From Alex's first words to his sudden death, "Alex & Me" tells the story of a delightful and mischievous parrot who rocked the scientific establishment.Read more...
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From Alex's first words to his sudden death, "Alex & Me" tells the story of a delightful and mischievous parrot who rocked the scientific establishment. Yet his real story can't be found in any science journal--the story of a relationship, with its affection, jealousy, and lifelong rewards. 8-page photo insert.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 48.
- Review Date: 2008-09-08
- Reviewer: Staff
Alex is the African gray parrot whose ability to master a vocabulary of more than 100 words and answer questions about the color, shape and number of objects—garnered wide notice during his life as well as obituaries in worldwide media after his death in September 2007. Pepperberg, who teaches animal cognition, has previously documented the results of her 30-year relationship with Alex in The Alex Studies. While this book inevitably covers some of the same ground, it is a moving tribute that beautifully evokes “the struggles, the initial triumphs, the setbacks, the unexpected and often stunning achievements” during a groundbreaking scientific endeavor spent “uncovering cognitive abilities in Alex that no one believed were possible, and challenging science's deepest assumptions about the origin of human cognitive abilities.” Pepperberg deftly interweaves her own personal narrative—including her struggles to gain recognition for her research—with more intimate scenes of life with Alex than she was able to present in her earlier work, creating a story that scientists and laypeople can equally enjoy, if they can all keep from crying over Alex's untimely death. (Nov.)
A beloved bird on the brain
In Dr. Irene Pepperberg's avian memoir, Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligenceand Formed a Deep Bond in the Process, the commonusually derogatoryepithet of "birdbrain" takes on an entirely new meaning. Readers who meet the "one pound ball of feathers" that is Alex, an African Grey parrot, and follow his educational adventures may marvel at the playful intelligence of this celebrated bird with "a brain the size of a shelled walnut."
Pepperberg, an animal cognition specialist, begins with sad recollections of Alex's unexpected death, recounting with proud astonishment how the media and legions of fans mourned his passing and lauded his extraordinary accomplishments: after decades of her persistent coaching, Alex knew more than 100 English words (sounding out words he did not know), identified shapes and colors, and was capable of rudimentary conceptual thought, intention and affection. The night before he died, his last words to the author were "You be good. I love you. . . . You'll be in tomorrow?"
While Pepperberg's earlier work, The Alex Studies, clinically documents scientific findings of her 30 years of cognitive experiments with Alex, this memoirwhich from necessity includes much of the same informationis a straightforward, innocently moving, personal narrative. This book accents their emotional bonding, Pepperberg's struggles to keep her research activities afloat and accepted by the scientific establishment, the poignancy of her failing marriage, andbest of allchronicles many touching and amusing moments of daily life with Alex. "Sometimes . . . . Alex chose to show his opinion of the boring task at hand by playing with our heads. . . . We would ask him, 'What color key?' and he would give every color in his repertoire, skipping only the correct color."
Alex & Me is neither a work of sparkling prose nor an in-depth scientific study, but its ingenuous narrative humanizes the scientific process and reminds us of our interconnection with nature. Pepperberg roundly challenges notions about man's superior intelligence and consciousness and celebrates the cognitive capabilities of the animals that share our hearts, homes and planet.