Staff Picks: Books

The Snatchabook

The Snatchabook is an entertaining rhyming story about a small winged animal who secretly flies into other animals’ homes at night and steals their story books, yes, ALL the story books in the town of Burrow Down. Soon, there are no more stories to read, no more pirates on the seven seas, no more princesses trying to sleep on peas, no more tales of dragons spitting flames. Who is stealing all the books?

A little rabbit named Eliza Brown decides that whoever it is, she’s not scared! She’ll catch the thief! Eliza baits the thief with a pile of books and she waits. When the thief arrives she shouts: “Stop stealing all our books, right now! Just give them back, I don’t care how!”

The Snatchabook hangs his head in shame. “A tear rolled from the creature’s eye, and softly he began to cry.” Then he says: “I know it’s wrong, but can’t you see--I’ve got no one to read to me!” The Snatchabook looked so sad, Eliza realized that if he just had a mom or dad to read him stories every night, then he would behave all right!

They hatched a plan to turn a wrong into a right and the Snatchabook promptly returned all the books. Now, if you take a closer look you might just see the Snatchabook, perched happily on someone’s bed...listening hard to each word said.

This book is a great read-aloud. There is an Educator’s Guide with Common Core Activities at


The Snatchabook: Who’s Stealing All The Stories?

On the Road Again - Cat in Tow

Lightweight but satisfying, Lending a Paw: A Bookmobile Cat Mystery is the first in a projected series of mystery titles by author Laurie Cass, who resides with her husband and two cats in a small community near Lake Michigan.

What appealed to me right away about this book is that the title contained three of my favorite things: Bookmobiles, mysteries and of course a cat. As readers of my previous posts might have guessed, I’m absolutely crazy fond of any literature that is feline related.

What most of you probably didn’t know is that a while back, (I won’t say exactly how many years ago), I had the great fortune of working on the KPL Bookmobile. This book brought back some great memories - our Bookmobile’s devoted staff, the travels to various stops in our community, and most of all the highly appreciative and personable patrons who frequented those stops.

Another desirable coincidence is that the story takes place in Michigan, in the little, tourist town of Chilson.

The mystery centers around likeable, conscientious and free-spirited Minnie Hamilton. She is deliriously happy about landing a job in her favorite town in the country as the assistant director and head of the bookmobile department; which in translation means that she is both the librarian and the driver.

The bookmobile itself is a persistent thorn in the side of her boss Stephen, who wishes that the vehicle simply didn’t exist. However, it was a recent purchase made possible by a generous donor, one Stan Larabee, and cannot easily be disposed of for quite some time.

Around this time, she also finds a cat. Or is it the other way around? She hopes and assumes the attractive feline already has a home, but Minnie can’t find its owner, so she ends up adopting the animal and naming him Eddie. As it turns out, Eddie plays an integral part in the beginning and at the end of this mystery. He becomes a stowaway on the bookmobile’s maiden voyage and ends up charming all the new patrons, both young and old.

While out on the bookmobile’s rounds one day, the cat escapes its confines, acts a little crazed as if searching for something and subsequently finds a dead man with a bullet hole in his chest. That man turns out to be none other than Stan Larabee, the bookmobile’s magnanimous patron; a man not always loved or respected by his family or the community.

After some of her friends and family are questioned and thought to be possible suspects in connection to the murder, Minnie makes a solemn promise to help find the killer. There are many possible suspects in the case, but one by one Minnie exonerates most of them, and then of course solves the mystery, all with the invaluable assistance of Eddie.

A fast read that has some pleasant comedic undertones thanks to Minnie and Eddie’s very special relationship. Cat lovers will no doubt look forward to the next installment in the series.

I certainly am!


Lending a Paw

Two Cool Cats

The World According to Bob is the sequel to the NYT bestseller A Street Cat Named Bob by author James Bowen. It is a well written and much anticipated book worthy of becoming another hit for the James and Bob duo.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with their tale, here is a quick recap. Two years prior to the writing of this second work, James Bowen was a down on his luck, recovering addict who happens to find a ginger/orange cat with open wounds on his legs and body. The two form an instant bond, and although James assumes that the cat he names Bob will return to the streets after he nurses him back to health, Bob has other plans. He steadfastly refuses to leave James’ side, following him wherever he goes about town.

