Mariel's Reviews > Beak of the Moon

Beak of the Moon by Philip Temple
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's review
Jun 05, 2011

liked it
Recommended to Mariel by: peckerheads
Recommended for: cock and bullshit

Watership Down with birds. (That's my review, pretty much. This is an out of print New Zealand book from the '80s about the lesser known kea parrots. Is anyone interested in this book?)

I was never young. I was never old. I didn't feel wonder of the new, or nostalgia of the old. Shouldn't I have? Beak of the Moon star crossed my life because of its Watership Down syndrome. Watership Down is pretty freaking great. I read it because I did want to read Watership Down again (I've read WD several times already). The whole not being me thing (not the whole exact plot. Be careful of what you wish for?). I don't want to be me at least as long as it takes to read the book (longer if I could get it). Somehow, though, when another blatantly rip-offish thing happened I'd roll my eyes over how unoriginal it was. I mean the whole story pacing and everything. "No freaking way! Two younger birds decide to leave the dictatorship and join the ragtag group of birds to find a new home? Really?!" Fiver is Glintamber, a drunken (they eat berries. This isn't Redwall where the wine flows like wine, at least) old bird. He makes prophecies and they do shit because he says so. Let's rise up, my friends! It's really vague and annoying. (I should sound vague and annoying.) When the beak of the moon... blah blah... a dark feather on the horizon... one of you will fall... One of you will betray me and one of you will deny me... blah blah. That's better than a map!
What I loved about Fiver in Watership Down is he's a tender little guy. A loser like me! Strongbeak (the Hazel) is too survival of the fittish. A cocky young cock. What a cock and bull story. Skreek is no Bigwig. I really wanted a Bigwig. (I watched the Plague Dogs cartoon on Netflix last week hoping it'd be better than it was as a book. It wasn't. Richard Adams should have kept on writing about Bigwig. If I were him I would have done that and then I'd be a way happier person than I am now.) Skreek whines and is a dicktastic little thing to his fellow birds. Lots of whining. It's Fellowship of the Ring if the whole book was Frodo being bitchy about his precious. This is not a bad analogy. Redwall it isn't but they eat a lot. Okay, I'm not being fair. Parrots LOVE to eat. Birds spend most of their day eating or looking for food (or preening their feathers or nest building. It's not vanity. Their feathers are their protection). I'm not being fair. One of the things I did like about 'Beak' is that the birds learn that they can be friends as well as followers and followees. That didn't mean I enjoyed reading about Skreek before or after said realization.

(My favorite bird gets killed too! That wasn't fair! This is not a spoiler because I didn't say who my favorite bird was.) The cutest one!

I didn't get into Beak of the Moon that much because it's about who is the best fighter, the best flyer, the best food gatherer (apart from the eventual friendship dawning... of the moon!). Yeah, yeah. I loved Watership Down because I felt like I was one of them. I'd totally have been oppressed by a mean old rabbit! It's me and Fiver against the world! The sexism is also more noticeable in Beak than it is in Watership. If I were a hen and read this book I'd have ruffled feathers for sure. Weren't they good for anything other than mating? Couldn't THEY also be good for friendship? Hmph. Here is a book jacket photo of Phillip Temple looking down his nose at hens. (He's also saying that women had the right to vote in New Zealand first. So? What about hens?!)

Now I am going to talk about real Keas because this is important.

Facts: Keas are the only alpine parrots in the world. Isn't that cool?

Keas were hunted down by big bad humans because they have been suspected of killing sheep (for food! I guess they should have made sweaters out of them?). Wikipedia has photographic evidence of said sheep killing. (I, um, didn't rip off all of my facts from wikipedia.)

Here is a description of a photo of a dead sheep. It's a sheep laying dead in the grass and it's sides have been brutally pecked away by kea beaks. Flies swarm around it. Vultures would have had the decency to wait for the sheep to be eaten mostly by wolves (they don't leave the choice bits. Keas must be smarter than vultures. [Fact: Keas can work together and have made tools to get to food. Just like those smarty pants crows!]).

Fact: Keas eat other birds.

Beak of the Moon features a scene of great horror over - gasp! - eating sheep and other birds. WE DON'T DO THAT! OH MY GOD! THE HORROR! (Fiver would have collapsed into a fit if he had forseen such an event. Glimtamber would get drunk and speak in riddles.)

What the hell kind of kea propaganda is Phillip Temple writing here?

It doesn't mesh with the survival of the fittest shit. If they are the fittest shouldn't they have the right to kill sheep just as much as the "birds with no wings" (aka men)?

