Animals

Staff Picks: Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

Reviewed by Cidne B.

Told in a series of letters, this is the story of twelve year old Sophie Brown’s adventures after she and her family move from L.A. to the rundown farm they inherit from her great-uncle Jim. It begins with the sighting of an unusual chicken and leads to the discovery that there was once an entire coop full of remarkably different breeds.

This wonderful novel tackles issues of family, belonging, community, and change. The difficulties of adjusting to a whole new life are made more interesting by Sophie’s efforts to learn how to take care of her remarkable flock and to solve the mystery behind where they came from and where they are hiding.

Witty, engaging, and utterly delightful, with charming illustrations by Katie Kath, this warm-hearted story would make an excellent read aloud for younger children as well as appeal to independent readers.

Staff Picks: Step Right Up by Donna Janell Bowman

Reviewed by Christina J. 

You have to read it to believe it. Then you have to see the photos in the historical note at the back of the book to really believe the incredible story of William ‘Doc’ Key and his intelligent horse Beautiful Jim Key. Even people who witnessed it firsthand, including scholars from Harvard University, couldn’t understand how Doc Key managed to teach his horse how to read, spell, cipher, and more on command. This is a stunning and inspiring story of how kindness and love has the potential to unleash the intelligence and capacity in animals, during a time when most people believed animals had no feelings.

Staff Picks: The Honest Truth

Reviewed by Ginny H. 

Mark has been sick for a long time and after receiving bad news from the doctors, he's had enough. He's angry, scared, and just wants to disappear. So he does.

Mark sets out with his dog, Beau, to climb Mount Rainier. He encounters all kinds of people and obstacles along the way, all the while documenting his travels with his camera and writing haikus. While he misses his mom and dad and his best friend, Jess, he keeps going, even when he starts getting sicker.

This book was a really intense adventure novel. I found myself relating to the character in huge ways. The bond between Mark and his dog, Beau, was so relatable and real. When they got into some of the more dramatic parts, I was literally holding my breath!

If you like adventure and action, you'll love this book by Dan Gemeinhart.

Staff Picks: Waiting for Winter

Reviewed by Aubrey D. 

What is wet, white, cold, and soft? Snow of course! For squirrel and his friends snow is a new adventure that they can't wait to experience. Meschenmoser's sketchy illustrations are charming and his characters are endearing, a great book for sharing one on one!

Find it in the Children's Picture Book Collection!

For the Animal Lovers

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PHOTO: LEE ADLAF

We all know kids who are obsessed with animals. There's the kid who's read all the dinosaur books the Library has to offer, and is still hungry for more. Or the kid who can't stop watching videos of fluffy, adorable small mammals, who wants to know everything they can about them. I know all about these kids—because I was one of them (and in many ways, I still am).

If you're looking for something to entice your household animal lover over the long winter break, check out these movies and books at the Library.

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

Peter Brown’s foray into middle-grade literature, The Wild Robot is a heartwarming story about a robot stranded on an island only populated by animals. Our heroine, the robot Roz, must learn how to survive on the island and how to coexist with the variety of animals who already inhabit the island. Roz is programmed to learn and adapt to her surroundings and eventually she learns how to communicate with the animals. After disguising herself as a bush, a boulder, or flower patch, and eventually earns their trust. Roz also has to learn how to be a parent after an unfortunate accident. The novel traces this growth and how Roz and the animals are able to work together and overcome challenges that none of them could have completed alone. This story touches on collaboration, compassion, creativity, and some of the deepest, and best, parts of human (and animal) nature.

The Dogs of Littlefield

Something is happening to the dogs of Littlefield, Mass.  Is someone poisoning them or does the blame fall on something more supernatural?  A cast of delightful, small-town characters suffers through this travesty as circumstance and personality pit one against each other.

It begins with the posting of warnings: pet-owners should not let their dogs roam free in the park. The signs start off politely, then denigrate into meaner advice: “Leash your beast or else.” Then a white bull-mastiff is found poisoned in the park woods.  Soon the aldermen schedule a meeting to discuss two diametrically-opposed proposals: ban all dogs from the park, or create a leash-free area for the dogs to play and have freedom.

Littlefield, long on the top ten list of best small communities to live in America, appears to be coming apart in myriad ways. Most of the teens and adults have therapists. The veneer of social niceness quickly disappears.

The Lightkeepers

This wow of a novel traces the year Miranda nee Melissa nee Mousegirl spent on one of the Farallon Islands, thirty miles from San Francisco, taking photographs of the wildlife and living with a band of equally wild biologists.

Miranda received a grant to take pictures on the Farallons and she hides behind her camera. It allows her to observe the world, but always keep it at a safe distance. If you like photography, you will love reading how Geni describes this art, and what a photographer thinks in the moment of shooting.

Then there are the manic, neurotic, preoccupied, risk-crazy biologists. There’s Lucy, bird expert, particularly of murres, and Forest and Galen, white shark experts. Also, Mick, scholar of cetaceans and pinnipeds. Also, sharing the too small cabin is Andrew, Lucy’s boyfriend, and Charlene, the red-haired intern who helps everyone in their research.

The Tusk That Did the Damage

This timely novel set in South India tells the story of contemporary ivory poaching from three perspectives a documentary filmmaker, a poacher, and from an elephant named Gravedigger.

A calf who watched his mother and other members of the elephant clan die brutally, Gravedigger grows up in captivity until he breaks his chains and slips into the forest. There he seldom shows mercy for humans.

Tania James succeeds in showing each of these beings as having complex needs. Even the poachers, two brother, named Jayan and Manu, aren’t presented as evil even though Jayan is jailed for killing 56 elephants, including a mother who waited and grieved for two days after her son died.

But this book is not all doom and gloom. The author describes the setting beautifully and captures the pressures and love shared by Jayan’s family.  His wife, Leela, an ex-prostitute is one of the strongest and most interesting characters.  After one elephant death, she asks her husband, “Why did you kill a god?”

H is for Hawk

I almost became a falconer once. The ad promised you hands-on training for catching raptors, and you would be working with ones needing care, so it seemed like the perfect volunteer gig.  However, our time in California was drawing to a close, so I never got to experience the drama and force of a raptor landing on my gloved hand. But, wow, did I love this book.

This memoir artfully intertwines three stories: Helen’s experience training her first goshawk, her grieving for her father, and author T. H. White’s mixed results raising falcons and hawks. All these stories are told powerfully, and the subject is so interesting that I found the book riveting.  

Training the small fierce goshawk Mable (the author chose the name as something opposite of what you’d expect) for a few hours every day away took Helen from her disabling grief over her father’s sudden death on the street taking pictures for his job. At one point, Macdonald describes his last photograph--at street level, a line of blurs and a patch of sky as her father fell and died from a heart attack.

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