As the saying goes “cats choose you and not the other way around”, and it was certainly true in this case.

The pair become inseparable, existing on the streets of London, each one helping the other heal the wounds of their mutually troubled past. James gives Bob companionship, food, and a place to crash, and in return Bob gives James new hope and a purpose in life. James learns to appreciate the minute things of life – his threadbare flat, his job selling a street magazine called “The Big Issue,” and now his newly arrived feline friend.

While the first book documents their first meeting and their lives in the early part of their relationship, this sequel delves further into what their life was like then, the people they met, (both good and evil), and the many experiences they shared along the way. It also goes into explaining how the first book came to be.

In September 2010, a reporter from the Islington Tribune interviewed James and took the famous photo of Bob perched on his shoulder. A few days later, there appeared a poignant article about James’ past and how he and Bob met, titled: “Two Cool Cats...the Big Issue Seller and a Stray Called Bob.”

Soon thereafter, a major London publisher approaches the duo about a possible book deal. James does not expect this book about himself and his stray cat to become a big hit. Rather, he thinks that it would end up being a nice little one-time windfall. But then events start indicating otherwise.

One day, completely unannounced, Sir Paul McCartney and his family stop by the street corner where they work selling the magazine to admire Bob. Instead of the little handful of people that James expected to be at the first book signing, over 300 show up, and all 200 copies available sell out in the first half hour. In addition, James and Bob are treated as celebrities with photographers and a television camera crew in attendance.

Having been translated into 26 languages, the book becomes an international bestseller. And for the first time in their lives, James and Bob become financially secure. No, Bob and James did not become millionaires, but they are able to live a comfortable existence with James enjoying having some money in the bank and even paying taxes like a true member of society. He also enjoys being able to give something back to Blue Cross, the animal charity that was so kind to both of them during their struggles in earlier years.

The first book also produced other positive windfalls. It greatly improved the relationship James had with his parents. And it also seems to have had an impact on people’s attitudes to London’s “Big Issue” sellers and the homeless in general. Many folks wrote to James to express their awareness of homeless people, and many others have stated that the book gave them an incentive to make a special point of engaging the homeless in a conversation instead of simply ignoring their plight.

The story of James and Bob seemed to connect with people who were facing difficult times in their own lives, while others expressed a newly gained strength from animals’ ability to heal human psyches.

With their account, these two cool cats touched the hearts, minds and lives of many, many others. And that may be the best windfall of all, for all of us.


The World According to Bob

The well-loved pet (or trophy)

The title of this post is mostly a joke; our taxidermy books are probably more useful for hunters.  Whatever your reason for wanting to preserve the bodies of animals, or if you are just interested in learning for its own sake and exploring a fairly esoteric topic, we have a few books that will make for an unconventional beach read.  The title pictured here (as yet unread by this blogger) does indeed explore pet memorials among other types of taxidermy. 


The authentic animal

The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water

It’s okay to be different and this book is about a little crocodile (well, maybe), who has many brothers and sisters with whom he wants to play, but he cannot play with them because they all like to swim and play in the water, but this little crocodile does not like the water. He even saves up his money to buy a swim ring in an attempt to learn to swim, but, it just won’t happen. He gets very cold in the water and he begins to shiver, and then, he sneezes FIRE!

This little crocodile does not like to jump, either. However, he is VERY good at doing other things such as… flying and climbing, and something else that if I reveal it to you will give away the surprise ending! The illustrations by Gemma Merino are uproarious and simply convey the emotions of The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water.


The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water

Move Over Guinness: The Animals Are Coming

Natural History Museum Book of Animal Records by Mark Carwardine is a fascinating and addictive book about truly amazing animal records. It is quite comprehensive, utilizing the traditional animal classification system of groups, orders, families and species for organizational purposes.

