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The Simple Art of Flying

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  654 ratings  ·  192 reviews
Quirky characters, plucky humor, and a heartwarming message come together in this big-hearted debut novel about friendship and the true meaning of family.

Sometimes flying means keeping your feet on the ground…

Born in a dismal room in a pet store, Alastair the African grey parrot dreams of escape to bluer skies. He’d like nothing more than to fly away to a palm tree with hi
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published February 12th 2019 by Aladdin (first published February 7th 2019)
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Average rating 4.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  654 ratings  ·  192 reviews

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Amanda Rawson Hill
This book is truly Kate DiCamillo meets Katherine Applegate. It has amazing voice, lovable characters, beautiful poetry, and will make you laugh, then cry, then laugh again. DON'T. MISS. IT. ...more
Alice-Elizabeth (Prolific Reader Alice)
DNF @ page 101

This was a DNF for me, as I personally couldn't connect to the writing style. However, I can definitely see lots of younger readers reading and enjoying the adventures of Alastair and Aggie, the brother and sister parrots. Also, the cover is very pretty!
Jill Williamson
My friend highly recommended this book, so I put it on hold at the library. It came. I read it. And… I loved it. This book is adorable. It tells the story of two parrots in a pet store, a brother and sister, and brother parrot is very protective of his sister. He feels that parrots are not made for cages and spends all his time plotting their escape. And then he and his sister are purchased. By different owners! But that will not stand in his way! Ah, it's very sweet, and I loved the boy who wan ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
A grumpy African grey parrot who plucks his feathers. A twelve-year-old boy who longs to become a doctor and who has recently lost both his grandfather and his father. An elderly woman who loves to dance and bake pies and who writes letters to her dead husband.

Are there any three characters in fiction less likely than these to appear together in a children's story? Are there any three characters less likely to develop a relationship with each other? Are there any three characters less likely to
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Three African parrot eggs are about to hatch. Two survive and they are named Alastair and Aggie. In this book we see the world through the cranky worldview of Alastair whose ultimate dream is to fly to Key West and live there with his sister. Twelve-year-old Fritz helps take care of the parrots at the pet store and saves up all his extra money to buy Aggie. Alastair is devastated and believes his live is over when Bertie Plopky adopts him. Fritz lends his part of the narrative by taking stock of ...more
Sam (she_who_reads_)
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
A fantastic debut middle grade about love, family, loss, and discovery- this is a beautiful story revolving around a grumpy, suspicious African grey parrot named Alastair. I fell in love with him and sister Aggie from the start! The premise and execution of the story was so unique and engaging- I flew through this one. It deals with some pretty heavy topics, particularly grief, and I think it was handled with delicacy and in a way that isn’t too overwhelming or complex for younger readers to cop ...more
Resch Reads
Feb 16, 2019 rated it liked it

Three words to describe this book, quirky, whimsical, and playful. What an awesome debut novel with a refreshing and unique narrative. The story is told from several view points, mainly Alastair (the parrot), letters Bertie is writing to here deceased husband, and Fritz's medical journal. Now it took me a bit to get used to seeing things from a parrots perspective but once I got into the story, it flew by (pun intended)!

Alastair goes a crazy journey over the course of the book. From end
Wendi Lee
I really think if I had read this before reading The One and Only Ivan, I would have liked this more. Alastair and Aggie are sibling African grey parrots. They’re born in a neglectful (sometimes abusive) pet store, and Alastair promises to take his sister far away to freedom. Instead, Aggie is sold to a medically minded Fritz, and Alastair to a very old, lonely woman named Albertina.


I loved how Alastair sustained himself off written poetry (by literally eating the words), and the verse
Theresa Grissom
Thanks to Edelweiss Plus for an ARC of this book!

