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The Desperate Adventures of Zeno & Alya

by Jane Kelley

Published by Feiwel & Friends, 2013
201 pages
ISBN: 978-1-250-02348-3

Ages 8-11

A self-centered African gray parrot named Zeno is on his own in Brooklyn after his owner dies. In search of his favorite food--banana nut muffins—he finds it just inside the third floor bedroom of a girl named Alya. Alya, who has leukemia, can’t stop thinking about that parrot after he flies away. She is about to start the next round of treatment and decides she needs Zeno, who kept saying “Try” when she couldn’t reach the muffins because she was too weak to walk across the room. Zeno, meanwhile, has been kidnapped and sold to a wealthy woman from the suburbs. But he’s heard through the bird grapevine that the girl with banana nut muffins he saw through the window is looking for him, and he’s determined to find his way back to her. “Does magic really exist?” Alya asks her mom, and her mom tries, kindly, to say no, not in the real world. But it turns out it does. Jane Kelley’s novel is an irresistible mix of humor and warmth, magic and the messiness of real life. Alya is scared and has almost given up. Her family doesn’t always know the right thing to do. Zeno is egotistical, entertaining, and poignant as he learns about the meaning of words he knew but never understood, like “friend” and “home.” His teachers are a heroic pigeon named Bunny, and, of course, Alya, in a story that is unabashedly moving, but also funny and tense and so very satisfying. (MS) ©2014 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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