The main goal is to “celebrate the wonders of the natural world and particularly its diversity.” For example, the box jellyfish found off the coast of Australia carries enough venom in it to kill sixty adult humans. At least seventy people have died from its stings, more so than from shark and crocodile attacks combined in that part of the country. In fact, some succumbed in as little as four minutes from the time they came in contact with the jellyfish’s tentacles.

The book also points out that quite a few of these record breaking animals are endangered and close to extinction, such as the white, black, Indian, Sumatran and Javan rhinoceroses. These rhinos hold a number of records including thickest skin on a mammal.

This volume will captivate kids with fantastic photographs and keep them reading and learning astonishing facts which are presented in a fast and fun way. A great gift for your young nature lover or a good reference volume just to have in your own book collection.


Natural History Museum Book of Animal Records

Soldier Bear

This is based on a true story. It is World War II and a group of Polish soldiers who are escaping the Germans and Russians by way of Iran purchase a tiny, half-dead orphaned bear cub from a boy. The soldiers name the bear cub Voytek, which means “Smiling Warrior.” Voytek is cared for by Peter and Stanislav and Junusz and Lolek and Pavel… they explain to their sergeant that the bear is their new ‘mascot.’

The soldiers join the British army. The story follows the soldiers and Voytek from camp to camp for five years watching the many different soldiers’ reactions to Voytek. Voytek is a sweet bear. Peter is his keeper and there are a few instances where he aids the soldiers: he carries bombs, he corners a spy, and he entertains. Voytek provides comfort amid the horrors of war. The soldiers have a few other animals: Kaska, a monkey, who rides on the back of a big dog named Stalin and Dottie the Dalmatian.

Soldier Bear has been translated from the Dutch into English by Laura Watkinson. Soldier Bear received the Margaret Bachelder Award, an American Library Association Award given to the most outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States.


Soldier Bear

One Tapir, Two Tapirs, Three Tapirs, Four...

Have you heard of an animal called the tapir, but have little or no idea what it looks like, much less what it’s up to on our fair earth? Well, The Tapir Scientist is just the book to correct this unfortunate state of affairs! With text by Sy Montgomery and photographs by Nic Bishop, it explores the world of this unusual looking creature, whose closest living relatives happen to be the rhinoceros and horse.

The focus is upon the field investigation work of Pati Medici, an animal conservation scientist who is one of the founders of the Institute for Ecological Research in Brazil. It is dedicated to helping endangered animals such as tapirs survive.

The tapir actually existed in prehistoric times and surprisingly, its appearance has not changed much over 12 million years. What has changed is where they live. Once roaming all over Europe, Asia and both North and South America, their natural habitat has shrunk to parts of South and Central America, as well as Southeast Asia. It is South America’s largest mammal, and there are four distinct species all of which are endangered.


Tapirs are rather solitary, nocturnal animals who are difficult to see, much less count, capture, study and track as Pati and her team sets out to do. However, they persevere knowing that their work is crucial, since tapirs play a major role in propagating forest plant life. Being fruit loving herbivores, they eat, digest and then let’s just say “plant” seeds from one area to another. Without them, forests and all the animal life found within may very well disappear.

This book is part of a series by the Montgomery and Bishop team called “Scientists in the Field.” Author Sy Montgomery has taken on many challenges in the past including swimming with piranhas and chasing gorillas among other things. Nic Bishop is a renowned nature photographer. His photos have captured many animals in their full, natural glory. Fun fact: Nic used to live in the Winchell area of Kalamazoo for many years before relocating to New Zealand.

KPL owns a number of titles in the “Scientists in the Field” series, including The Tarantula Scientist, Snake Scientist and Quest for the Tree Kangaroo, as well as a few others. Both author and photographer have won many awards, and their works have been noted as being distinguished examples of the best science books for youth. (Although as an animal loving adult, I too found it to be engaging.)

With it’s lively, information laden text and beautiful pictures, The Tapir Scientist is a wonderful Brazilian animal travelogue!


