You're Somebody Special, Walliwigs!
Joan Rankin. Margaret K. McElderry Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-82230-8
Walliwigs is a gawky young parrot with a story of Dickensian proportions. He loses his real mother when his nest, ensconced in a ship's funnel, sails away without her. He gets handed down through a series of caretakers who are more concerned with how he might taste than with his value as a pet. At long last he finds a home with Martha the chicken, who offers him unqualified maternal adoration and tirelessly defends Walliwigs against the other chickens' disdain. Then one day, an ornithologist takes the parrot against his will and deems Walliwigs not only special, but endangered (the fellow writes home explaining that he's a ""probosciger aterrimus [or] Great Black Cockatoo). Martha's love for her offbeat adoptive son is vindicated, and at the conclusion, she dreams of ""something wonderful to wear"" to Walliwig's impending nuptials. Rankin's (Wow! It's Great Being a Duck) watercolors are delicious comic confections that come to the convoluted story's rescue. Martha is an especially inspired creation--she's an overstuffed pillow of a bird, a literal as well as figurative bulwark against a cruel world. While the narrative focus feels fuzzy, Rankin's pictures and overall message are endearing and uplifting. Ages 4-8. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/03/1999