Pet Science Book Review

Pet Science: 50 Purr-fectly Woof-Worthy Activities for You & Your Pets by Veronika Gunter and Rain Newcomb, Illustrated by Tom LaBaff

What do you think of when you hear the term “animal science?” Do you think of wild animals, like tigers or bears bounding through the brush? Wildlife biologists and ethologists do study wild animals in the natural habitats. Many of us, however, have animals right in our homes that can be studied as well and we tend to overlook them. Authors Veronika Gunter and Rain Newcomb have come up with 50 science-related activities to answer questions about our pets that don’t involve going on a safari or visiting an exotic locale.

This book covers all sorts of pets, not just dogs and cats. Birds, rabbits, rodents, and even snakes and hermit crabs are all included. The authors also bring up and answer some compelling questions, such as why do cats lie on magazines, newspapers or books and do they have a preference? Why do dogs circle around before they lie down? Why do cats like to get into paper bags (or in our case, the cloth bags we use instead of paper bags)? Each question is followed by a list of materials to gather to perform the experiment and then instructions on how to perform it. Once the experiment is finished, the authors then answer the question in depth.

Gunther and Newcomb might have separated the answers to the experimental questions into another section, for a couple of reasons. First, I have found that if the answer is readily available, the child is less likely to perform the activity. Second, if the child sees the expected answer, then they try to match it, regardless of their actual results. Finally, when people find out an answer for themselves, then they tend to remember it longer. That is not to say that the authors shouldn’t have given the answers, because the answers are highly informative.

I think the authors have done a good job in choosing activities that will engage children, but will also be safe and enjoyable for their pets. Many of the activities have potential to be developed further into science fair projects. I don’t usually pay much attention to the glossary, but theirs is extensive, obviously the product of their collaboration with a veterinarian. It covers from pages 76-80. Did you know that the chemical that is attractive to cats in catnip is nepetalactone? That is an example of the type of information that can be found in the glossary.

Overall, I would way this book would appeal to children who are interested in their pets, in science and/or who enjoy hands-on learning activities. Children who have expressed an interest in becoming a veterinarian might also find it useful. The book even suggests that if the child doesn’t have a pet, he or she can still do the activities with a friend’s pet, with the class pet or by observing animals at the zoo. With all those options, a lot of fun and learning are sure to ensue.

nonfictionmonday

Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day. This week the celebration is at Tales From the Rushmore Kid.

Middle School Fiction Review: The Goatnappers by Rosa Jordan

In this sequel to Lost Goat Lane, author Rosa Jordan has chosen 15-year-old Justin Martin as her main character. Although Justin is thrilled to have been picked for the varsity baseball team in his freshman year, he soon finds his life too complicated to give baseball practice his full attention. Unwittingly selling his pet goat to a man who abuses animals, Justin is faced with a hard decision about what to do about it. To cause further problems, his absentee father shows up and wants Justin to be part of his life.

The vibrant community of Justin’s family and helpful neighbors lend warmth and reality to the story. It is adorable how the younger children come to tell Justin what they have overheard adults say about him. They have a regular communication network established, which is just how young children tend to be. If they know something, they can’t wait to tell.

Without giving away the entire plot I have to say I was a bit disappointed about the way the “goatnapping” was handled, although I do think it opens the door for useful conversations about how to deal with injustice and whether breaking the law is ever justified.

If you haven’t read Lost Goat Lane, I would definitely recommend reading it first. Lost Goat Lane won awards and was the inspiration of a Showtime movie called The Sweetest Gift. The Goatnappers is a pleasant follow up story that raises some important issues, giving the reader plenty of room to make up his or her own mind.

The Goatnappers by Rosa Jordan
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers
Pub. Date: April 2007
ISBN-13: 9781561454006
ISBN-10: 1561454001
Ages 9-12 Middle School

Stories and Real Life

My son pulled out A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh books last weekend for yet another reading. We have read them together again and again through the years, and still find something new to enjoy each time. My son appreciates the gentle humor and easy relationships between the characters, I think.

While reading the books, I often pictured Milne telling the same stories to Christopher Robin in a big old armchair, a scruffy Pooh bear tucked in beside them, lit by a nice fire crackling in the fireplace. I often wondered how Christopher Robin benefited from having these wonderful stories written just for him. Therefore, when I spotted Enchanted Places, an autobiographical work by Christopher Milne, I was eager to find out what his life had been like.

As is often the case, imagination does not quite meet reality. The Just-Pooh.com website has a description of Christopher Milne’s life if you want to get a quick summary. Basically, as was the culture at that time and place, Christopher Robin was raised by a nanny and sent off to boarding school. He had little interaction with his father and he did not enjoy the stories at all. He felt the books were more about his father than himself.

It was a rude awakening to realize this could be true of my writing, too. I keep Christopher Milne’s resentful words in mind whenever I write something “for” my son. I hope it keeps me more honest.

Enchanted Places by Christopher Milne

When We Were Very Young (Pooh Original Edition) by A. A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard