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I, Parrot: A Graphic Novel

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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 super-sized bag of mite-killing powder, and more parrots than she knows what to do with. I, Parrot, by acclaimed author Deb Olin Unfer 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 super-sized 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 artist 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.


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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 super-sized bag of mite-killing powder, and more parrots than she knows what to do with. I, Parrot, by acclaimed author Deb Olin Unfer 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 super-sized 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 artist 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.

30 review for I, Parrot: A Graphic Novel

  1. 4 out of 5

    Oriana

    I love Deb and I loved this book and I wished it was twice as long, twice as much plangence and clever angst and bad choices made out of affection and stubbornness and diseased birds and indistinguishably same-named housekeepers and looming tragedy and big-hearted stupid love. Ah me.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Melki

    A woman who doesn't have it all quite together is tasked with babysitting her boss's parrots. Well . . . I enjoyed Elizabeth Haidle's artwork immensely, and I really wish the book had been in color. Unferth's story? Eh, it seemed to lack direction. And, then . . . there' that ending . . . (view spoiler)[While releasing 42 caged birds into the wild may seem like a romantic gesture, it's a death sentence for all that don't get rescued by caring individuals. AND, what are we to make of the main chara A woman who doesn't have it all quite together is tasked with babysitting her boss's parrots. Well . . . I enjoyed Elizabeth Haidle's artwork immensely, and I really wish the book had been in color. Unferth's story? Eh, it seemed to lack direction. And, then . . . there' that ending . . . (view spoiler)[While releasing 42 caged birds into the wild may seem like a romantic gesture, it's a death sentence for all that don't get rescued by caring individuals. AND, what are we to make of the main character's violating her custody agreement to run off with her son and boyfriend in a stolen van? When you're in a hopeless situation, breaking the law usually doesn't make things better. (hide spoiler)] Just sayin'.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    As much as I enjoyed reading the story of a woman whose perspective is not seen often in graphic novels, I couldn't help yelling at the end "YOU DON'T RELEASE NON NATIVE SPECIES INTO THE CITY LIKE THAT ESPECIALLY ENDANGERED SPECIES"

  4. 5 out of 5

    Matt Graupman

    Flipping through “I, Parrot” by writer Deb Olin Unferth and artist Elizabeth Haidle, I was struck by its folksy drawing style and quirky story elements. It seemed like definitely the kind of thing I’d be into. So I got it out of the library and dove in and... Well, let me put it this way: there’s a saying in comics that a great story can save bad art but great art can’t really save a bad story. “I, Parrot” falls into the latter category. Despite its delicate art, Unferth’s characters are unlikab Flipping through “I, Parrot” by writer Deb Olin Unferth and artist Elizabeth Haidle, I was struck by its folksy drawing style and quirky story elements. It seemed like definitely the kind of thing I’d be into. So I got it out of the library and dove in and... Well, let me put it this way: there’s a saying in comics that a great story can save bad art but great art can’t really save a bad story. “I, Parrot” falls into the latter category. Despite its delicate art, Unferth’s characters are unlikable and her story is disorganized and grating. Divorced, destitute, and recently sober, Daphne works as an assistant to a woman who records audio affirmations, a job she despises in order to make enough money to regain custody of her young son. When her employer offers her a hefty bonus to care for her 42 exotic parrots while she’s away on business, Daphne recruits her recovering alcoholic boyfriend to help her but things quickly go awry. The birds are infested with mites, the boyfriend goes to extreme lengths to find transportation, and the house painters hanging around the home are making a huge racket. It’s not an entirely believable scenario but it’s a comic so sometimes you just have to go with it. The big problem with “I, Parrot” is that Daphne is completely insufferable. We’re supposed to sympathize with her plight but Unferth never gives the reader a reason to care. Her husband left her but there’s no indication that he was spiteful or treacherous. Daphne bemoans her situation but never really commits herself to changing it. She’s completely bipolar with her boyfriend, one minute she’s declaring her undying love and the next she’s cutting him completely out of her life. The most egregious example is the spectacularly dumb decision Daphne makes at the climax of the book. Instead of empathy for Daphne, I just felt anger and annoyance. I wish all I had done with “I, Parrot” is flip through it and put it back on the shelf. Haidle’s illustrations are evocative and stylized; they’re the major reason I stuck with the book to the frustrating end. Her art deserves a worthier story and a main character you don’t want to shake and scream at, “Get your shit together!”

