The Desperate Adventures of Zeno & Alya will be in bookstores in less than two weeks, and hopefully in your hands soon after that. If you look at the cover, you’ll see that Eliza Wheeler drew a Brooklyn brownstone that could be on my street.
Certain parts of the book are straight from my imagination, but the setting is very specific to Park Slope, my neighborhood in Brooklyn. I thought it would be fun to share some pictures of the places and the birds that inspired me.
Pigeons are pretty much everywhere in New York City. Only a very few people like them. I took it as a tremendous compliment when my editor Liz Szabla told me that she’ll never think of pigeons the same way again after she read about Bunny, the noble pigeon who teaches Zeno the meaning of the word “home.”
Monk parrots are becoming more common too. Flocks have nested in many places all across the country, but mine have chosen to live in Green-Wood Cemetery, which is located about a mile from my apartment.
If you look closely, you can see two green Monk parrots perched at the top of a pine tree. They were chattering away to their offspring who were safe inside the large nest that surrounds the tallest spire at the grand entrance to the cemetery.
This is where Zeno hoped to reside. He thought it would be fitting for such a “booful, briyant” bird like him.
And here is where the Monk parrots forced him to take refuge––on top of this statue of an angel. The arrogant Zeno believes it is a “parrot man.”
And here is the most important location of all. This bakery is the source of the banana nut muffins. A muffin is what first lures Zeno to Alya’s window. Over the course of the novel, the muffins become much more than a delicious treat. They are—like all the favorite foods we share with friends—a little piece of home.