From School Library Journal
Grade 2–4—Burleigh sticks to the happier aspects of this last flight of the intrepid carrier pigeon whose timely message enabled the rescue of a stranded American battalion during the waning days of World War I. In the afterword, readers learn that Cher Ami was badly wounded during this flight—blinded in one eye and crippled when one of his legs was shot off. Since the action of Burleigh's narrative begins when the battalion is already surrounded behind enemy lines, it will be difficult for young readers to understand it within the context of the war itself. MacKenzie's sun-drenched palette is an odd choice for depicting battlefields. Then, too, readers may wish they had a fuller description of how Cher Ami came by his wooden prosthesis (on display with his body at the National Museum of American History) and of his recognition by the French government, which presented him with a medal for bravery. Somehow, this book misses the mark—sadly incongruous in a book about a homing pigeon.—Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY
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Using a picture-book format, Burleigh tells the true story of the last flight of a U.S. Army Signal Corps carrier pigeon, which took place in France during World War I. Cher Ami was the last hope for the “Lost Battalion” of the 77th Division in the Battle of the Argonne. The pigeon managed to avoid ambushes of the German army and deliver the message that saved the battalion. Burleigh’s short text clearly depicts the story’s action, while MacKenzie’s full-page golden-hued yet somber illustrations add to the account by showing the drama from a variety of perspectives. Although an afterword notes that Cher Ami was badly wounded during the mission (the pigeon was patched up and lived until shortly after the war ended), no mention of that appears in the main text. Suggest this to teachers wanting books about World War I or interested in telling children how carrier pigeons were used in days gone by. Grades K-2. --Randall Enos
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