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I, Parrot



Original Language: English (US) | 160 pp. | November 2017

2 Seas Represents: Dutch, French, and Nordic Rights


“Unferth’s language is sly and bitterly funny, matched in mood by Haidle’s monochromatic, inkwash-style artwork, which plays up the story’s whimsy as well as its sadness.” New York Times Book Review

“Unferth (Wait Till You See Me Dance, Revolution) dexterously juggles pathos and humor in her debut graphic novel, an intimate and contemplative reflection on the slow revelatory dawning of what it means to care for something—or someone. Taking care of birds should be easy, right? Daphne’s desperate for a steady job and income so she can gain custody of her beloved son, Noah, but she didn’t expect to be overseeing 42 rare parrots, three existential house painters (all named Lee Anthony), an infestation of bird mites, and the judgmental parrot care guidebook that gives this graphic novel its title. Haidle’s artwork is a revelation: her exaggerated cartoon people (and almost-photorealistic parrots) are fluid and natural. But it’s her layouts that provoke and enthrall: trains of thought portrayed in puffy, round flowchart balloons, short staccato panels on a single page transforming into time-lapse montages, and Daphne’s dreams spreading from dark black clouds of flying birds into white, unbordered freedom. It’s unexpectedly funny, sad, scary, affirming and totally engrossing.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“[A] winningly surreal collaboration. . . . Unferth impresses with strong characterizations and a tightrope tragicomic tone. Haidle’s spare, cartoony, Mary Blair-ish illustrations, impressively rendered in grayscale—especially the 20 different species of parrots and the characters’ permanent, ‘rosy’ blush—and her retro-futuristic, all-caps style perfectly complement the colorful, off-kilter tale of a woman redirecting the sails of her story.” —Booklist

“8 Comics to Read in December”: “I don’t know anything about birds, but I do know good comics, and this is one.” — Vulture

“I, Parrot” is aggressively charming. From the simple but expressive figures to the watercolor textures to the agile and clever dialogue, the whole thing seems optimized for maximum charm. This could easily be a criticism of a lesser, more twee work, but somehow it manages to make the whole package relatable without sacrificing the emotional impact of a woman in the midst of a custody battle. The result is something liminal, embracing the absurdity of life, while also addressing one of the touchstone issues of our culture: “What is a family anyway?” Multiversity Comics

“A deftly observed, sad, and ultimately hopeful fable about civilization, wildness, and love.” —Molly Crabapple, author of Drawing Blood

“I, Parrot beautifully renders the weird in-betweenness of life. It illuminates the messy: custody battles, insecticide hazards, the hairpin paths of love.” —Leanne Shapton, author of Swimming Studies

“A lovingly crafted world of gray, at once complex and weightless.” ―Roman Muradov, author of Lost and Found

With text by acclaimed author Deb Olin Unferth and stunning illustrations by artist Elizabeth Haidle, I, Parrot is not only a poignant, truly literary graphic novel, it’s also a portrait of woman who will do anything—no matter how ridiculous or revolutionary—to find a way to triumph in world where idealists and misfits rarely win.

When Daphne loses custody of her son, she is willing to do whatever it takes to get him back—even if it means enlisting the help of the wayward love of her life, a trio of housepainters, a flock of passenger pigeons, a landlady from hell, a supersize bag of mite-killing powder, and more parrots than she knows what to do with.

I, Parrot, by acclaimed author Deb Olin Unferth with stunning illustrations by Elizabeth Haidle, dips into the surreal with poignancy and humor. In this riveting, funny, and tragic graphic novel, Daphne must risk everything. Her quest is ultimately a tale about civilization’s decline, the heartbreak of extinction, and the redemption found in individual revolution.

Deb Olin Unferth is the author of four books, including the story collection Wait Till You See Me Dance, out in March 2017. Her fiction has appeared in Harper’s, The Paris Review, Granta, Vice, Tin House, NOON, and McSweeney’s. She is the recipient of four Pushcart Prizes, a grant from Creative Capital for Innovative Literature, and she was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for her book Revolution. She lives in Austin, Texas.

Elizabeth Haidle is a freelance artist based in Portland, Oregon. She is the creative director and designer for Illustoria magazine, a publication for creative kids and their grownups. Her concept art appears in the Labor Movement exhibit of the Smithsonian Museum and also educational video games produced by MidSchool Math. Past publications include Mind-Afire: the Visions of Tesla, written by Abigail Samoun, and Encyclopedia of the Exquisite, by Jessica Kerwin Jones.