Fly, Cherokee, Fly
Published in: 1998
Age Range: Pre Teens+
Setting: Northern England
- Darryl Otterwell is an average 12-year-old who takes in an injured racing pigeon and determines to bring it back to strength in spite of the attentions of the school bully and his parents' lack of support.
- Garry is Darryl's best friend, supporting him as best he can.
- Alf Duckins is an elderly pigeon expert who gives Darryl sound advice and tries to help him overcome various obstacles.
- Warren Spiggott is a 16-year-old bully, and the son of the original owner of Cherokee, the injured bird. He uses this fact to blackmail Darryl into becoming his slave.
- Mr Tompkins is Darryl's teacher who encourages Darryl when he realises that the work he puts into looking after Cherokee is helping his school work.
Darryl finds an injured pigeon and looks after it, helped by the advice of a local pigeon fancier. His enthusiasm for the subject bubbles over into his school work, but also brings him to the attention of the school bully, whose father was the original owner of the bird.
General: An easy read while hard-hitting in places. The families and friendships involved come across naturally, as does the school environment. The Darryl has to accept the responsibility which comes with owning a racing pigeon, while that gives him and his friend a chance to think outside themselves a little.
Bullying: Since Darryl has taken Cherokee without telling the original owner — Len Spiggott — Len's son Warren blackmails Darryl into becoming his slave, answering his whistle and then performing any job he needs doing. This leads Darryl to steal money from his Mum's purse.
School: Unusually, Mr Tompkins, the only teacher you see much of, is a normal human being who encourages Darryl, keeps the rest of the class in order and, eventually, sorts out the bullying.
My mind pitched back to the night we'd come home and found Cherokee sitting up in the rafters. It had taken me ages to gather the courage to let her go in the open air. Please don't fly to Lenny Spiggott, I'd begged her. This is your home. Please come back. Before releasing her I'd looked towards the house. Mum, Dad, Natalie and Garry were all there, watching from the upstairs windows. I lifted Cherokee up to the sky. She cocked her head at the passing clouds, her dark-blue neck-feathers ruffling in the breeze. I could feel the beat of her heart in my hands and her warm toes scratching against my skin. I waited for an upward gust of wind and then, slowly, I parted my hands. Fly, I whispered. Cherokee! Fly! And she was gone, wings hammering like helicopter blades as she dipped across the garden in a low-flying arc that ended in a stumbnle on top of the dustbin. For a moment, I thought that was all she would do. And I wanted to pound across the garden and grab her, afraid the exertion had been too much. But she was tough, like Mr Duckins had said.
Thursday 3rd June 2004