The Tapir Scientist

Inside Out and Outside In

Vermont based, veteran children’s book author/illustrator and artist Lizi Boyd’s latest literary effort is a wordless picture book that is deceptively simple. Inside Outside incorporates cool, slightly hidden, die-cut page openings through which readers can catch glimpses of what’s transpired and what is yet to come. This device is used to slyly, yet gently tie in the future and the past to the present, underscoring the continuity of the passage of time.

By means of bright, sharply colored drawings set in a predominantly muted, light brown background, Boyd tells the story of a seemingly self-sufficient young boy doing inside and outside activities over the course of one calendar year. Inside overlaps outside, and outside overlaps inside with each turn of the page, until we come full circle to the initial season once more.

With a collection of animal friends lending a helping wing, paw or claw, the young boy proves that there is no room for boredom no matter what time of year it is. Together they read, make crafts, fly a kite, plant a garden and engage in more activities than I could list here.

This book is great for a “one-on-one” reading session. That way both child and caregiver can pour over the intricate illustrations that show plenty of action both obvious and hidden, and share in the mutual delight brought about by their discovery.

Lizi’s dogs both agree.



Inside Outside

The Truth of Me

From the prolific author of Sarah, Plain and Tall, comes another bittersweet story featuring a young boy named Robbie. Robbie, is an only child; it is summer and his friends Jack and Lizzie are at summer camp. Robert’s parents are musicians who are in the Allegro Quartet. His aloof mother is a violinist and his father is a violist and pianist. They are off on a two month summer tour without Robbie who is staying with his Grandmother Maddy. Maddy and Ellie, his dog, are his two best friends.

Maddy’s house sits on a hill bordered by woods. Maddy’s friends are Henry, who is a doctor and a very good cook. Maddy also has many animal friends who live in the woods, even a bear! One night, Robbie and Maddy camp in a tent on a hill in the starlit woods, but then, Maddy gets hurt! What is he to do?!!! Robbie sends a written message to Henry and stuffs it in Ellie’s collar. Will Ellie find Henry and deliver the message? There is a bear in the woods and Robbie cannot leave his grandma! Read this exciting story and find out!


The Truth of Me: About a Boy, His Grandmother, and a Very Good Dog

Lost Cat, Found Cat, an All-around Great Picture Book Cat

Slipper the cat lives a life of feline luxury in the house of her elderly owner, Mrs. Fluffy Slippers. Unfortunately, all this suddenly disappears when Mrs. Fluffy Slippers moves and during the ensuing commotion the cat is accidently left behind.

Slipper’s immediate reaction is to try to chase down the moving van. But after a while of hard running, she ends up lost and forlorn. After a cold, scary night out in the woods, she decides that she will need to adopt a new owner and so the search begins.

This book, depicted from the cat’s low-to-the-ground perspective, shows Slipper perusing different owner candidates in various settings by initially evaluating their footwear. She first encounters a farm resident, Ms. Muddy Boots, who is quite welcoming. She offers Slipper a fish which is quickly devoured, but the sight of the woman’s charging dog turns the cat off the prospect of living there.

Other rejects include Mrs. Iron Shoes, a rider on a horse with rather large hooves, Mr. Cowboy Boots who rides a large truck which emits too much noise and unpleasant smells, High Tops, an adolescent who is too full of energy and Mr. Big Boots, a motorcyclist who is nice enough to give the cat a lift into town, but whose driving habits Slippers finds to be too terrifying. Finally, in the sea of shoes of passersby, she spots Miss Shiny Shoes, and decides that this young girl would be ideal as her new owner.

The girl brings the cat home and introduces it to her grandmother who just happens to be ....!

Well, you’ll just have to read the book for yourself to get to the surprise ending. Let’s just state that as the saying goes, the rest is history. Slipper’s life once again was very, very good indeed, and (need I say), everyone lived happily ever after.

Lost Cat is author and illustrator C. Roger Mader’s first children’s book. It is a charming tale with wonderfully realistic, pastel illustrations that are sure to be a purr-fect anecdote for any young cat lover!