Fact: There are a lot less keas flying around in New Zealand today because their government paid men to kill the threat to sheep. They shouldn't have needed a 1981 propaganda book about how wrong it was to attack keas for killing sheep. They should have said, "Hey, we don't own sheep any more than keas do." Keas are cool! We shouldn't have tried to wipe them off the face of New Zealand. Something like that.

Fact: Keas and their related brethren are the only ties to ancient parrots in the world! This is prehistoric historical shit here.

Beak of the Moon has a lot of birdy realism that I appreciated. Maybe you have to be a bird nerd like me to enjoy things like when they mill and the bird communication (birds DO talk to each other! Temple did more or less stick to how real birds behave, as Richard Adams did for rabbits. They tell stories about other birds. Maybe birds do do that? Cockatiels write songs. Why not?). Still, it wasn't as readable as Watership Down because I never forgot myself. It's too clunky with the constant descriptions of flying. If I were a bird I'd find descriptions of walking to be boring (but I don't know from Temple because he never made me feel like one of the birds!). Being birdy is a good thing but maybe it would be better to take some things for granted? You don't have to think about breathing. Birds probably don't think about it when they are flying.

Fact: Keas are bigger than african greys.

Here is a photo of an african grey: Actual size.

Fact: Keas are smaller than macaws.

Now I will post photographic evidence to back up this claim.
Macaw: Actual size.

I kinda enjoyed Beak of the Moon because I am a nerd and birds are something I get excited about. Kinda. I I would have liked it more if I had forgotten my nerdiness while reading it. And if it was Watership Down and Bigwig was in it. Long live Bigwig. (This is my summary of the review like my intro "Watership Down with birds". Pictures are worth thousands of words, you know.)

P.s. Confession: I applied for goodreads librarian status for the sole purpose of adding cover art for Beak of the Moon. I never did it before because I had assumed that you had to be something special on goodreads to get it. I'm special now! (I have more than fifty books on my goodreads shelves.)

My cover is not the one I uploaded. My cover is of a kea crying to the moon that he has grasped (it is the O in the title Moon) in his beak. It is a beak of the moon, literally. Yes!

P.s.s. I forgot to include photos of keas!

Photo #1: An olive greened Kea hovers in the sky over frosty mountain trees, the moonlight reflecting on his orange under wing feathers. The black tips successfully camoflouge him from predators. He is looking over his shoulder to cry to his fellow birds, not friends but flockmates, that it is not safe to fly higher.

Photo #2: A hungry Kea. His chest enclave is smaller than in photo #1 because he has not found any grubs to eat. Shit! What if he is forced into murdering sheep?!!!!!!! There is snow underneath his feet. He appears as if he hopped there because the indentations in the snow resemble footprints in not a straight line but here and there.

Photo #3: It's a kea's back. He says talk to the hand. It's green and forbidding. Go on and talk to it!

P.s.s.s. One of the first birds I ever cared for (a peach front conure) was named Fiver. I, uh, "casted" him in Beak of the Moon even though he is not a Kea! I also "casted" my Senegal Pagoda. That there were black and white drawings of Keas in the book did not deter me for long. The drawings are of heads of keas looming over forest and mountains. Like omnipresent keas like Glintambers! A flock (not friends. Drunks don't have friends) of Glintambers!
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Mariel Phillip Temple wrote a picture book about the kakapo! I love the kakapo! (another nz parrot.) "parrot of the night"
I kinda want it...

message 2: by Mariel (last edited Jul 08, 2011 03:14PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mariel And Dark of the moon is a sequel! I need it!

I've got some librarian duties on goodreads to perform.... (This site needs me!)

message 3: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye Mariel, I now understand how you could love Brian more than me, but you are still more interesting than any book you could read or review.
My only bird claim to fame is that I was Patrol Leader of Peewit Patrol and then Rosella Patrol.
I am still really pissed off that Peewits were re-classified as part of the Magpie family.
For Peewit fans like me, this is like the de-planetisation of Pluto.

Mariel You can see wild 'tiels. Brian and me have the pets. You beat us on cockatiels.

I forgot to mention keas are tricksters! But then so did Temple. That's as Watership as it gets! What gives?

message 5: by Kristen (new)

Kristen How can a bird kill a sheep???

Did you see that video where a turtle eats a pigeon? That was nuts!

Mariel They flew at them when the sheep didn't expect it! And poked through the wool. Wool is no Teflon.

I have not seen that video!


Keas are the best birds ever. I am in love.

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