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*I Am Dodo (Not a True Story)* written & illustrated by Kae Nishimura

I Am Dodo (Not a True Story)
written & illustrated by Kae Nishimura
Baby-preschool 32 pages Clarion Books September 2005 Hardcover    

Kae Nishimura's I Am Dodo is a story that, although told with a light touch, has the layered heft and depth of a fairy tale or fable. Its twin messages - about the power of believing and the unexpected rewards of selflessness - are the substance that lies beneath a bright surface of watercolor whimsy and a wry, even silly narrative.

With an introductory caveat that "Unfortunately, as far as we know, the dodo (Raphus cucullatus) really is extinct," Nishimura launches into a very brief history of the extinction of said species to preface the modern story of an aged professor whose seventy-plus years of study have convinced him that at least one dodo still survives.

His theories are dismissed as crackpot, but the professor (and his loyal dog, Spotty) remain certain. His conviction is rewarded one day in the park when, incredibly, he spies Dodo - a smarter, quicker bird than his unfortunate brothers whose world travels have brought him at last to New York City,
a great place for a dodo to live.
There was a lot of food available.
People were busy minding their own business.
If they saw him, they said, 'That looks like a dodo - but dodos are extinct.'
The city was lively twenty-four hours a day, so he could dance the dodo dance whenever he wanted to.
Longing for vindication, the professor wants to catch and cage Dodo so he will be believed at last. But Dodo, naturally unwilling to be caught and caged, eludes the professor's dogged attempts to catch him, proving to be quite a master of disguises (even, in one hilarious illustration, camoflauging himself as a pampered, over-groomed pooch).

But one day, Dodo doesn't see the professor anywhere. He finds his pursuer at last in the park, asleep after an exhausting night-and-day watch for the bird. Dodo is so happy to see him that he starts to dance a dance so funny, happy, and full of unself-conscious freedom that the professor realizes to cage Dodo would be wrong. They resume their merry chase, taking turns hiding in plain sight and being found, and
sometimes they would dance. Together.
I Am Dodo brims with big-hearted truth - even if it is Not a True Story.

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  Sharon Schulz-Elsing/2005 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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