Authors: Christa Roberts
n the magical city of Rio de Janeiro, a party was taking place. Children were waving sparklers. Couples were dancing to vibrant Brazilian rhythms. Cruise ships filled with guests in the party spirit were docked in the bay off Copacabana Beach. Everyone was getting into the groove, laughing and making wishes as they tossed flowers into the ocean. Because tonight's celebration wasn't just any partyâit was New Year's Eve. And no one was happier than a rare blue Spix's Macaw named Blu.
High up on Corcovado Mountain in the shadows of the Cristo Redentor statue, birds of all colors swirled and partied together. Nico, a yellow canary, and Pedro, a red-crested cardinal, were spinning the tunes. Catchy tunes with hot, upbeat tempos. Blu knew he wasn't the best dancer. But he definitely had the best dance partner he could ever ask forâhis wife, Jewel.
“For a bird from Minnesota you've got some moves,” Jewel said as Blu dipped her on the crowded dance floor.
“Oh, actually that wasn't a move.” Blu smiled back at his wife. “That was an accident. But I accept the compliment.”
The couple twirled in time to the music.
Blu had been the last male of his species until his caretaker, Linda, brought him from their home in Minnesota to an aviary in Rio owned by Tulio Monteiro, a Brazilian ornithologist. There, Blu met and fell in love with Jewel, a female blue Spix's Macaw. Now they had three children together, and lived in a sanctuary Linda and Tulio created.
Life was pretty good.
“It's great Rafael could watch the kids,” Jewel said as they bopped to the beat.
Blu nodded, shaking his bright blue tail feathers. “Yeah, looks like you're stuck with me all night.”
Jewel smiled back adoringly. “And I couldn't be happier. You're my one and only, Blu.”
Blu narrowly missed stepping on Jewel's toe. “Ah, that's a good thing. Since I'm the only other one.” It was a running joke between them. No other blue Spix's Macaws existed in the world.
“Hey, ya lovebirds!” Blu and Jewel turned at the sound of a familiar voice. It was their friend Rafael, a Toco toucan, with his wife, Eva, a keel-billed toucan.
Rafael's yellow-orange bill gleamed in the moonlight. “Happy New Year!”
But if Rafael and Eva were here, Blu thought, where were his kids?
“Raffi?” Blu began worriedly. “Where areâ”
Rafael held out one of his black wings. “The kids are with Luiz. No worries.”
“Worries, right here!” Blu said nervously, tapping himself on his chest. Immediately Blu and Jewel looked across the dancing crowd, searching, searching.Â .Â .Â . Then, Blu spotted Luiz the bulldog, boogying to the beat. Dog drool was flying everywhere. But the kids were nowhere to be seen.
Trying not to panic, Blu and Jewel hurried over to Luiz.
“Luiz!” Blu said, dodging a spittle of drool. “Where are the kids?”
Luiz gazed up at them. “What? I don't have any kids.”
“Our kids!” Blu and Jewel shouted.
“Oh, right,” Luiz said, getting it. “I left them with Tiny.”
“Tiny!” they repeated, horrified.
Luiz was taken aback. “What? She's an excellent babysitter.”
Blu and Jewel knew their kids would love staying with Tiny. They hoped she felt the same way!
“I'm a terrible babysitter,” said Tiny, a small green bird. She had agreed to let the kids tie her to a large bottle rocketâand to them putting on a fireworks displayâbut now, she wasn't sure it was the best idea.
“This is gonna be awesome!” Tiago assured her. He was the youngest, and the only boy. Right now he was zipping around jamming fireworks into the ground. His bookish sister Bia was working out the details for their own New Year's spectacle here at the base of Corcovado.
“All right, I've done all the calculations and each explosion will be perfectly synced to the beat,” she said confidently. “Unless .Â .Â . I didn't carry the one.”
Over to the side, Carla, the oldest and most artistic of the three kids, was sharing her opinion. “Here's my vision: red, blue, green, yellow, yellow, purple!”
“Here's my vision,” Tiago declared. He held a lit match. “Boom! Pow! Bang! KAPOW!” He tore across Bia's drawings.
Worry lines creased Tiny's forehead. “I don't think your parents would like this very much,” she warned Tiago.
And no sooner were the words out of her mouth than Blu and Jewel flew in and landed.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Jewel said as Tiago ran by with the match. She grabbed him by his tail feathers while Blu took the lit match. “Where you going, little bird?”
“What is this?” Blu let out an exasperated sigh. “Guys, you know the rules. No pyrotechnics without adult supervision.”
Bia shrugged. “We asked Tiny.”
“That's even worse,” Blu scolded. “Sorry, Tiny.”
