Cockatoos by Quentin Blake

Find yourself a child of between, say, two and six years old. Sit and read Cockatoos with them. Experience glee.

It’s a counting book, and a looking-and-finding book – we’re all familiar with the genres. It is also, subtly, a primer – should you be interested in that kind of thing – in how to construct a simple story with words and pictures, the kind of story that gets repeated readings and eventually falls apart so you buy another copy just as the child decides it’s no longer interested in it. Never mind – you can always pass it on. I have yet to meet a child who is not reduced to giggles by this book. 

It concerns Professor DuPont (a silly man) and his ten cockatoos. Tiring of the lack of variety in his daily greeting (“Good morning, my fine feathered friends!” – an excellent opportunity for the theatrically inclined to air their hammiest French accent) they decide to play a trick on him, dispersing through the house into ever more inventive hiding places.

The glee comes from finding the birds on each page (easier than Where’s Wally, but just hard enough). It comes from the illustrations loosely but artfully drawn by a master of his craft. And it comes from the cockatoos themselves, effortlessly outwitting their easily befuddled master.

A joyful advertisement for the pleasures of reading, as well as the idea that birds are brilliant and humans rather stupid. 

Random House, 1994

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