The Desperate Adventures

of Zeno & Alya

An orphaned African grey parrot who can speak 127 words.                     A girl so sick she has forgotten what it means to try.                         Fate––and a banana-nut muffin––bring them together.                        Will their shared encounter help them journey through storms inside and out?  Will they lose their way, or will they find what really matters?

Here’s a story that will remind readers how navigating so many of life’s desperate adventures requires friendship and, above all, hope.

Praise for

The Desperate Adventures of Zeno & Alya

“Zeno, a parrot, and Alya, a girl, connect in their mutual struggle for home and survival in this wonderful novel written in the spirit of Jack London, but in a contemporary Brooklyn setting.”

     —Clare Vanderpool, Newbery Medalist 

“From the moment Zeno, the African grey parrot, strutted onto the scene, I was captivated. His sense of self— ‘Zeno wants’—is battered by uncertain freedom, inferior birds, and a devastating lack of banana-nut muffins, yet he perseveres. It is not until he encounters Alya, a young girl limply falling deeper and deeper into a confinement triggered by her illness, that Zeno’s vocabulary of 127 words is increased by one of the most important of all: home. This story of Zeno, Bunny, and Alya flew straight into my heart. I will be thinking about these unlikely friends for a long, long time.”

    ––Kirby Larson Newbery Honor Winner, author of  Hattie Big Sky and Hattie Ever After

“Two hurting souls––a newly homeless African grey parrot nervously plucking out its feathers, and an 11- year-old Brooklyn girl enduring endless treatments for leukemia––cross paths briefly, recognize themselves as kindred spirits. In one moving scene, a frail Alya manages to open her window in case Zeno should return because “believing was absolutely essential when you had a battle to fight.” Kelley moves seamlessly between Zeno and Alyaʼs perspectives, capturing their humor, fear, desperation, and hope, while occasionally offering the viewpoints of supporters like Alyaʼs brother and Zenoʼs new bird acquaintances. An uplifting story of courage, resilience, and cross- species friendship.”

       ––Publishers’ Weekly

“Both characters are compelling, believable, and likable. Sprinkled with humor, particularly with Zeno’s gaps in vocabulary, the plot is fast paced and will appeal to a wide range of readers as they root for a satisfying ending for both the bird and the young girl.”

       ––School Library Journal

“The two share the need for a trustworthy friend, but unfortunately fate keeps driving them apart. Hence the adventures, which are perilous in a number of ways. The story is told from both characters’ perspectives, with comic relief coming from Zeno’s inflated sense of self. For animal lovers looking for something unique, this story of true friends missing each other will fit the bill.”



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Cover art by Eliza Wheeler