Lost Cat

Dogged Devotion

Devoted: 38 Extraordinary Tales of Love, Loyalty, and Life with Dogs is an emotionally gratifying collection of true dog stories written by Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, a dog owner and lover. She is also the founding director of the Deja Foundation, an organization dedicated to raising funds for the care of rescue dogs. The book’s cover was what first caught my eye. It is a photo of a dog looking attentively and lovingly above the camera at what could be imagined was his/her owner. An illustration of true, unerring devotion!

Many of the stories contained here feature people involved in public service, such as firefighters and veterans. Several that I particularly enjoyed showcase pit bulldogs who are many times made out to be fearsome and vicious in the popular media. This negative press has led some to conclude that they are unadoptable. But as these stories show, nothing can be further from reality.

One such entry was a retelling of the experiences of Steve Sietos and his pit bull terrier, Wilma. Steve, who is a New York City firefighter, also doubles as a herbalist/energy healer. Wilma was a sweetheart of a stray whose problem was that she was prone to episodes of self-mutilation, ripping the pads off the bottom of her paws. On top of that she was also diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

After spending $8,000 on Wilma’s vet bills, Sietos was left bankrupt. He decided to take a different tack, and started to investigate herbs and flower essences online that might help immune system disorders. From this arose his second profession as a clinical herbalist. He practiced his newly acquired skills first on Wilma, but then branched out to treat some of the guys in the firehouse, as well as their family members. Wilma was soon on the mend, and Sietos now regularly administers to the needs of humans and their dogs; dogs with health problems that veterinary science hasn’t been able to help.

Another story I much enjoyed was about a pit bull named Lilly, who was rescued from a shelter and became the constant companion to a police officer’s mother who struggled with depression and alcoholism over many years. Lilly ended up saving the mother from a moving train, and even though she was severely injured during the incident, stayed by the woman to protect her until help arrived.


Each of these thirty-eight short tales is accompanied by beautiful color photos of both the dog and owner in question. There are also concise informational notes about the specific breed or, in the case of mixed breeds, some fun and fascinating general canine facts.

What makes this book special is that as the title implies, devotion is important in any serious relationship. And for a true bond to form, devotion must be a two way street flowing not only from dog to owner, but also from owner to dog. Only then can true love blossom.

In a salute to that belief, this blog is dedicated to my friend and co-worker Mary who recently experienced the tragic loss of her faithful dachshund companion, Augie. Both will forever be devoted to each other.



“Bob the Cat” – not the only Cool Pet Story around

Teresa’s blog about A Streetcat named Bob got me yearning for stories about pets who help others heal. She did such a good job advertising Bob, that I couldn’t check it out quickly – too many holds! If you are eagerly awaiting your place in the cue for Bob, consider these titles in the meanwhile:

Homer’s Odyssey – A truly inspiring 3-lb. blind cat by the name of – you guessed it-- Homer, compelled his owner, Gwen Cooper, to develop a new career, in order to properly support her felines. He survived six moves with her and saved her from an intruder in her NYC apt. Homer has spunk, character, pizazz. I’d love to meet him! The chapters about living through 9-1-1 and its aftermath, one block away from the twin towers, were especially harrowing and moving. Somehow, Cooper’s account brought home to me the true terror pet owners experienced during the ordeal in a way I’d never envisioned before.

A Dog Named Boo - Coincidentally, author Lisa Edwards experienced 9-1-1 in New York with her pets, too. Edwards is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, who turned her sensitivity about her own abuse into wisdom when training her special-needs dog, Boo. She faced life challenges--like the early death of her beloved brother from Lou Gehrig’s disease-- and passed tests to become a professional dog trainer and behavioral consultant, in spite of her learning disability, figuring if Chuck could train to become a CPA after his diagnosis, she could manage difficult tests to obtain her career. Boo had a rare physical condition, which made training slow and arduous, but which gave him a unique patience and compassion for working as a therapy dog. His progress inspired Edwards to excel, despite physical limitations.

