One semester into the eighth grade, Otowa Inoue, a boy of 14 and an only child, must transfer to a different school when his parents divorce. The move from central Tokyo to the western outskirts of the city?near a stream called the Nogawa?is thrust upon him suddenly in the summer, and he must acclimate himself to a new school when the second term begins in September. Everything else he has taken for granted until now has changed as well: his father's business has gone bankrupt, his constantly fighting parents have split up, and he is to live alone with his father. The fancy modern condo he was used to living in must be relinquished for a drab old apartment, and the piano lessons his mother had urged on him are now a thing of the past.
Early in the fall term before he's made any other friends, a ninth-grader named Yoshioka persuades Otowa to join the journalism club, which he heads. The club's primary activity is not reporting on events or writing articles, but caring for homing pigeons. Some forty years ago, it was the standard practice among Japanese newspaper companies to maintain flocks of two to three hundred pigeons for the purpose of delivering manuscripts back to the office. The journalism club has its own flock of birds that it cares for and trains. Otowa joins up, and in October, its faculty advisor, a teacher of Japanese language, asks him to take over after Yoshioka as club president.
The teacher has struck a chord with Otowa because he likes to talk about the country stream that runs past the school grounds and how the surrounding terrain was formed in ancient times, often waxing philosophical about things that have nothing at all to do with tests or preparing for high school entrance exams . . . Author Mayumi Nagano does a masterful job of exploring Otowa's self-image, how he sees his father, and his changing relationships with his friends and teacher.