  5. 5 out of 5

    Vivek Tejuja

    There are graphic novels and then there are graphic novels that almost speak to you. They are relatable, empathetic and make you see things in a different light. “I, Parrot” is one such graphic novel – unique, wondrous and soulful at the same time. The book is about Daphne, a lonely woman, her life, her attempt to keep her life afloat so she can get the custody of her child someday from her ex-husband, her current love who she cannot make head or tail of and forty-two exotic parrots she has to ta There are graphic novels and then there are graphic novels that almost speak to you. They are relatable, empathetic and make you see things in a different light. “I, Parrot” is one such graphic novel – unique, wondrous and soulful at the same time. The book is about Daphne, a lonely woman, her life, her attempt to keep her life afloat so she can get the custody of her child someday from her ex-husband, her current love who she cannot make head or tail of and forty-two exotic parrots she has to take care of for her employer who is out for the weekend. There is poignancy and humour in this large-hearted graphic novel like none other than I have read in recent times. It will take some time to get into it though – the whining and constant complaining will not make you want to turn another page, but once you do, the rewards of this graphic novel are multiple. Unfreth’s writing is layered. There is more than what meets the eye. Of course, the usual metaphors are there of freedom and so on and so forth, but there are also a bunch of painters at work and what that means is something you have to discover for yourself. At the same time, Elizabeth Haidle’s illustrations are to die for. The way the parrots have been drawn and the world that exists around them is spectacular and introspective. Illustrations in a graphic novel have to account for sixty percent and Haidle gives it her heart and soul to this one. “I, Parrot” is a strange book – told with a lot of heart and touches on extinction of not only birds but also the human heart. It is told with tenderness and takes a funny look at the impossible things of life, only to show that redemption can after all only be found in the most unexpected places of them all.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    The illustrations here are very beautiful. I loved them so much and how they played off of the story. I'd love to see more from this artist. I also loved the birds! The story itself was kind of OK, I thought. I found it very heartfelt but wasn't satisfied by the end. I wanted to spend more time with main character and the birds together.

  7. 4 out of 5

    John

    A rock bottom moment of clarity plus a few dozen exotic birds, illustrated in a kind of primitive style that masks how very modern all this is. Divorce, custody battles, underemployment, empty self-help recitations, landlords, and so much more can be stacked into the “relatable” column of this or that reader. A contemporary parable of liberation.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tabitha

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I can't get over the bird release at the end. Those birds would not have survived in an urban environment and so I'm unsure of the value of releasing them as a symbolic act. Are we to infer that the main character is thoughtless? Ignorant? Doomed to fail? The story was going so well, too.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jenn

    I won a copy of this book. I didn't have any ideas going into this, aside from thinking it might be about parrots who keep people in cages. That is NOT what this book is about...although there is a girl and and she's bird-sitting parrots. The graphic novel was okay.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Justin Nelson

    **Disclaimer: I won a copy of this graphic novel through a GR Giveaway sponsored by the publisher, Catapult. Thanks to all!** This was an interesting read. The artistic style was reminiscent of Persepolis. The story was intriguing as I could identify with someone who just kept having bad luck happen tok them. The description calls it "surreal", but I didn't really catch that vibe, more ridiculous at times. Also, the ending didn't jive with me...i think the story was trying to set up her claiming **Disclaimer: I won a copy of this graphic novel through a GR Giveaway sponsored by the publisher, Catapult. Thanks to all!** This was an interesting read. The artistic style was reminiscent of Persepolis. The story was intriguing as I could identify with someone who just kept having bad luck happen tok them. The description calls it "surreal", but I didn't really catch that vibe, more ridiculous at times. Also, the ending didn't jive with me...i think the story was trying to set up her claiming control of her life....but I didn't quite buy it as it was sold.

  11. 4 out of 5

    L.R. Diaz

    Very pleasant story of a couple that seems to find trouble wherever they go. Perhaps good things will finally happen to them.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    With gentle art and a meaningful look at the trappings of civilization, this book follows an unhappy, divorced woman who has lost custody of her son as she tries to find freedom. The use of parrots, passenger pigeons, and cages as metaphors is well done and not overly heavy handed. I would recommend the novel for adults who occasionally feel like flying away from civilization.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Decent character work and artwork, but the plot is not compelling and the resolution too open.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    This is not one of the most riveting graphic novels every written or illustrated. The main character is a woman named Daphne that has a son and an ex-husband. She has not been able to remain employed at a solid job, she currently records short inspirational audio messages. Daphne has a boyfriend that suffers the same affliction of being unable to hold a quality job. As a consequence of her difficulties, her son is now spending almost all of his time with his father. Desperate for cash, Daphne a This is not one of the most riveting graphic novels every written or illustrated. The main character is a woman named Daphne that has a son and an ex-husband. She has not been able to remain employed at a solid job, she currently records short inspirational audio messages. Daphne has a boyfriend that suffers the same affliction of being unable to hold a quality job. As a consequence of her difficulties, her son is now spending almost all of his time with his father. Desperate for cash, Daphne accepts a job house sitting for her boss and taking quality care of her flock of high-quality birds. The owner tells her that together they are worth over $100,000, so there is pressure on Daphne to maintain their health. This proves challenging, so Daphne requests the assistance of her boyfriend in tending to the birds. Things go wrong with the birds and between them and her son comes to stay with her for a short time at her boss’s house. In general, the book becomes a story of a woman that can’t seem to get her life together and there is always something going wrong. She laments how her husband now has their son for the majority of the time, but if the reader follows the story with an open mind, it is a logical consequence of their comparative economic and social positions. Daphne is also critical of her ex-husband and his new wife. I found the material about the parrots interesting, but the interactions of the humans at times very boring. Daphne’s arguments with her boyfriend are often childish and unproductive when so much is at stake. Overall, this is a minimally good book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dakota Morgan

