There's a lot of heart and sweetness in Cory Leonardo's quirkily soulful tale of African grey parrots, smart lonely people, and their intertwined lives. Also a lot of literature (as young parrot Alastair gets inspired by the poetry books he eats) and scientific detail as 12-year-old budding doctor Fritz takes notes. The Simple Art of Flying brings unforgettable characters facing troubles that will resonate with many readers, from grief, loss, jealousy, and betrayal to self-harm -- and encouragement from unexpected places.
Here, 12-year-old Fritz, on "just seeing what happens":
"Sometimes, what happens is ... you end up crying in the bathroom during seventh period because you wrote a whole lot of ideas on how to get your dad to move back, and after James and the kids at your lunch table tell you that they won't work, you go to the office to call your mom because you need to know if they're right, and by the way she sounds when she answers your questions, you realize he's never coming home.
"Sometimes you might break a parrot's wing.
"Or a person could be sitting next to you. You're getting some practice filling out a medical chart, and he's talking to you about the time he was flipping burgers and a squirrel ran right up and got caught in his pant leg. And you tell yourself he's probably just tired and needs a nap, because he can't even talk right. But later, you watch from your window as a bunch of paramedics load him into an ambulance and drive away.
"Sometimes it's the bad things that happen. My stomach hurts just thinking about it."