I really, really loved this one. Every single character, whether human or animal is so lovable each with a distinct personality. I found myself laughing, smiling and slightly tearing up during this book. Very cleverly written to be enjoyed by people of all ages. I can see both kids and adults liking this one. It's going to be hard to wait for the hardcopy because I want to talk this one up so badly. This one went on my favorites shelf.
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not exaggerating when I say this is one of my favorite middle grade books of all time. Cory Leonardo has an incredible gift with prose and poetry; I read this several times before it got its book deal, and without fail, I cried each time. Incredibly uplifting, soul-swelling, transformative. ...more
Nicole M. Hewitt
Feb 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review and many more can be found on my blog: Feed Your Fiction Addiction

This is the story of a grumpy parrot who wants nothing more than to escape captivity with his sister and bring her out into the wild world where he's sure they'll both be better off. Alastair is endearing, even though he's a cantankerous curmudgeon--mostly because his heart is in the right place. He's spent his whole life trying to protect his sister, and you can't help but empathize with him, even when you think he's
Apr 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this one. It's funny and heart warming and the tongue-in-cheek homages to famous poetry and book titles were brilliant. I highly recommend this to anyone, but especially middle graders. If you don't "get" the titles of each part, start looking up famous book titles and you will. And if you don't know the famous poems that Alastair rewrites, look them up.... He's brilliant! The story and characters are well developed and easily came to life in my head...I could imagine this as ...more
Sublime, pits and all. I don't know if younger readers will have the knowledge base to get all the references, but I believe they will recognize the heart of it all. ...more
Jan 10, 2019 rated it liked it
When I saw this book at The Strand, I knew I couldn't pass it up. First off, there are parrots on the cover, and second off, doesn't it just sound so sweet? But even though I may have been drawn in by the sweetness, there's still a lot of grit in The Simple Art of Flying. At the heart of this book is the relationship between Alastair and his sister Aggie and this relationship is full of a lot of tough topics like the fact that they're not regularly fed in the pet store. So while it's Alastair's ...more
Many thanks for Laurie Hnatiuk and #mgbookchat for this awesome recommendation; can't wait for the twitter chat Tues 6/25 at 9PM EST! I loved Cory Leonardo's way with words, so humorous, yet exploring Alastair and Fritz and Bertie's personalities, hopes and dreams. I ached as the parrots lost their feathers; cheered as they found forever homes (even if it did take stubborn, morose Alastair longer!!!). Bertie's letters to her dead husband were so sweet- she was ever the positive force (both for A ...more
Leonard Kim
May 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When I reflect on this book and consider the comparables that leap to mind: Ivan, Edward Tulane, Holling Hoodhood... okay okay maybe that’s pushing it a bit; maybe this book loses just a little near the end and thus falls a gerbil’s whisker short of immortality, but dang I can’t believe this is a debut novel, or maybe it’s the best debut since Wolf Hollow.
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In the description of The Simple Art of Flying it said perfect for fans of The One and Only Ivan! Hmmm, I wasnt sure I believed it, since that was an amazing story, but it’s true. This is an adorable tale of family, friendship, gratitude and growing up.
Alastair and Aggie are sibling parrots born in a pet store. Alastair is always thinking up plans for their escape, since he’s always looking toward a bigger and better life. Aggie just seems to go along with whatever her brother says is best.
Jessica *The Lovely Books*
Feb 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Simple Art of Flying has got to be the cutest and funniest books I’ve read in a very long time. That’s not an exaggeration either—the main characters are birds who are just so misunderstood. Especially Alastair. He deeply cares for his sister, Aggie. She’s sweet and grounds her grumpy brother.

Then there’s Fritz and Bertie who I equally loved. Both really brought the story to life. Fritz is the twelve year old boy that ends up buying Aggie. While Bertie is the one who gets Alastair. All our
joanna ☀️
Mar 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-grade
I picked this book up on a whim, solely based on the cover and I'm so glad that I did. It was so heartwarming. I really enjoyed the characters, particularly Alastair. He was so relatable and had a big heart. I loved how much he cared about his sister and how he cared about Bertie. He was so sassy and so adorable. I thought it was really clever how he ate books in order to read them and how he was a poet. The book really was just too cute.

I will admit, I thought it was a bit slow at certain point
Jordan Henrichs
Feb 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Replace the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade with Pete's Pet Shop and replace Ivan and Ruby with Alastair and Aggie and you get the feel of this book. If only Alastair was as endearing as Ivan...

