The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya

Jane Kelley. Feiwel and Friends, $15.99 (208p) ISBN 978-1-250-02348-3
Two hurting souls—a newly homeless African grey parrot nervously plucking out its feathers, and an 11-year-old Brooklyn girl enduring endless treatments for leukemia—cross paths briefly, recognize themselves as kindred spirits, and understand that somehow they must find each other again. Zeno knows he is a “Booful, briyant bird,” because his late “servant,” Dr. Agard, told him so. Alya, too, knows her family loves her (“Mrs. Logan hugged Alya and stroked the top of her forehead for the 9,595th time”). However, the physical and emotional stress of their respective situations demands extraordinary hope. In one moving scene, a frail Alya manages to open her window in case Zeno should return because “believing was absolutely essential when you had a battle to fight.” Kelley (The Girl Behind the Glass) moves seamlessly between Zeno and Alya’s perspectives, capturing their humor, fear, desperation, and hope, while occasionally offering the viewpoints of supporters like Alya’s brother and Zeno’s new bird acquaintances, who convey the message that “Girl wants Zeno.” An uplifting story of courage, resilience, and cross-species friendship. Ages 8–12. Agent: Linda Pratt, Wernick & Pratt. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/26/2013
Release date: 10/15/2013
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