The Newbery winner for 1928 was Gay-Neck, The Story of a Pigeon by Dhan Gopal Mukerji . This was a beautifully written book about a boy and his pigeon. I very much liked the relationship between the boy and the bird, but much of the book consists of Gay-Neck flying off, getting into trouble, and then narrowly escaping his prey. I got a little tired of this repetition. Gay-Neck perhaps grows weary of it too because he asks: “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.”
But Gay-Neck is brave, and he is a treasured member of the boy’s family. Later he serves as a messenger pigeon in the war. His service, which included a serious injury, results in him suffering from post traumatic stress disorder:
“Every time I hopped up in the air, my ears, I know not how were filled with terrible noises of guns, and my eyes saw nothing but flaming bullets. I was so frightened that I would dash immediately to the ground. You may say that I was hearing imaginary guns and seeing imaginary walls of bullets: maybe, but their effect on me was the same as that of real ones. My wings were paralysed, my entrails frozen with terror”.
He is so damaged from the effects of war that he refuses to fly. The boy tries to help him want to fly again, and this leads to Gay-Neck spending time with a wise lama. I like the meditation that the lama shares with Gay-Neck. He takes Gay-Neck into his hands and says:
“May the north wind bring healing unto you, May the south wind bring healing unto you, May the winds of the east and west pour healing into you. Fear flee from you, Hate flees from you, And suspicion flees from you. Courage like a rushing tide gallops through you; Peace possesses your entire being, And serenity and strength have become your two wings. In your eyes shine courage; Power and prowess dwell in your heart!
You are healed, You are healed, You are healed! Peace, peace, peace.”
This was certainly not a book that I would have delved into on my own. I will say this again and again I am sure, but this is the beauty of a reading “quest” like this. I read somewhere that author’s message throughout the book was that man and beast are brothers, and I can definitely agree with that. It was an exposure to another culture which I always think is a positive.
And, I always like seeing the different types of illustrations in each book that I read.