The Simple Art of Flying is told through three perspectives: a 12 year old boy aspiring to be a doctor, an elderly widow who speaks in letters to her late husband and, mostly, through Alastair a cantankerous African grey parrot hell-bent on saving him & his sister from their domestic worlds.
Oh, and Alastair likes to eat books … preferably poetry … and then write his own renderings of these famous poems.
This story is heart warming, it has anthropomorphic charm, and imparts some important practical life advice — taking the pits with the cherries.
However I do feel that this story misses the mark somewhat for its intended audience. Alastair’s reworked poems are appreciated by someone who is well versed in poetry but for younger children who haven’t yet read the collections of Shakespeare, Wallace Stevens, the classics, Robert Frost, etc., they fall somewhat like a big ka-thunk.
And if you have an older pre-teen who might be familiar with these works to at least get the punny reworked titles, the anthropomorphic story falls a little young to appeal to them.
So, for me, it is somewhat disconnected.
Further, at least for my 8 year old & myself, Alastair and his constant scheming against the kind, elderly Bertie is quite frustrating. For us, we simply ended up disliking Alastair for most of the book – so rather than being a cute story that centres around talking animals – it is a sad tale told through a frustrating character we lose connection with … and throw in some confusing poems.
So while Alastair eventually realizes he is fighting against those who will help him and let’s go, we were really too frustrated with him to care.