I have always been drawn to books with animal perspectives, so when I picked up a copy of Kathleen Rooney’s Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey (2020) at the Toledo Friends of the Public Library earlier this year, I took a chance. I am not typically drawn to war novels or any novels set during WWI or WWII, but Rooney’s novel was partially told in the perspective of a pigeon, so I had to see how that would play out. It turns out that Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey is based on the true story of a homing pigeon who saved the lives of over 500 men in WWI, including Major Whittlesey. Rooney crafts a heartwarming, historically-rich, and accessible text that flies the reader straight to the battlefield, not shying away from the gruesome realities of war but not reveling in them either. Additionally, with Major Whittlesey, Rooney navigates his tumultuous return to life after the war as he deals with fame and adjusting to civilian life. Another surprise Rooney had for me was that Major Whittlesey was gay, and her attention to historical detail depicted the realities of being queer in that time period. Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey is a must-read for animal lovers, history buffs, those interested in queer history, and lovers of seeing hidden or misrepresented histories come to light as they should have long ago.
—Caitlyn Mlodzik, MAR