Bo Parrot is a parrot on a mission. He is actually the spirit of a young boy from the Solomon Islands who didn’t respect nature. As a punishment for chopping down the biggest tree in the forest, he was turned into a parrot with the ability to speak to one human of his choice. After spending thirty years as a parrot he has a lot to share, and he finds a welcoming audience in a young girl named Alice.
Alice wants to know about Bo’s background, and he tells her how the forest he lived in was cut down, and how along with hundreds of other baby parrots, he was sold by poachers. He endured a treacherous journey to the United States with little food and water and little concern for whether he lived or died. Bo has the magical ability to summon other parrots, so the reader also hears of the plight of birds from Brazil, Guatemala and the Ivory Coast. Finally, we hear from a bird that was born in the United States and learn that buying a parrot bred in captivity is the most humane way to keep such an exotic bird as a pet.
With just a few missteps, the story relates a lot of information without slowing the narrative. The author manages to communicate a strong environmental message without being preachy. While the story focuses on parrots, Bo and Alice also discuss the larger issues of conservation and taking care of the planet because all living beings share an important connection. What the Parrot Told Alice will teach readers a few new things and will certainly make them think about their place in the world - and what they’ve done lately to improve it.
Each chapter begins with a pen-and-ink illustration highlighting an upcoming scene. The drawings of parrots being captured are especially effective at complementing the narrative. It’s one thing to read about a crate of parrots being left to drown in a river, but seeing an illustration makes it that much more horrifying. Other drawings simply give the reader a glimpse of the main characters and settings.
According to promotional materials, the book is intended for an audience of nine- to thirteen-year-olds. The fairy tale nature of the story is suitable for a young audience, but the basic writing style of the author seems better suited for older readers. A number of descriptions and references and some of the vocabulary (even with a glossary) would go over the heads of all but a few fourth and fifth graders. For instance, would a nine-year-old really appreciate the idea, “The parrot gave a serene Buddha-like nod”? Perhaps if used as a read-aloud a teacher or parent could help younger children through the more difficult parts.
Overall, What the Parrot Told Alice is an inventive story with an important message for readers of all ages.