    A solid, simple story of a woman on the verge. Daphne's lost custody of her son, her boyfriend's lame, her job's a joke, and now her boss wants her to take care of some birds - hundreds of rare parrots, as it turns out. Hijinks ensue, but with a heartfelt core that brings everyone together to save the birds and save their lives. I liked all the characters, especially Daphne's son, but Daphne does come across as a bit of a whiner for parts of the story. "Evvverything's wrong and there's nottthing A solid, simple story of a woman on the verge. Daphne's lost custody of her son, her boyfriend's lame, her job's a joke, and now her boss wants her to take care of some birds - hundreds of rare parrots, as it turns out. Hijinks ensue, but with a heartfelt core that brings everyone together to save the birds and save their lives. I liked all the characters, especially Daphne's son, but Daphne does come across as a bit of a whiner for parts of the story. "Evvverything's wrong and there's nottthing I can do." A bit passive there, Daph. She comes around, though, and ultimately, a flawed main character is more interesting than a superhuman one. The art is quite interesting, almost like a Lane Smith children's book. It takes a minute to get used to, but then the stylistic flow kicks in and you feel like you're interacting with art moreso than the typical graphic novel. I liked it. What I didn't like was the font, which appears to have been scrawled by hand in an awkward half-capitalized style that's simply hard to read and unappealing. Stick the basics there, I'd say - you want the reader to actually be able to read your story.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Marissa

    Some people will love this book. I am not one of those people. You say the drawings are folksy, ethereal, evocative. I say they're vague and colorless. (This is a book about parrots. Why is it in greyscale? To remind me it's not really about the parrots?) You say the lettering is distinguished and unique, I say it's blocky and hard to read. You say the story is raw and true to life, I say it's haphazard, one-dimensional, and comes off with more than the standard dose of angry ex who is angry becaus Some people will love this book. I am not one of those people. You say the drawings are folksy, ethereal, evocative. I say they're vague and colorless. (This is a book about parrots. Why is it in greyscale? To remind me it's not really about the parrots?) You say the lettering is distinguished and unique, I say it's blocky and hard to read. You say the story is raw and true to life, I say it's haphazard, one-dimensional, and comes off with more than the standard dose of angry ex who is angry because their ex is living their best life without them (even though it's a life they did not want, and would never want to be living.) You say that the parrots, and the pigeons, and the cages, and even the painters, are a metaphor, I say that much like non-native (endangered!) species, you don't let metaphors out in to the wild willy-nilly. I also say that any story, especially a comic, that hinges the entire resolution on saying FUCK IT to the last 100 or so pages of storybuilding is not, in fact, a good story, but hey, this is my one star review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Hans

    Dreamy graphic novella. In our world where even the daily newspaper comics show up in color, the greyscale color choice sets the stage for the story as a metaphorical reflection of our world. It's a weird little tale, but what I enjoyed most were the odd specific touchstones scripted by Deb Olin Unferth: the bizarre trio of painters with the same name, the job of the heroine and how that carries through the book in the form of the parrot speech, etc. (I would not recommend that anyone take the st Dreamy graphic novella. In our world where even the daily newspaper comics show up in color, the greyscale color choice sets the stage for the story as a metaphorical reflection of our world. It's a weird little tale, but what I enjoyed most were the odd specific touchstones scripted by Deb Olin Unferth: the bizarre trio of painters with the same name, the job of the heroine and how that carries through the book in the form of the parrot speech, etc. (I would not recommend that anyone take the story ending as actual advice for what to do in a joint custody situation. That is not spoken from experience, but simply a rough understanding of the definition of the term "kidnapping.") My favorite panels: --Noah meets the parrots --family portrait with the Monster Mite bag --single page, "three panel" layout showing Daphne's decision --also the one with the nice little shout-out to Voo Doo donuts

