In the beginning of Chapter 11, Louis and Sam head to Camp Kookooshoos for the summer. Sam is working as a Camp Counselor, and Louis is working as the Camp Bugler. Every morning, Louis is to wake up the boys at the camp with his trumpet, and every night he signals bedtime by playing taps. Once Louis gets to the camp, he meets a camper named Applegate Skinner. Applegate doesn’t like birds, and Mr. Brickle, the camp director, told him he doesn’t have to like them as long as he respects Louis. One night, Applegate gets teased by the other boys at the camp and runs off. He breaks a camp rule and takes a canoe out onto the lake alone. A storm suddenly blew in, capsizing the boat. Applegate is thrashing in the water, and Louis realizes he will drown before the humans can reach them in their boats. So, Louis flies out to Applegate and allows him to climb onto his back, saving his life. The mayor awards Louis a medal for saving Applegate’s life, which Louis hangs around his neck with the slate and pencil. Applegate says he still doesn’t like birds, but he’s thankful to Louis for saving his life. On the last day of camp, Louis asks Sam to slit the webbing in between his toes so he can play all the notes on his trumpet.
After the camp ends, Louis flies to Boston to take a job with the swan boats. He earns $100 a week to swim in front of the swan boats and play his trumpet. Louis is an instant success, and people flock to ride the swan boats. After that first night, the boatman pays for Louis to stay in the Ritz Carlton. While Louis had an enjoyable night, the boatman and Louis both agree to allow him to sleep on the lake from now on.
Louis becomes famous during his time with the swan boats. People flock to see him, and the boatman’s business is booming. On the last day of the swan boat season, Louis receives a telegram asking if he would like to take a job for $500 a week playing at a nightclub, Louis accepts and flies to Philadelphia for the gig.
Once in Philly, Louis meets a manager named Abe “Lucky” Lucas. Lucky arranges for Louis to sleep at the Zoo every day, but he has to play a concert for the Zoo guests every Sunday to avoid having his wings clipped. Every night, Lucky sends a cab to pick up Louis and take him to the nightclub. The late nights are tiring for Louis.
One night a storm blows in, and an exhausted swan who has been flying in the wind falls into the zoo lake. Luckily, the zookeeper who counts the birds on the lake was sick with the flu, so no one noticed the extra trumpeter swan. Louis is amazed to see that it is Serena! He waits several days for her to recover from her exhaustion, and then he plays her the song “Beautiful Dreamer” early one morning. She immediately falls in love with Louis and his beautiful trumpet playing.
One morning, Louis wakes up to find two zookeepers attempting to capture Serena and clip her wings. The Head Birdman in Charge has discovered her on the lake and ordered her wings clipped. Louis bites the keepers and runs them off, and then he heads to the Head Birdman’s office. The Head Birdman refuses to let Serena go, saying that she belongs to the people of Philadelphia now. Louis argues that just because she fell into their lake doesn’t make her their property. He makes a deal with the Head Birdman to wait on clipping Serena’s wings until after Christmas and asks him to send a telegraph to Sam, asking him to come to Philadelphia immediately. After thinking for a couple days, Sam suggests that Louis and Serena agree to give the zoo a cygnet in need of special care occasionally in exchange for Serena’s freedom. Louis and the Head Birdman in Charge agree.
Book Discussion Questions:
- When Louis got to Camp Kookooskoos, why do you think he stayed away from the other campers?
- Possible answers: He was different than them; he didn’t know how they would react to a bird who could read, write, and play the trumpet.
- When Applegate Skinner stood up and said he didn’t like birds, Mr. Brickle’s response was that it was okay to not like them, but he had to respect them. What do you think about this point of view? Do you think it’s okay to not like an entire group of people as long as you show them respect?
- The boys find a skunk with a can on his head and try to help it without getting sprayed. Would you have helped the skunk? Why or why not?
- How would you have gotten the can off of the skunk’s head?
- Parent’s Note: The boys got the can off tying a noose around the can and lifting it off.
- How did Louis help Applewhite Skinner? Why was he better suited to helping Applewhite than the humans?
- Possible Answers: He saved Applewhite from drowning. He was losing his flight feathers, but could still fly out to Applewhite, faster than the humans could make it in their boats. He didn’t have enough flight feathers to fly with Applewhite on his back, but he was able to let Applewhite sit on his back until the humans made it out to the lake in their boats.
- What did Applewhite think of birds after the rescue?
- Possible answers: He said he still didn’t care for them, but he was thankful that Louis rescued him.
- Do you feel like Applewhite was ungrateful because he still didn’t like birds after his rescue?
- What did you notice about Louis as he gathered more possessions around his neck?
- Possible Answers: All of his possessions were helpful, but they also weighed him down and made it harder for him to travel. Every time he got a new possession, he considered it necessary and thus could no longer do without it, even though he managed without that possession before.
- Once he got to Boston, the boatman put Louis up in the Ritz Carlton, which is a very fancy hotel. Why do you think Louis was more comfortable on the lake than in the fancy hotel?
- Possible answers: He’s a bird, and he was intended to live outside, not in a hotel. He was made to eat fish in the lake, not watercress sandwiches. The lake was more comfortable for sleeping than a bathtub. And, he didn’t know to abide by “human” rules, such as no playing the trumpet. The Ritz Carlton might be relaxing and enjoyable for humans, but it was not as comfortable for a bird.
- Before he left Boston, a boy in a swan boat shot BB guns at Louis’ trumpet. Do you think the boy should have been punished? What do you think his punishment should be?
- When the author said that Abe “Lucky” Lucas was a man who “knew of great many things, many of them not worth knowing,” what do you think he was saying about Lucky’s character?
- Possible answers: He was saying that he was a little shady. Lucky may have had a reputation for being dishonest or taking part in illegal business dealings.
- Once Louis got to Philadelphia, he lived on a lake at the zoo. All the other birds had their wings clipped by the zoo so they could not leave. Even wild birds who flew into the lake had their wings clipped. What do you think of birds having their wings clipped?
- Although Louis agreed to play a concert at the zoo each week in exchange for not having his wings clipped, Serena could strike no such deal. When the zookeepers came to clip Serena’s wings, Louis attacked them. Do you think attacking them was the right thing to do?
- Do you think the Zoo should be able to call Serena their property just because the wind made her land on their lake?
- The Head Birdman in Charge argues that Louis and Serena are better off staying at the lake because they will have no enemies there. They would give up their freedom in exchange for safety. Which do you think is better—for them to be free, but have the potential to be attacked by predators, or to be safe, but confined to the Zoo’s lake forever?
- Parent’s Note: This can lead into excellent discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of giving up freedoms in order to be safe.
- Louis agreed to give up a baby who needs special care now and then in exchange for Serena’s freedom. What do you think of this deal? Do you think Louis should have asked Serena first?