Thursday, June 14, 2012

"Gay Neck, the Story of a Pigeon" by Dhan Gopal Mukerji (1928 Newbery Winner)

This Newbery book has been my greatest struggle.  I wanted to give up.  I really, really wanted to sack it and move on.  But I already quit "Tales from Silver Lands" and I felt giving up on another book would show weakness.  I refused to be defeated by this 200 page book.  But frankly, I hated it.  Almost every single page was a snooze fest.  Unless you're an avid bird fanatic or interested in early 20th century British India, you won't like this book.  I knew it was about a bird, obviously.  I was expecting something charming like "Ralph the Mouse" or "Stuart Little."  Wrongo bongo.  The only redeeming quality of this story were the war chapters where the bird goes to Europe to be used as a messenger pigeon in World War I.  Those were more interesting.  Then it went back to boring again.

There was an underlying theme of overcoming fear throughout the book, so I guess that might be another point for it.  However, at the end of the book one of the human characters and Gay Neck both have to overcome the horrible side-effects of the war they encountered in Europe (today known as post-traumatic stress disorder).  The author has them 'fix' their ailment by having them kill a wild buffalo that's been destroying several villages in India.  And voila, they're magically mended!

This bothered me.  PTSD is a real issue.  People who have fought in battle or experienced natural disasters or what-have-you often deal with this problem for life.  It's not a cold.  There's no remedy.  You can learn coping mechanisms, but nothing will cure you of it.  So the author 'fixing' the bird and the man by having them defeat the buffalo, and therefore all their fears and trauma, did not sit well with me.

Don't read this book.  It's a story about a pigeon.  That's all you need to know.

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