a human baby is abandoned near their Queens, N.Y., dovecote, a flock of pigeons raises her as one of their own. Clothing her in plastic bags and feeding her from dumpsters, they name her Coo and teach her to speak pigeon, protect the birds, and fear humans. But when Coo’s closest ally is injured, she must risk leaving the roof to find “healer” Tully, who feeds the pigeons and helps birds that are hurt. Though reluctant to trust the woman, Coo seeks her help again when dwindling winter food supply makes her a liability to the flock. Under Tully’s care, Coo learns about the human world: its comforts, its language, and its dislike of pigeons. As Tully and Coo discover that someone seeks to hurt the birds, Coo must decide whether she belongs with Tully or the flock that raised her. The story conveys powerful messages about love and friendship, compassion and belonging. Sweetest of all is endearing Coo’s steadfast affection and loyalty for those she loves—pigeons and humans alike. With this troop of quirky pigeons whose rooftop world is both strange and familiar, Noel has written a debut replete with hope, humor, and heart. Ages 8–12. Agent: Katie Grimm, Don Congdon Assoc. (Mar.)


A heartwarming story of finding family . . . A unique approach to adjusting to a new culture and language . . . Coo is endearingly strange, and her perception of the human world is fresh and humorous.

School Library Journal


Gr 3–6—The unconventional tale of an abandoned child who is adopted and raised by a flock of New York City pigeons. Coo is left on the doorstep of a guard shack by her young mother. A pigeon squab named Burr discovers the human child in a mysterious bundle. Recognizing it as a helpless hatchling, he convinces his flock to swoop in and save her by transporting her to their rooftop dovecote. Fast-forward 10 years and readers are introduced to Coo's life on the roof. She has survived on doughnuts and bagels, and dresses in plastic bags and newspapers scavenged for her by her bird family. The first time she leaves the roof is to get help for her father-figure Burr when his wing is broken in an eagle attack. She is then thrown into a strange new world filled with humans and terrifying predators in the form of house cats. Coo must learn how to survive in the human world, which gives her the unique advantage to help her flock and all the pigeons of the city when grave danger threatens them all. Though the conceit of the novel pushes the limits of reality, readers will nevertheless shed a tear over the pigeons and root for Coo's success. VERDICT If readers can suspend disbelief that a baby could successfully be rescued and kept alive by a flock of pigeons, they'll find this a charming tale of a young girl raised in the wild being slowly reintroduced into society in the same vein as Tarzan. Purchase for collections where series with anthropomorphized animals, like Erin Hunter's "Warriors" or W. Bruce Cameron's "A Dog's Purpose," are popular.—Sara Brunkhorst, Glenview Public Library, IL

Kirkus Reviews

Abandoned in Queens, a white human infant was rescued and raised by a flock of pigeons; now it's her turn to rescue them.

Occupying an old dovecote on an abandoned factory roof, Coo's flock survives on a dumpster's stale bagels and doughnut crumbs, nesting on shredded newspaper and plastic bags. Coo earns her keep shooing predators away. When Burr, the flock member responsible for her survival, is savaged by a hawk, Coo, who speaks only pigeon (represented as pidgin English), descends to the ground for the first time in order to seek Tully, a human woman (likely also white) who feeds pigeons, restoring injured ones to health. Tully takes Burr and gives Coo her hat, scarf, and food, but she fails to persuade the girl—thin, dirty, clothed in plastic—to come too. Starvation threatens the flock when their dumpster disappears. Again, Coo braves the human world; this time, she lets Tully bring her home, where she finds Burr—alive and healed but permanently flightless. Learning English, Burr and a human friend help Coo adapt. When forces attacking city pigeons threaten her old flock, Coo mounts a desperate rescue. Despite a compelling setting and engaging characters, jarring contradictions hobble this debut. Dumpster diving and scavenging nest materials are detailed with grim realism; bird (and human) droppings are mentioned once. Fantasy's soft focus blurs the hard issues raised—child abandonment, the scourge and plight of urban birds—diminishing their impact.

Lovers of animal fantasy may flock to it, but it's not likely to win over genre skeptics. (Fantasy. 8-12) (starred review)

[A] whimsical, wonderful debut . . . Readers will lose themselves in this high-flying story of friendship and home.


A heartwarming story of finding family . . . A unique approach to adjusting to a new culture and language . . . Coo is endearingly strange, and her perception of the human world is fresh and humorous.

Erin Entrada Kelly

Coo made my spirit soar. An unforgettable story of friendship, love, and finding your flock.

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)

Noel builds an immersive pigeon culture. . . [and] offers a movie-worthy climax . . . [A] story that will appeal to a wide range of readers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062955975
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/03/2020
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 210,760
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.80(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

Customer Reviews