Only a Pigeon

Only a Pigeon

May 1, 1997
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Ages 4-8

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A boy in Addis Ababa, who works hard to earn money for his family by shining shoes, spends most of the time when he isn't working or going to school caring for his pigeons, protecting them from the weasels and other creatures that creep through the dark.


Winner of the Africa Association Book for Young Readers Award, 1997

Winner of the Parents' Choice Gold Award


From School Library Journal
Grade 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 Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist
Ages 4-9. There is gentleness in the words and light-filled watercolors of this picture book about a poor Ethiopian boy in the city of Addis Ababa who cares for the homing pigeons that are precious to him. Ondu-ahlem owns almost nothing. He shares a mat and blanket with his two younger brothers, walks three miles to his crowded school, and earns money shining shoes in the afternoon; but he tends his pigeon coop with infinite care, guarding against hungry predators, holding the eggs that are almost ready to hatch. There is not much story, but excitement rises when his favorite pigeon is released in a race and makes it home. In one beautiful picture, where Ondu-ahlem feeds a young orphan bird mouth to mouth with moistened grain, Lewis evokes the fragility and sturdiness of bird and child. This contemporary urban scene is a long way from picturesque, exotic Africans in native dress. Kids will be caught by the pet story of pigeon raising (an author's note discusses training) as much as by the account of one boy and the place where he lives. Hazel Rochman.

From 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. (glossary) (Picture book. 5-8) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.