Tiny hung her head in shame. She was still tied to the rocket. “You don't have to pay me, SeÃ±or Blu.”
Blu took the rest of the fireworks out of Carla's hand. “Kids, next time, ask me.”
“But you always say no,” Carla complained.
Blu looked at his daughter. “No, I don't.”
“Dad, you're in denial!” Tiago blurted out.
Blu turned to his wife for backup. “Okay, honey, do I always say no?”
Jewel shook her head. “Yes. I mean .Â .Â . uh .Â .Â . no.”
Carla snorted. “Great. Now Mom's saying it too.”
“Do you know how dangerous this is?” he asked. The match flame singed Blu's talons and he dropped it. Tiago nodded enthusiastically, making Blu groan. How many times did he have to tell them? “Listen, we're the last blue Spix's Macaws left on the planet,” he reminded his family. “We have to stay safe! Birds of blue feathers .Â .Â .”
“Have to stick together!” the kids finished with him.
Carla's beak twitched. “I smell chicken,” she said, sniffing.
“I could eat,” Tiago said.
It wasn't chicken .Â .Â . it was Blu's tail feathers! The dropped match had lit them on fire!
“No, no, no, no, no!” Blu cried, darting back and forth as he tried to put out the flames.
Bia folded her wings. “By my calculations that's like his twenty-seventh âno' today!”
As Blu shook out his flaming feathers, a few of them fell off and fluttered to the ground, landing on top of the fireworks Bia and Tiago had set up.
The fireworks ignited. Including the one Tiny was strapped to. The small green bird frantically tried to blow out the lit fuse.
Blu ran over to help her. Luckily he was able to free Tiny from the rocket .Â .Â . but unluckily, he got caught on the roman candle himself. He braced himself for what was coming next.
Five, four, three, two .Â .Â .
“Everybody fly!” he shouted. “Happy new year!”
His family moved out of the way as Blu was launched into the sky. A few seconds later, Blu dropped back to earth, landing on the arm of the Cristo Redentor statue beside his family. “Well, this year's off to a great start,” he said as fireworks filled the night sky to the delight of the kids.
Little did Blu and Jewel know, as their children gathered around them, that their greatest adventure was about to begin.
eep in the lush tropics, the Amazon River flowed steadily through the rainforest. A thick canopy of trees blocked the sky. In the distance, strange, exotic animals hooted and called out. The place was teeming with life.
A canoe glided along the river. Inside were two peopleâBrazilian ornithologist Tulio Monteiro and his American-born wife, Lindaâand one small bird in a large birdcage.
Tulio sat in the back of the boat, holding a camcorder, recording everything. He spoke into it excitedly, thrilled by the sights and sounds of the jungle. “Amazon expedition, day seven. Two thousand miles from Rio, we've reached the center of the rain forest.”
Exotic jungle sounds echoed around them. It was a world made for adventure. “We are surrounded by plants and animals struggling for survival.”
As Tulio spoke, Linda paddled along in front. “We effortlessly glide down the river,” Tulio went on.
Linda rolled her eyes. “Effortless for you,” she muttered under her breath. Suddenly a flash of color caught her eye. A beautiful butterfly fluttered in the air in front of her.
She let out a small gasp. “How pretty!” Then .Â .Â .
! A piranha leapt out of the water and chomped on the butterfly.
“Oooh, spit it out!” Linda yelped, scuttling back in her seat. “Spit it out!”
But the piranha, ignoring her, had already dropped back into the water.
Tulio gave her a blissful smile. “Ah, the savage beauty of the circle of life.”
Linda paddled on as Tulio continued.
“We are near the nesting grounds of the Amazonian wood quail.
. Six months ago, we rescued this little bird from smugglers. It was sick, malnourished, with a broken leg. But now, my trusty assistantâ”
Linda shot him a look.
“I mean, loving wife and colleague,” Tulio corrected himself, grinning guiltily at Linda, “will now release her back to her natural habitat.”
They had reached the riverbank. Linda opened the birdcage. The little bird stood there, shaking a little.
“It's okay,” Linda told it. “You can go now. Just like this.” She flapped her arms up and down.
“Let me talk to her,” Tulio said. “Hoooo-hoo!” he said, mimicking a bird. “Hoooo-hoo!”
“Go on,” Linda encouraged.
Slowly, the little bird stepped out of the cage and gave a few squawks.
“Do you think she's gonna be all right?” Linda asked, concerned. The little bird didn't look too sure of herself.
Tulio nodded. “Give her some time.”
Just then, several other Amazonian wood quails emerged from the jungle. Linda and Tulio watched from the canoe, touched, as the other quails made a circle around the little one and welcomed her.
