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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Gary, by Leila Rudge. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2016. $23.00 ages 4 and up

"Gary loved hearing about their adventures. He would perch nearby and record everything in his scrapbook. But one night, Gary leaned too far on his perch. And lost his balance. Gary and his scrapbook fell down to the bottom of the loft.  And they both landed in the travel basket with a bump. The next day was race day ... "

Gary is not at all like the other racing pigeons. He does live with them, he appreciates their adventures. Gary must live vicariously through them; Gary can't fly. We don't know why, and that really doesn't matter.

Gary is a huge supporter of the birds who share his loft. He loves to listen to their stories of the places they have been and the things they have seen. He is just like them most of the time.

"He ate the same seeds.
Slept in the same loft.
And dreamed of adventure."

On racing day, he is nothing like them at all. In fact, one evening just before a race Gary has an accident and falls into the transport basket. He is there the next day when the other pigeons travel to their drop-off point. He is there when they set off on their race course. And, he is there when they are gone and he is alone, wondering if he will ever get back home.

Luckily, he has his scrapbook with him. He has collected all of its keepsakes while listening to the others share their many adventures. It is not only reassuring for Gary, it provides something else that proves handy for a pigeon trying to find his way home. It acts like a map that leads him home. It matters not that flight is not his method of travel ... his adventure is quite glorious. Gary is a learner. Nowhere is that better displayed when he shares his story with his loft mates. Following that, there are the days when the others want to be just like Gary!

Using mixed media to create the quiet images displayed here, Ms. Rudge allows her readers a look at the sport of pigeon racing and of the value of maps. Collage work gives the maps and mementos an authentic feel, and our eyes are consistently drawn to the movement displayed.

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