The poetry was pretty clever and great and I appreciated the perspectives of Fritz and Bertie being shared from time to time because a book of just Alastair would have been too dreary. (Although I did begin to love him a great deal when he stopped being so selfish.)

Probably more of a 3.5 for me, but
Allison ༻hikes the bookwoods༺
I bought this book for my kids a few months ago and it’s been calling my name ever since. I do enjoy children’s fiction now and again so I finally decided to read it. It’s a charming little story that’s sure to warm your heart.
Oct 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
I didn't think this story would affect me as much as it did. Dang, if I wasn't a weepy, emotional mess at the end. ...more
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This charming middle grade story, told in three voices, is overflowing with fun and quirky characters. We first meet Alastair, an African Grey Parrot, as he is fights to break out of his shell. His strength and determination are apparent from his very first moment of life. His ultimate goal in life is to escape the pet shop, find freedom for his sister and himself and to live in Key West. Next, almost 12 year old Fritz shares his story. We learn he will fiercely fight to care for, and to protect ...more
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
You know how sometimes you read a book that taps in to your own personal struggles so deeply, it's like the author had a window into your soul? This is one of those.

Two years ago, Amanda Rawson Hill and I had the immense privilege of mentoring Cory Leonardo during our first stint as #PitchWars mentors. Cory's poetry-laced book about a curmudgeonly African Grey named Alastair who is so fixated on his own vision of what happiness looks like that he can't see the wonderful life that has fallen into
Rajani LaRocca
Oct 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was lucky enough to read an ARC of this book. It is a beautifully written, lyrical, poignant book that offers the best of middle grade: humor and heart. I fell in love with cranky Alastair, sweet Aggie, nerdy Fritz, and irrepressible Bertie. This book is about pursuing your dreams, and knowing when to let them go because what you've always wanted is what you already have. Read it for the story, and prepare to be floored by the poetry. Can't wait until my hardcover copy arrives! ...more
Dec 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Thanks to the Kid Lit Exchange for the review copy. All opinions are my own.

This sweet middle grade book is about a pair of African Grey parrot siblings who get sold to two different homes and are searching for their way back to one another--and ultimately, to freedom. Told in three different voices, the story offers MG readers unique perspectives: part personified animal, part grieving adult, part 12-year-old boy.

For lovers of animals and lovable misfits.
Amanda Rawson Hill
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the cleverest, most beautiful books I've ever had the pleasure of reading. I used to think it was a mix of THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN and FLORA AND ULYSSES. But I've changed my mind. It's THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN meets BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE and THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE. I love it so much. Fouryh time reading it, still cried. ...more
Sarah (Bookish Bug)
Apr 15, 2019 rated it liked it
This book was cute and really funny. It has some really good humor in it that I think is thrown in for parents. It was a bit slow for me, but like I said, it was cute.
Melinda Brasher
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was sad, happy, charming, and gently funny. A beautiful book with a bittersweet ending.

It reminds me a lot of The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate—another fantastic book. But my reactions are a little different. My only (small) issue with the One and Only Ivan is that it's a little hard to believe in parts. Ivan seems to know or understand things he would have no way of knowing, given what we know about how he learns, and I question why he can speak to the other animal species so e
Feb 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
I admit first GLANCE I was in love...I mean really, how can you not be? That cover is absolutely stunning! Between the books, the color scheme, and the magical nature of the art, I was enamored. Thing is at first read, I wasn't quite sold. It's only now, weeks after I've finished the book and am revisiting my experience to put it into words for all of you, that I can fully appreciate the journey our young feathered friend (and others) truly takes us on.

When it all began, I couldn't quite
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Cory Leonardo grew up believing she’d replace Vanna White on Wheel of Fortune, but when that didn’t pan out, she decided to turn letters and phrases in a different way (but minus the glittery dresses, sadly). Author of the Parent's Choice Award-winning middle grade novel, THE SIMPLE ART OF FLYING, its UK companion, CALL ME ALASTAIR, and the forthcoming THE EMERALD CITY THEATER (Spring 2021, Aladdi ...more

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