“Welcome home,” Linda whispered as the little bird headed into the brush with her new friends. But then, to Tulio's surprise, just as quickly as she'd gone into the jungle she came out again, squawking urgently.
“Wait a minute. What is she saying, Tulio?” Linda asked as the little bird made frantic motions with her wings. The boat began to drift down the river.
“They imprint on me so strongly, you know,” he said, smiling at the little bird. “It's just hard for her to say good-bye.”
Linda wasn't so sure. “No, I think it's .Â .Â . I think she's trying to warn us,” she said as the bird's motions grew more and more frantic.
“No, no, no, Linda,” Tulio insisted. “It might be some sort of mating dance.”
By now the little bird was running in circles, pointing and squawking. Suddenly Linda realized that the canoe was drifting faster down the river. She grabbed the sides of the canoe as it sailed wildly through the water. “Tulio! Look!”
In the quickly approaching distance, Tulio could hear what sounded like a dull roar.
“Paddle!” Linda yelled, grabbing her paddle and digging it into the churning water.
“Now!” The peaceful Amazon River they'd cruised down this morning was leading them to rapids!
Tulio fumbled for a paddle and quickly began paddling against the surge. “Oh! Okay, okay! Paddle! Watch out!” he cried as the paddle slipped from his grasp into the rushing water. He began shouting directions to Linda. “Paddle! Paddle! Backward! Backward! To the right! No, no, left!” He gulped air. “Forward! Forward!” he shouted. “No, no, no! Backward!”
Linda was doing her best, but it was impossible. “Make up your mind, Tulio!” she shrieked.
It was too late. They charged down the rapids. Linda tried to push away from the rocks, jamming the oar in between them, butâ
âthe oar broke in half.
“Cheese and sprinkles!” Linda shrieked, her eyes widening in horror. The boat careened out of control. Spinning, the canoe went backward over the falls.
“Tulio!” Linda cried as she and Tulio were catapulted out of the canoe and swept under the rushing water.
Downriver, the capsized canoe gently floated by. Tulio had surfaced, gasping for air. In his hands he still held his camera. Grabbing onto a rock, he pulled himself onto the bank. “Linda! Linda!”
“Tulio!” Linda shouted. She emerged from the bushes, wrapped up in vines and covered with sticks and leaves. “Ugh. Yuck.” She tried to wipe the gunk off her body. “Thank heavens you're okay.” They hugged each other, relieved.
A loud squawk rang out in the rain forest, catching their attention.
“Tulio, is that aâ”
He motioned for her to stay quiet. Then, he crept forward toward the bushes and raised his camera to try and snap a picture.
A blue streak flashed past them, startling Tulio enough that he dropped his camera in the river. A bright blue feather floated down and settled nearby. His eyes wide, Tulio picked up the feather, blew on it, and stuck his tongue out to taste the end.
“Linda, this is incredible!” he said excitedly, handing her the feather. This wasn't just any feather. It belonged to a blue macaw!
Meanwhile, back in Rio, Jewel glided through the air over Guanabara Bay, filled with joy. In her beak she clutched a large Brazil nut .Â .Â . a perfect breakfast.
Soaring over the lagoon, she gazed out on the city below her. Street vendors were moving in and out of stopped traffic in the morning rush hour. Tourists with their maps and cameras were filling the streets and going in and out of buildings. Humans were busy doing the things that humans did.
Jewel was glad she was a macaw.
Flying to the bird conservatory, she glided over the observation tower and swooped past Fernando. He was sixteen now, and looked after birds from the surrounding jungle.
“Good morning, Jewel!” he called out, waving as she squawked hello. Soon she came to a manmade birdhouse that sat atop a tall pole next to Linda and Tulio's cottage. There was one main room, and three smaller rooms that had been added on over the years.
It was home.
Jewel landed outside the main box and poked her head inside. “Hey everyone, look what I found!”
No one answered her. “Blu?” she called. “Kids?” She peeked in the other boxes. They were empty. “Where did everybody go?”
The sound of clanging pots and a blaring television caught her attention. It was coming from Linda and Tulio's cottage. A window was open.
“Who's ready for some breakfast?” she heard Blu say.
She shook her head. “Unbelievable.”
The kitchen was all hustle and bustle. Blu manned the griddle, flipping pancakes like a professional chef.
“Did you know that these whole wheat pancakes have twice the vitamins and minerals of regular pancakes?” Bia said, studying the box of pancake mix Blu had placed on the counter.
“And with the blueberries it's four times as tasty,” Blu added, whistling. He popped open the fridge. “Hey, where are the blueberries?”
“Oh, Dad!” Tiago tossed a blueberry in the air. “Looking for this?”
