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Animals, animals…read all about it

Bibliophiles Corner

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it is too dark to read,” quipped Groucho Marx. Big and small, animals captivate us. This month’s book recommendations focus on animals and our interaction with them. Sometimes they are the main character and sometimes they inform the bipedal characters of a different way of being. So, grab one of these reads and snuggle with the animals in your house.


Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver tackles the sometimes controversial issue of climate change through her fictional Appalachian town of Feathertown, Tennessee. Dellarobia Turnbow, unhappy with her life, climbs a mountain and stumbles into a miracle – millions of monarch butterflies. The repercussions soon become evident as Dellarobia confronts everything she knows.


All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot is a classic. It follows Herriot as he travels rural Yorkshire treating any animal that crosses his path as he shifts from the sterile veterinary school environment to the often messy and unpredictable real world. Written with compassion, humor and love, these stories are the basis for a television series in the 1970s and again in 2020 on PBS Masterpiece.


Secrets of the Octopus by Sy Montgomery is a companion book to the National Geographic television special. The book includes riveting Nat Geo photographs as the reader dives into the mysterious world of one of the planet’s most intelligent life forms. Montgomery also authored the bestselling The Soul of an Octopus. The naturalist is often called the “octopus whisperer” for her research and time spent with several octopuses.


Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of a Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator by Homer Hickman is a “nearly true family legend” about Hickman’s parents, according to his official website. Newlyweds Elsie and Homer (father of the author) receive an unusual wedding gift from Elsie’s former beau, an alligator. Elsie raises the reptile in their only bathtub, but Homer eventually gives her an ultimatum ‒ him or the gator. Elsie relents and they take a 1,000-mile adventure to carry Albert home. The story is full of misadventure and ultimately, love.


Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand hit the big screen in 2003 starring Tobey Maguire. The film was based on Hillenbrand’s book of the same title. Seabiscuit was a champion racehorse in the 1930s and 1940s. The horse and his humans are nothing but underdogs until Seabiscuit makes history. This nonfiction story highlights why a horse received more news coverage than FDR, Hitler or Mussolini in 1938.


The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle was originally published in 1968, but the hero’s journey motif is timeless. The completely alone unicorn fights evil curses and terrors to triumph over the wicked king and save her world. Made into an animated movie in 1982, The Last Unicorn has become a cult classic.


Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior by Temple Grandin. Professionally, Grandin is an animal scientist, notable faculty at Colorado State University and autistic. Grandin blends her knowledge and experience with both autism and animal science to reach surprising discoveries about our four-legged neighbors and people with neurodivergence.


Babylon’s Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo by Lawrence Anthony. This true story about the herculean efforts by American soldiers, zoo employees and conservationists like Anthony to save the animals that survived in the midst of savage war. The book chronicles the “zoo’s transformation from bombed-out rubble to peaceful park,” states the book’s blurb. Along the way they also rescue other illegal animals in the city and the hearts of Baghdad’s people.


Min: The Cat Who Guards the Castle by Lynn Helton is a children’s picture book about a tiny cat who takes her big job seriously. When beloved items go missing from the prince and princess, Min investigates.


The Menagerie by Tui T. Sutherland is the first book in this middle-school, fantasy trilogy. Set in fictional Xanadu, Wyoming, the town has a secret zoo, home to mythical creatures. The problems begin when six griffin cubs escape the zoo. Can Logan and his friends find the cubs and grapple with their new reality before authorities find out and shut down the zoo forever?


By Celeste McNeil; courtesy photos



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