Chico: The Story of a Homing Pigeon {Free eBook & Activities}

Chico: The Story of a Homing Pigeon by Lucy M. Blanchard tells the tale of a very special bird raised in Italy on the eve of World War I, whose daring exploits end up winning the bird (and the young man who raised him) a medal for courage.

Published in 1922, the story of Chico was part of the Riverside Literature Series published by Houghton Mifflin as part of a growing effort to expand their educational reading list.  As a part of this effort, the author included the following explanation in the foreword:

As is well known, the time for haphazard reading in the schools has passed. The carefully selected lists compiled by those who make the education of children their life work are adapted to the needs of every grade.

It is not enough that a book possess story interest and that it be worth while from a literary point of view. The great consideration is its influence upon the mental and moral development of the child. It must be stimulating and present to the pupil such ideals as will have a permanent influence upon the formation of character.

The story is a simple but exciting one.  A young Italian boy longs to have a homing pigeon of his own.  He soon finds one, and with the help of his uncle begins to train the bird.  Chico has many adventures — among which include thwarting kidnappers and raising a family.  But his greatest adventure of all begins when the young boy offers Chico’s services to the aid of his country during World War I.

The author gives us a detailed tour of Venice, providing a rich geographical element to accompany the obvious historical and natural science lessons.

It has been my aim to depict accurately the Italian atmosphere and to give information in such a way that children unconsciously will learn much of the country [and] form a true idea of the scenes described.

Explanations of Italian words and phrases have been given when needed….

The story was written out of a full heart, with the hope that it might foster the love and appreciation of birds, and that the boy’s sacrifice of his precious homing pigeon to his country at a time of peril might carry an ethical appeal to every young reader.

Whether as a jumping off-point for various studies or as a read-aloud enjoyed by the entire family, or simply an enjoyable book to cozy with during reading time, Chico will not disappoint!

Free eBook

(See Additional Resources below for helps with these.)

  • View St. Mark’s Basilica (along with the pigeons!).
  • Learn more about homing pigeons.
  • Create a brochure of Venice based on all you learn in the story.
  • Make a list of the Italian phrases and their meanings scattered throughout the book.
  • Learn more about the beginning of World War I and Italy’s involvement.
  • Learn more about the extensive role birds played in World War I.

Additional Resources

“Venice Bans Pigeon Feeding in St. Mark’s Square”
NY Times 2008 article.

How do the birds stay on course?  From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Homing Pigeons
Instructions for reception, care, and training of homing pigeons from the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Cher Ami: World War I Carrier Pigeon
Read about another awarded homing pigeon.

Pigeons in Military History
History of the Pigeon Corp from The American Pigeon Museum.


Venice, Italy
Use this map to identify the Grand Canal and St. Mark’s.

Interactive Map Maker {Free}
Create your own map of Venice, Italy.

St. Mark’s Basilica
View the square from the air.

Piazza San Marco with the Basilica, Venice
View this 1730 painting by Canaletto.

Interactive Writing Tool {Free!}
Use the “Brochure” setting to create a travel brochure of Venice.

Unit Studies & Lesson Plans

How WWI Began: A Unit Study
Learn more about World War I and Italy’s involvement with background information, maps, activities, notebooking pages, and other helps. 

Printables & Notebooking Pages

Map for notebook and marking Venice.

Chico Notebooking Pages
Simple pages for copywork, narrations, or wrapping up.

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