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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Talking Tails, written by Anne Love and Jane Drake and illustrated by Bill Slavin. Tundra, 2010. $24.99 ages 8 and up

"At first the dog was forbidden to climb on the furniture, but Riley discovered that he could sneak onto the basement couch and leap off before anyone saw him. As he got older, he was caught sometimes. Now that Riley is frail, Jack lifts him onto the couch and lets him rest. Come and explore the unique connections between people and their pets."

Is there an 'incredible connection between people and their pets'? You bet there is! I don't have first hand knowledge of it as I have never had a pet; but, I have friends, relatives and a son and daughter-in-law whose lives revolve around their pet(s) and the love they have in their hearts for each other. So, here's to Percy, Bret and Carmen!

The audience for this book is targeted at 8 to 12 year olds. I am sure you know someone younger who will enjoy hearing what it has to say. I know I know someone much! I found this book to be informative, funny and it held my attention for the entire reading. It doesn't matter if you think you are a dog person and don't need to know anything about cats, or the other way around. You will find much to keep you entertained as you read it on your own (as I did) or share it with others (as I will).

There is a short instructive chapter about pets and the reasons that we love them so. Our brain reacts to the warm and loving feelings we get from those pets through the response of our amygdala. They tug at our emotions.

Following that introduction we move on to some of the more unusual pets that people have been known to keep. You know what I mean...the monkeys, tigers, kinkajou, snakes, bears, as well as horses, birds, rodents and fish. Then we spend a lot of time with those pets that are most common...cats and dogs.

Timelines at the bottom of each double spread help us with the history of the breed, and the authors also provide fact-filled boxes about the animal's traits. They give good advice for care, answer common questions and give apt descriptions of the variety within the species. I particularly loved the personal stories of pets and their place in the hearts of many. Mabel was the resident cat at Mabel's Fables and was a perfect companion for all who visited there. When she died, the owners put this notice on the door:

"MABEL 1985-2002
Not a stuffed feline, but quite real
And certainly
not a windup toy.
Mostly gentle, mostly cheerful
Always inquisitive
And the soul of our little bookstore.
Thank you, Mabel."

A box-captioned illustration of a dog person gives an up close look at the lengths dog owners go to keep their 'best friend' happy. This section repeats the detailed format of the previous one...answering questions, giving advice, introducing us to personal stories. The reading is lively, and accompanied by the clear, engaging illustrations of award winning artist Bill Slavin. They are sure to invite you in and to encourage a long stay!

Is your mind on Christmas yet? This would be a great gift for a pet owner, or someone who longs to be one. There is so much to learn and enjoy about the connection between owners and their beloved pets. And, there is a great poster on the back of the book's cover!

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