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Ruminations on a Parrot Named Cosmo

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Loved it! ūüėć

Fascinating, heartwarming, and humorous look at the author's relationship with her speaking African Grey Parrot and their view on the world.

In Ruminations on a Parrot Named Cosmo, Dr. Betty Jean Craige has given readers a wonderful mix of daily vignette with ecology-based fact and a birdseed-scattering of opinion. I started the book wondering if I was up for a full-length work about a speaking parrot, and left it wishing for more, looking up Cosmo on her Youtube channel (www.Youtube.com/user/cosmotalks). When I was done, I was wondering why, upon researching it, the Audubon Society has only 600,000 members. Surely, there must be more bird-lovers out there! I wanted everyone to read about Cosmo and her avian friends.


My point is simply that this is a book (and its charming family of four, including Craige, Cosmo, and two dogs, not to mention several backyard interlopers), who climb into the reader's heart and mind on the first page and set up shop. I loved it almost immediately and found it utterly enchanting. I was surprised to find in the end that Dr. Craige calls the University of Georgia's English Department home, rather than its Biology or Psychology Departments - I could easily see her fitting in any of these; certainly, the text flows easily enough to picture her as faculty within each setting. I do wish, despite current trends to the opposite, that there had been an introduction, to give the reader a better window into Dr. Craige's background a bit more fully up front.


Overall, the text is more humor than other, an ongoing dialog between a spunky bird and her best friend, Betty Jean, as seen in this section from a chapter titled "Parrot Trade."


Cosmo is perched behind me on her T-stand as I write. She just asked, ‚ÄúHow are you?‚ÄĚ I said, ‚ÄúFine, thank you. How are you?‚ÄĚ Cosmo said, ‚ÄúFine, thank you. How are you?‚ÄĚ I got up, kissed her, and sat back down to write this essay. Cosmo went over to her food dish, picked up a raw, unsalted cashew, flung it across the room, and laughed. I'm going to ignore that.


But there is a great deal of ecology, psychology, history, and generic social science worked in as well. As Dr. Craige writes her chapters, she writes on themes such as the effects of noise pollution on animals and breeding; development of language; parrots in history; Consciousness; Humor; and Independence (vs Interdependence). Here's a second excerpt I found quite interesting about the mutualistically beneficial relationship between zebras and wildebeests:


On the savannas of East Africa, wildebeests and zebras form integrated herds. The wildebeests have poor eyesight and appreciate the company of the sharp-eyed zebras in daytime. And in nighttime the zebras, who have poor hearing, appreciate the company of the sharp-eared wildebeests, who also have a superior sense of smell. The wildebeests alert the herd to predators during the night, and the zebras alert the herd to predators during the day. The wildebeests and the zebras need each other. I'll bet they form interspecies friendships.


In each chapter, there is a hearty dose of Betty Jean and Cosmo. (There may or may not be something else as well, but there are always supportive interchanges between Betty Jean and Cosmo, and frequently appearances by the two dogs, Mary and Kaylee, as well). In any event, the family of four manage to make a solid argument in favor of all of us working hard and quickly, together, to heal our planet, and they do it in a way that is neither divisive nor combative. Rather, Ruminations is an invitation to all comers to join Dr. Craige, Cosmo, and family and see what is possible if efforts are made.


There were no grammatical or spelling flaws and very few editing flaws that I found. My only issue was organizational - and this was truly minor. I thought that the book deserved a stronger arc from beginning to end, so that the system of organization was more clear. It should have had some sort of obvious approach from beginning to end, either timeline-based or concept-based. If there was one, forgive me, it eluded me.


Otherwise, this was a superb book that will please animal lovers, conservationists, biologists and scholars alike, or anyone who has simply ever loved a pet.


A note from the reviewer:

One final word, and I really think this is important.


Dr. Betty Jean Craige has embarked upon an exceptional task with a clearly loving and wonderful outcome. But pet ownership, especially of a long-lived and intelligent animal such as many of the exotic animals (including all of the parrots), should only be undertaken by a knowledgeable adult with the skills, funds, time, and affection, to commit to such an animal. Otherwise, it is unfair to everyone involved. Parrots in particular are more than just "pets." As Dr. Craige demonstrates here, they are loving, intelligent individuals with long, emotional lives deserving of respect and commitment. Please devote plenty of time researching these magnificent animals before considering taking one into your home, and I beg you not to buy one on a whim or as a gift for a child who will outgrow the interest in the bird long before the bird loses interest in the child.


Thank you. -JH

Reviewed by

I have numerous interests, from history to mystery, science to kids. I am a retired MD - a transplant left me with time for family, friends, faith, fun, fiction, film, & furry companions. For direct submissions, pls let me know why you're requesting me. Use FB or my em, julia.hoover1@gmail.com :) .

About the author

Betty Jean Craige has been a teacher, scholar, translator, and newspaper columnist. Before retiring from the U of Georgia she wrote many scholarly books, including the biography ecologist Eugene Odum. She has published 5 mysteries and 2 books about Cosmo, her African Grey parrot. view profile

Published on April 15, 2021

Published by Sherman Asher Publishing

60000 words

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

Reviewed by