Book Review: The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya by Jane Kelley

Posted December 12, 2013 by Kara in book review, Kara / 4 Comments

Book Review: The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya by Jane KelleyThe Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya by Jane Kelley
Published by Feiwel and Friends on October 15th, 2013
Genres: contemporary, middle grade
Pages: 208
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

An orphaned African grey parrot who can speak 127 words. A girl so sick, she has forgotten what it means to try. Fate––and a banana nut muffin––bring them together. Will their shared encounter help them journey through storms inside and out? Will they lose their way, or will they find what really matters?Here is a story that will remind readers how navigating so many of life’s desperate adventures requires friendship and, above all, hope.

I haven’t reviewed a middle-grade book in a while. I love them, so I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps it’s because I just review what I am given, and rarely have time to read books that aren’t for review and most of the review books I get are not middle-grade. Except this one, which I happened to request because it’s about an African Grey parrot and a little girl with leukemia. 

Parrots are a big thing in my life. Most people don’t know what it’s like to spend time around birds, to have them in your household. They think birds can’t cuddle, that they aren’t snuggly or affectionate, which just makes me snort because that is absolute hogwash. I had a parrot that used to ride around in my shirt all day long and preen my hair, give me kisses, and snuggle under blankets and watch movies with me. Birds are awesome. Unfortunately, they are also loud, and since I live in an apartment and have for many years, they are kind of impossible to have. Which sucks because I would totally have one right now if I didn’t. I really don’t have a point with this, other than birds are awesome. Also, I like to talk about myself. 

But naturally, with my love of birds, when I see a fiction book about them, I must have it. And you know, this book was humorous, cute, and I loved being in the head of a bossy, obstinate, African Grey parrot. They are known as the best talkers, and Zeno understood 127 words and was very proud of it. He also loves banana nut muffins and mentions that often. In fact, his entire journey is to find a banana nut muffin. Along the way he meets homing pigeons, some really nasty people, and a little girl named Alya who needs to try. I can’t say more than that without spoiling, but there are also some pretty serious and sad parts of this book. They are handled wonderfully though, and I am giving my husband a copy of this book for his classroom. 

I’m not sure if this is a book most adults would enjoy or not. It is brilliantly written, but it is also definitely geared towards the age it is meant for, as it should be. The subject matter is simple, there are lessons to learn, but it IS enjoyable. I definitely think this is a book parents and children would enjoy reading together. I enjoyed it because I love to read across genres, and most of the time I do not care if a book is simple or not. This one resonated with me. It was also the first book I was able to finish in more than a week, so it has that going for it as well. Also, I love New York settings, so there is that too. It’s just a cute and huggable book that made me feel good feelings. 

Sometimes that is enough. The perfect book for animal lovers.


4 responses to “Book Review: The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya by Jane Kelley

  1. Were this book and I meant for each other? I love MG and New York setting, too. Birds, I’m not mad about but they are considered as a bonus. A parrot came to live with my family back when I was 3 or 4 years old; we didn’t get it from somewhere. It very definitely chose us and we always thought it was a runaway. We lived in close quarters but really no one minded when it stared parroting us,”Papa’s home! Papa’s home!” because it drowned out the din of barking dogs and crying kids. But one day, on the roof, my sister accidentally let it out from under a basket-thingy(since we never got a cage for him/her). It never came back and we had to resume listening to this awful pet dog that would constantly come at you even if you were across the corridor. :/

    • Sad to hear that about the parrot. I hope it was able to survive on its own. If it was used to being a pet, I’m afraid it might not have been so lucky. Thank you for sharing your story.

  2. Oh Kara, I love birds too. We’ve had lots in my family over the years. My grandmother had an Amazon for many years, and I had a cockatiel for 25 years. I don’t really have time to read MG, but Ii might make an exception for this book, it looks wonderful:)

    • I had a sun conure and a cockatiel, both which I loved very much but parents made me get rid of. Those were sad days. Someday I hope I can get another and give it the life of love I was never able to give to my other babies.

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