Gary by Leila Rudge

cover image

Walker Books, 2016. ISBN 9781925081695
(Age: 3+) Highly recommended. Birds. Adventure. Maps. Difference. Gary the pigeon cannot fly, so sits at home when the others are taken in the basket to a place far away to compete in a pigeon race and return home. Gary loves hearing their stories and adds their mementos to his scrapbook. This includes maps and tickets, postcards and timetables. He adroitly uses a roll of sticky tape with his beak to stick each of the items into his scrapbook, and listens intently at night as they recount their adventures, adding their stories to his collection.
But one night Gary leans a little too far, tumbling into the basket with his scrapbook. Next day the basket is taken away with the other pigeons for their race home. Finding himself a long way from home is a challenge for Gary because he cannot fly and so find his own way home. But he has his scrapbook, and opening it he is able to chart his way using other methods of travel.
The wonderful pictures tell the story of Gary and his cohort, dressed in their finery for the big race, with the plain Gary looking on. His scrapbook is wonderful, with little drawings of the mementoes that he keeps tucked away. Kids will love looking at these and working out where the pigeons may have collected them from, and then later how Gary uses them to get back home. His adventure will open up all sorts of avenues for classes to discuss maps and mapping, directories, finding your way around your area and so on. As part of the Geography focus this book will be well used, but it is also about someone taking the bull by the horns, about difference and solving a problem, so having their own neat adventure.
The illustrations are wonderful, the pages full of pigeons as they strut around in their cages, the delightful scrapbook used as the endpapers as well, the flowing tumble of Gary into the pigeon basket, Gary in the city using public transport. Each is very funny and shows Gary off to the reader, as he uses his difference to solve his problem. What a treat to reinforce the difference in us all, that everyone has their own characteristics, that one trait is not superior to another.
This will be one of those books in the library where children will cluster around to hear it read out loud, thinking about how Gary can possibly get home, or dreaming of their own big adventure.
Fran Knight