Friday, April 8, 2011

Gay-Neck, the Story of a Pigeon (1928)

I was finally able to check this one out.  (Being on first name basis with the children's librarian at our local public library has its perks--she ordered 2 new copies when I told her I needed it and it was unavailable.) 

One thing I've noticed about several of the Newbery books, so far, is that they don't have an overarching storyline.  I understand that with collections of stories, that is inevitable.  But some of the other books are also like that.  Take Gay-Neck for instance.  This book does not have a story running throughout with conflict, resolution,etc., but is more like a series of pictures of different times in the life of the bird and the boy who owns and loves him. 

The action takes place in India, except for a short period when Gay-Neck is sent to Europe to act as messenger in World War I.  "Even now, with the aid of wireless telegraph and radio, no army can dispense with the help of carrier-pigeons." (p. 97)  How times have changed!

Lots of great Indian philosophy (see quotes below).  It was interesting to learn about how pigeons are trained, learn evasive action from enemies, show love and return to their owners.  I could see how Pres. Monson and Bert (from Sesame Street) have a fascinations with pigeons.

I really enjoyed the descriptions by author Dhan Gopal Mukerji. (See quotes below.)  Do children in grades 3-6 appreciate great descriptions?  These seem quite sophisticated for the target audience.

Not the most exciting book, but by reading the quotes below, you can decide for yourself if you want to take the plunge and read the whole thing.  Some of the quotes are quite lengthy, but good.

Philosophical quotes:
"You must know, O Jewel amongst hunters, that no animal, nor any man, is attacked and killed by an enemy until the latter succeeds in frightening him.  I have seen even rabbits escape hounds and foxes when they kept themselves free of fear.  Fear clouds one's wits and paralyses one's nerve.  He who allows himself to be frightened lets himself be killed." (p. 55)--This idea is continued in the next quote...

"Here let it be inscribed in no equivocal language that almost all our troubles come from fear, worry and hate.  If any man catches one of the three, the other two are added unto it.  No beast of prey can kill his victim without frightening him first.  In fact, no animal perishes until its destroyer strikes terror into its heart.  To put it succinctly, an animal's fear kills it before its enemy gives it the final blow." (p. 128)

"There are no graves of Indian Hindu soldiers because the Hindus from time immemorial have cremated their dead, and those that are cremated occupy no grave.  Their ashes are scattered to the winds, and no place is marked or burdened with their memory." (p. 148)

"The holy man said, 'Here in the monastery we have prayed to Infinite Compassion twice every day for the healing of the nations of earth.  Yet the war goes on, infecting even birds and beasts with fear and hate.  Diseases of the emotions spread faster than the ills of the body.  Mankind is going to be so loaded with fear, hate, suspicion and malice that it will take a whole generation before a new set of people can be reared completely free from them.'" (p. 171-172)

"He who purifies himself to the greatest extent can put into the world the greatest spiritual force." (p. 172)

Descriptive quotes:
"I was roused by a tenseness that had fallen upon everything...There was no doubt that the silence of the night was more than mere stillness; stillness is empty, but the silence that beset us was full of meaning, as if a God, shod with moonlight, was walking so close that if I were to put out my hand I could touch his garment." (p. 71)

"The sky above, as usual in the winter, was cloudless and remote, a sapphire intangibility.  The city houses--rose, blue, white and yellow--looked like an army of giants rising from the many-colored abyss of dawn.  Far off, the horizons burned in a haze of dun and purple" (p. 109)

"The Himalayas in the spring are unique.  The ground glittered with white violets, interspersed with raspberries already ripening here and there in the hot moist gorges where the ferns were spreading their large arms as if to embrace the white hills lying like precious stones on the indigo-blue throat of the sky...Tree against tree, bough against bough, and roots struggling with roots fought for light and life...Everywhere life grew in abundance, all the more intensifying the struggle for existence among birds, beasts and plants.  Such is the self-contradictory nature of existence.  Even insects were not free of it." (p. 168-169)

"Suddenly the Himalayan Doel, a night-bird, very much like a nightingale, flung abroad its magic song.  Like a silver flute blown by a God, trill upon trill, cadenza upon cadenza, spilled its torrential peace that rushed like rain down the boughs of the trees, dripping over their rude barks to the floor of the jungle, then through their very roots into the heart of the earth." (p. 183)

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