Thursday, November 21, 2013

Alex and Me

 Written by: Irene M. Pepperberg

First line: How much impact could a one-pound ball of feathers have on the world?

Why you should read this book: When Pepperberg set out to test her own hypotheses on the intelligence of birds, specifically in relation to the new field of human-animal communication, she determined to keep her study scientific, and allowed a pet store employee to randomly select the African gray parrot whose quirky personality and obvious ability to reason and communicate would one day captivate the world. Alex, an intelligent and bossy bird, soon demonstrated his ability to identify colors, numbers, and objects; to understand concepts such as more, less, and same; to express his desires, insecurities, and emotions to the world; and to surprise his keepers by exhibiting talents they hadn’t taught him, such as the ability to sound out words or understand the concept of zero. After thirty years of revelation, Alex’s premature death inspired Pepperberg to set aside her scientific detachment and write the story of her relationship with a very clever bird and the way in which Alex’s talents shaped the course of her life’s work and touched her emotional core.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: This is a fast and personal narrative; readers searching for more in-depth knowledge of Alex’s training and its relevance to animals studies will want to consult some of Pepperberg’s scholarly work.

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