Sally’s Rating: 2/5
In Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon, Dhan Gopal Mukerji creates an interesting premise for a children’s book – a carrier pigeon who experiences the destruction of World War I. Unfortunately, the book is written in a way that allows the story to become very boring and repetitive.
Gay-Neck begins the book a simple pigeon. His early thoughts are of survival – from the weather, predators, and careless owners. Yet his carrier pigeon training sweeps him up in the Great War conflict that will forever change him. Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon highlights the futility of war through an innocent pigeon’s eyes, allowing readers to see how war affects those who are not human.
This timeless theme is hammered home quite frequently, without subtlety, throughout the book. At one point, Gay-Neck questions the pointlessness of war:
“Now,” demanded Gay-Neck, “tell me this: Why is there so much killing and inflicting of pain by birds and beasts on one another? I don’t think all of you men hurt each other. Do you? But birds and beasts do. All that makes me so sad.” (93)
This overarching theme allows the book to transcend some of the previous Newbery winners on the list. The book is poignant and well-written, but the execution of the novel falls flat.
The book’s plot is very dull. For the first half of the book, pigeon-master Ghond loses track of Gay-Neck multiple times and spends much of his time searching and worrying for his pet. Gay-Neck, on the other hand, spends the majority of his early life dodging other predators, such as hawks, eagles, and buzzards. He comes very close to death so many times that the false suspense gets lost in all the action.
The biggest problem with this book, though, is that the author is too grandiose in his word usage and describes everything in as much detail as possible. While his language style is very lyrical and beautiful, the book gets bogged down with too much pointless description. Additionally, whenever he switches from the human to the pigeon’s point of view, it’s a bit painful to get through as the narration change is fairly jarring since Gay-Neck is a much more irritating character.
Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon follows in the footsteps of its Newbery predecessors, as the book is composed of a boring plot, bland characters, and not enough pictures. While the war backdrop sets up an interesting time period for a children’s book, there is nothing memorable about the book besides its title.