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Alex & Me


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On 6 September 2007, an African Grey Parrot named Alex died prematurely at 31. His last words to his owner, Irene Pepperberg, were 'You be good. I love you.'

About the Author

Dr Irene M. Pepperberg is an associate research professor at Brandeis University in Massachusetts and teaches animal cognition at Harvard University. Her work has been featured on television and in newspapers and magazines in the United States and Europe.


Alex is the African gray parrot whose ability to master a vocabulary of more than 100 words and answer questions about the color, shape and number of objects--garnered wide notice during his life as well as obituaries in worldwide media after his death in September 2007. Pepperberg, who teaches animal cognition, has previously documented the results of her 30-year relationship with Alex in The Alex Studies. While this book inevitably covers some of the same ground, it is a moving tribute that beautifully evokes "the struggles, the initial triumphs, the setbacks, the unexpected and often stunning achievements" during a groundbreaking scientific endeavor spent "uncovering cognitive abilities in Alex that no one believed were possible, and challenging science's deepest assumptions about the origin of human cognitive abilities." Pepperberg deftly interweaves her own personal narrative--including her struggles to gain recognition for her research--with more intimate scenes of life with Alex than she was able to present in her earlier work, creating a story that scientists and laypeople can equally enjoy, if they can all keep from crying over Alex's untimely death. (Nov.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Pepperberg, an animal cognitive scientist and associate research professor at Brandeis University, made history with her landmark research involving Alex, an African Grey parrot. Her detailed findings based on two decades of research were published in 1999 in The Alex Studies: Cognitive and Communicative Abilities of Grey Parrots. She was able to prove that African Greys possess cognitive and communicative abilities beyond what scientists had previously believed possible in animals other than humans. After her previous book, Pepperberg had almost another decade of interactions with Alex before his sudden death in September 2007. Her latest is more memoir than research work, focusing on her personal relationship with Alex while introducing lay readers to her extensive research on these remarkable birds. This is a nice companion to Pepperberg's more scientific writings. Recommended for academic and public libraries alike.-Diana Hartle, Univ. of Georgia Science Lib., Athens Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

'Pepperberg gives the general reader, older teens included, a peek into a researcher's life and has written a short, happy page-turner. Bird and animal lovers and anyone fascinated by language acquisition and learning processes will especially enjoy Alex and "his" book.'

* Courier Mail *

'... a moving tribute that beautifully evokes the struggles, the initial triumphs, the setbacks, the unexpected and often stunning achievements during a groundbreaking scientific endeavor spent uncovering cognitive abilities in Alex that no one believed were possible.'

* Publisher's Weekly *

'... a fascinating portrait of a remarkable and singular being.'

* Sydney Morning Herald *

'charming ... Her book movingly combines the scientific detail of a researcher, intent on showing with "statistical confidence" that Alex "did indeed have this or that cognitive ability," with the affectionate understanding that children (and children's books about animals) instinctively possess: that "animals know more than we think, and think a great deal more than we know." While her training as a scientist keeps her from lapsing into sentimentality, her love for her longtime avian colleague keeps her from sounding like a stuffy academic.'

-- Michiko Kakutani * The New York Times *

'Scientist Dr. Pepperberg's chronicle of her relationship with an African Grey parrot, Alex is intriguing and deeply moving ... Staying together through thick and thin and sneers from the 'experts', this story of a thirty year odyssey between a parrot and his mentor records amazing landmark achievements as well as being a warm, compelling tale of animal-human bonding.'

* Toowoomba Chronicle *

'Everybody who loves animals should read this book. Irene Pepperberg has done pioneering work on communication between people and animals. Alex has proved to the world that birds are much smarter than - people think.'

-- Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation

'Alex & Me is a wonderful read about the close and enduring bonds that developed between a very bright bird and a very motivated researcher during a long-term collaboration. It provides a rare personal and bird's-eye view of the 'ins and outs,' 'ups and downs,' and behind-the-scenes goings-on of scientific research. Irene Pepperberg humanizes science and her dear friend Alex shows that being called a birdbrain is indeed a compliment of the highest order.'

-- Marc Bekoff, University of Colorado; author of The Emotional Lives of Animals, Animals Matter and Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals

'This is a brave book. By insisting on treating Alex as her friend - a friend with whom she laughs and must ultimately grieve over - Dr Pepperberg takes a stand defying those who insist on confining the issue of consciousness to cold reductionism. I was fascinated to read the anecdotes about the intellectual capacity of parrots, but the best part of Alex & Me is the story of their friendship.'

-- Mark Bittner, author of The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

'A wonderful, touching love story that combines humor, history, intimacy, philosophy, and ground-breaking science; a thoroughly delightful read about the thirty-year relationship of Irene and Alex.'

-- Joanna Burger, author of The Parrot Who Owns Me

'Sometimes a single individual changes the world, even if it is a parrot. Together with his tutor, Irene Pepperberg, Alex systematically destroyed the notion - the way he destroyed so many other things - that all that birds can do is mimic human language. Alex clearly had a mind of his own, and a heart to match, as explained in this touching account of scientific perseverance and mutual attachment. Our notion of what a bird is has forever been changed.'

-- Frans de Waal, author of Our Inner Ape

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