Many of you wonderful animal lovers out there are exotic animal lovers. You think outside of the box, adding to your family beautiful, sometimes strange, flamboyant creatures. But let’s all agree, these unconventional pets are not in any way strange to you. You are the lovers of dragon lizards, tarantulas, flying squirrels, pythons, hedgehogs, parrots, macaws, possibly even iguanas, pigmy goats and even monkeys. While I’m a traditional animal lover, I did, in college, have a parakeet. While that is as wild as I ever got with a pet, it was a creature that allowed me to think beyond my big, fat, independent cat. My parakeet sang to me, chirping and sitting on my finger, happy to bring a little sunshine to my world with his pretty, yellow feathers (which, by the way, got all over the rug below his cage, along with every piece of birdseed, as he fluffed and flapped those beautiful yellow feathers). And yes, I talked to him every day, hoping he would repeat what I said to him like other birds have been taught. However, in a college apartment, maybe it was best he didn’t repeat what he heard.
Now, we all think our animals ‘talk’ to us, so as I was looking for a book to review this month, I came across one I had read long ago. It is the story about a graduate student who, after becoming interested in animal language, did her research on the subject and decided to study an African grey parrot. Alex The Parrot, South Carolina 2014-2015 Children’s Book Award, written by Stephanie Spinner and Illustrated by Meilo So, tells the incredible true story of Irene Pepperberg, a graduate student at Purdue University, who in 1977 went to a pet store and bought an African grey parrot, with the hopes of proving just how intelligent these birds were. This at a time when chimpanzee, gorilla and dolphin brains were the top of the scientific study world. It is the story of how determination and love of all things exotic show just how intelligent our creatures can be. I bet your talking to your llama right now, aren’t you?
Alex the Parrot
Written by Stephanie Spinner
Illustrated by Meilo So
Review by Linda Burton