  18. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    I wanted to love this. I didn't love this. Two parts to a graphic novel: story and art. STORY As a mother, I thought this would rip my heart out. My heart is still 100% intact. Daphne acts like she should drive around with a God Bless This Hot Mess bumper sticker. That ending did nothing to redeem her in my eyes. I don't know if it was supposed to move me, but I was just irritated and glad to be done. ART Meh. This just really wasn't my cup of tea. I agree with many others that (at least some) colo I wanted to love this. I didn't love this. Two parts to a graphic novel: story and art. STORY As a mother, I thought this would rip my heart out. My heart is still 100% intact. Daphne acts like she should drive around with a God Bless This Hot Mess bumper sticker. That ending did nothing to redeem her in my eyes. I don't know if it was supposed to move me, but I was just irritated and glad to be done. ART Meh. This just really wasn't my cup of tea. I agree with many others that (at least some) color panels would have really helped. I'm also going to clump in lettering with "art." The lettering was also not my cup of tea. Something about it made me want to skim longer sections (and admittedly I did skim many of the longer sections towards the end). 2 Stars

  19. 4 out of 5

    Evelyn

    It is difficult to classify or review this book which juxtaposes the story of a woman who has had a lot of bad luck and is seeking to regain custody of her son from her well-to-do former husband with that of a group of pet parrots that she is bird sitting for her employer in an effort to earn money to pay her rent and prove herself capable of caring for her son since the story is not what one expects from the title or descriptive material. Much of the story is symbolic and filled with new age ma It is difficult to classify or review this book which juxtaposes the story of a woman who has had a lot of bad luck and is seeking to regain custody of her son from her well-to-do former husband with that of a group of pet parrots that she is bird sitting for her employer in an effort to earn money to pay her rent and prove herself capable of caring for her son since the story is not what one expects from the title or descriptive material. Much of the story is symbolic and filled with new age manifestos including the concept of freeing pet parrots that are not capable of surviving in the wild and sighting species believed to be extinct. The book rates 2.5 stars for the graphics and basic storyline.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea Martinez

    I think I subconsciously checked out this book, recognizing Unferth's name either from McSweeney's stuff or from being a UT Austin student. Anyhow, there are some interesting themes about "bad motherhood" and meaningful work in here that made me uncomfortable in a thought-provoking way, I suppose. I just don't get that the dramatic move at the end is to release rare birds to roam (and die) free in the wild... I guess I should think about whether "transgressional animal stewardship" is a thing bu I think I subconsciously checked out this book, recognizing Unferth's name either from McSweeney's stuff or from being a UT Austin student. Anyhow, there are some interesting themes about "bad motherhood" and meaningful work in here that made me uncomfortable in a thought-provoking way, I suppose. I just don't get that the dramatic move at the end is to release rare birds to roam (and die) free in the wild... I guess I should think about whether "transgressional animal stewardship" is a thing but if you buy that the birds shouldn't be hoarded by a single person because they are rare and beautiful I don't get releasing them either... maybe that part isn't meant to be taken literally.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    What an interesting way to convey a story filled with difficult situations and emotions!  The graphic novel format illustrated in shades of grey is perfect for Daphne's struggle and belies the bits of (unintentional?) humor of her situation. It's a glimpse into a short time in her life, but still manages to pull you in and make you understand the depth of her character. I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Krystal

    The art was nice, but would have likely been better in color, especially with the usually vibrant colors of the birds featured. My main gripe is actually with the storyline, which left a lot to be desired, unfortunately. I liked the idea and some elements of the story, especially the focus on a main character who has an interesting (and potentially relatable) story.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tressa

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. That was a beautiful read. The end was rather abrupt though. I wanted to see some consequences, or at least aftermath. Was she fired? Did she keep the boyfriend? Did he go to jail? What happened when she went back to the 3rd Apartment? Everything about this was great, until the ending was forgotten.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    I won this in a Goodreads giveaway. This is the first thing I've read by the author or the illustrator. The story was cute but a little messed up. It had a nice flow but you really get the sense that the people in this book can't take care of themselves let alone anyone or anything else. The illustrations are a bit simple but fit well with the look and feel of the story. All in all I liked it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    Revoltingly pretentious, this tale is one long, forced, metaphor, screaming "look how deep I'm being!" while taking its sweet time to go nowhere. I had every reason to feel sorry for the protagonist, but she's such a helpless, whiny drag I couldn't be bothered.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Maggie Gordon

    The art in I, Parrot is quite lovely, and there's a thread of interesting story. Unfortunately, most of the narrative is focused on a protagonist I really did not enjoy following, while the weird, but compelling things happened in the background. Ugg.

  27. 4 out of 5

    P.

    I loved E. Haidle's delicate and geometric art, I thought the story was half-finished and negligent to parrots and children alike - there are unlikeable narrators and unlikeable narrators. But the fake parrot book was very funny, and I liked the house painters.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    I loved the pictures, but the story was a bit perplexing at the end. I did not expect a neat and tidy ending, but what happened didn't quite make sense. Not really a good way to win back custody of her son.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    Not quite what I expected so hard for me to say its good or bad since its not the type I usually read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Connor

    Cute story, good artwork. I wasn't a fan of the ending. Not sure how this relates to I, Tonya.

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