“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’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.” —The 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 woman finds herself when she loses 42 birds.Daphne works as an assistant to a woman who makes “positive-thought recordings,” affirmative messages for people to listen to in order to “impede the roar of the unhappy mind.” But she is occupied with her own unhappiness: her ex-husband and his new wife have been granted majority custody of their son, Noah. Her state doesn’t get easier when she’s asked to take care of her boss’s 42 parrots, worth more than $100,000—some of which, her son notices, are members of a supposedly extinct species. Things go amusingly awry, and she must enlist the help of her hapless but well-meaning boyfriend, Laker, as well as an unreliable team of house painters, all named Lee Anthony. Like Daphne, Laker is a recovering alcoholic, frequently unemployed, and disproportionately inclined toward bad luck. When they discover the birds are infested with mites, their efforts to rid themselves of the problem are by turns hilarious and tragic, absurd and alarming. So, too, are their efforts to regain a healthy family structure and control over their lives. Unferth (Wait Till You See Me Dance, 2017, etc.) has written a heart-wrenching, occasionally unbelievable tale of family and feathers. The illustrations, by Haidle (Mind Afire, 2013), are beautiful. They are understated and playful without sacrificing texture or creativity. Each page is inventive; never strictly confined to the traditional graphic-novel structure of boxed illustrations, Haidle allows the characters and elements to burst from between the lines. Drawn in very few strokes, styled with elegant simplicity, Daphne, Noah, and Laker are expressive, emotional, and individual.A heartbreaking and hopeful story of a woman’s messy mettle. — Kirkus Reviews
“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.