Blu's eyes narrowed. He knew what Tiago was doing. He was throwing down a challenge.
“Bring it,” Blu said.
Tiago passed the blueberry to his father.
Blu pulled off some fancy footwork. “It's down to the final minutes. He's got magic in his feet. He shoots!” He popped the berry into the air and did a bicycle kick, catapulting it into the pancake batter. “He scores!”
” he and Bia shouted together. Blu did a celebratory dance.
Getting into the spirit, Tiago lined the rest of the blueberries up, took aim, and began kicking them to Blu. “Heads up, Dad!”
Blu could handle one berry. But this was too much. Blueberries flew at him left and right. He tried to kick them all into the pancakes, but instead, he tripped and fell, sending a pancake flying across the room.
It hit the wall next to the window. The window where Jewel sat, looking less than amused. She blinked three times.
“Uh-oh. The three blink,” Bia said. “Mom's mad. Time to go.”
“Hey, honey!” Blu said, catching his breath. “Are you hungry?”
Jewel flew into the room, still holding the Brazil nut. “Blu, we talked about this.”
The kids watched their parents. “Neck twist,” Carla said as Blu fidgeted. “Change of subject.”
“Ummm, so, uhhh, so whatta you got there?” Blu managed to say.
“Breakfast,” she told him, irritated.
“That's funny,” Blu said, grinning. “But, seriously, what is that?”
Jewel dropped it on the counter. “It's a Brazil nut. I never thought I'd find one this close to the city. I want to show the kids how to open one.”
“You mean like this?” Tiago blurted out. He popped open a can of Brazil nuts, causing his mother to groan. “Dad already showed us.”
Jewel looked at Blu, but before she could say anything, Carla let out a squeal.
“Wait! Wait .Â .Â . wait, go back! Mom! Dad!” she interrupted. “You're on TV!”
The family gathered around the television set. A reporter was interviewing Tulio.
“Doctor Tulio Monteiro, the âBird Man of Brazil,' announced an important discovery today,” the reporter said. The camera flashed to Tulio.
Tulio nodded, holding up a blue feather. “We believe we have encountered a wild blue Spix's Macaw deep in the Amazon jungle.”
“The blue Spix's Macaw was thought to be practically extinct,” the reporter chimed in, “with the last remaining family living under protection at the Blu Bird Sanctuary in Rio de Janiero.” Pictures of Blu, Jewel, and the kids flashed onto the screen.
“We're famous!” Carla said excitedly.
The scene flashed back to Tulio and Linda at their camp in the Amazon. “There may be a whole flock out there,” Tulio said. “And if there is, we will find them and protect them!”
Tulio pulled Linda close as she waved at the camera. “Hi, Blu.”
“Hi, Linda!” Blu said to the TV. They were still waving as the camera pulled away.
Jewel gazed at her family in amazement. “We're not the only ones! There are more of us out there!”
“Yeah, that's great. I'm sure thereâ”
“All this time, I thought we were all alone,” Jewel said to herself.
“Hey, it hasn't been all bad,” Blu protested.
Jewel turned to him. “Of course not! But just imagine if there was a whole flock of us.” Jewel flew over to the window and looked outside, lost in thought. “How amazing would that be?” Her mind was racing. “We've got to do something!”
Blu gaped at her. “We do?”
Jewel's excitement was growing. “Yeah! We have to fly to the Amazon and help Linda and Tulio find them!” She hopped from foot to foot.
“Whoa. Whoa, whoa,” Blu put his wings up. Now she was getting ahead of herself. “We can't just pack up and go.”
“Why not?” Jewel asked. “It's about time this family got a little air under our wings.” She zoomed in the air toward the startled kids, snatching away their gadgets. “Look at us! iPods. TV! Pancakes! We're not people. We're
“Hey!” Carla cried as her iPod was ripped from her talons.
“Mom!” Bia and Tiago exclaimed as their mother flew around the room, a bird on a mission.
“We have to get out to the wild and be birds, Blu!” she told her husband, zooming over to him. “Let the kids connect to their roots. Show them what I had.”
There was a spark in Jewel's eyes that Blu had never seen before. “They need this,” Jewel went on, passionate. “
need this. Come on, Blu. What do you say?”
He hesitated. “I don't know. Maybe .Â .Â . uhhh .Â .Â .”
“He didn't say no!” Carla exclaimed.
“Which means he practically said yes!” Bia added excitedly.
Things were moving too fast. “Hey. Wait a secondâ”
“It's gonna be so much fun!” Jewel exclaimed.
Tiago did a wing pump. “Yeahhhhhh! We're going to the
!” Then he looked at his parents. “What's the Amazon?”