Edwards’ description of the healing encounters of therapy dogs with family members of deceased 9-1-1 victims and the emergency rescue workers are very moving.

Tired of reading about dogs and cats? Look instead for:

Alex and Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Uncovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence – and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process, by Irene M. Pepperberg

Wesley the Owl: the Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and his Girl, by Stacey O’Brien. (Another co-worker, Rebecca, turned me on to this book. I blogged about it forever ago, and I still think it’s a remarkable story.)


A Dog Named Boo

A Wild and Crazy Guy

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown caught my eye a few weeks ago. This humorous and thought provoking picture book starts out by focusing on Mr. Tiger’s very uptight lifestyle; prim, proper, and oh, so boring! Being unhappy with the phony baloney circumstances of his town (where all the animal inhabitants walk upright and wear dreary, monochromatic, Victorian era clothing), makes him want to turn over a new leaf. He first decides to loosen up a bit by getting down on all fours. Right off the bat, this makes him feel like a brand new, more natural tiger. To celebrate this newly found life’s joy and to let off some pent up steam, he roars his loudest roar ever!

All his animal friends are shocked by this behavior. Mr. Tiger’s new ways are totally unacceptable and against all the proper protocols of their little society. But the animal citizens of this somber and stodgy town haven’t seen anything yet, as Mr. Tiger discards his fussy top hat, his drab suit and his oh, so sensible shoes. Au naturel, he runs into the wilderness to bond with the truly natural world that surrounds him, with his orange, white and black streaked fur on fast, furious and fabulous display.

However there is one drawback to this self imposed exile to freedom; he misses his friends and even the city he escaped from. After a while he returns to see that a lot has changed for the better there; more tolerance and freedom for all. By taking that first risky step himself and leading by example, Mr. Tiger made a positive impression on his friends and they in turn made positive changes in their own lives as well. In short, everyone was much happier being themselves. And that was indeed a very good --- no, a very great thing!

The message of the necessity to be true to oneself, and that by adopting this adage other good things will follow, could not be more clearly expressed than in this simply written, yet visually sophisticated volume.

It’s a Roaring good time!


Mr. Tiger Goes Wild

No Ordinary Cat

I have just finished reading A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life by James Bowen, a true account of the author’s remarkable relationship with his best friend, the feline Bob. At the time of their first meeting, Bowen is a struggling street musician, who has to carry the additional burden of trying to shake off a heroin addiction problem. Day to day survival on the streets of London was his only preoccupation.

One gloomy March evening, James notices a ginger cat curled up on a doormat outside a ground floor flat. Having always had a soft spot for cats, and seeing the same cat on several subsequent occasions, James decides to give him a little loving attention; something which the poor puss seems to crave. Upon closer inspection, the cat appears to be a real beauty with memorable, piercing green eyes. But its obvious that just like James, he too has been somewhat down on his luck of late. His coat is in poor condition, thin with bald patches in places. And one of his back legs, which the cat holds in an awkward manner, is clearly in need of medical attention.

James tries to find the cat’s owner, but no one wishes to claim or take responsibility for him. So James makes up his mind to transport him back to his own threadbare flat. He offers the tom some milk and a bit of tuna mashed up with biscuits which is enthusiastically wolfed down in no time. After the meal, the cat settles in a comfortable spot near the radiator moving only when James goes to bed, whereupon he wraps himself up into a ball by James’ feet. James is pleased with his new company; something he hasn’t had a lot of recently. And the cat seems to enjoy what must be very fine accommodations compared to what he had experienced in recent times, and with the added bonus of a gentle soul and kindred spirit for a flat mate.

At first, James attempts to heal the animal’s abscessed leg with a home remedy. This does not work, and he ends up taking the cat to see a local vet. After paying twenty two pounds for the visit out of the total thirty he has to his name, he decides to name the cat Bob, after a favorite character in the Twin Peaks series called “Killer Bob”. Although James enjoys Bob’s company, he doesn’t want to form a close bond with the feline, because he plans to return him back to the streets after he is healed and neutered.

Following the neutering operation, James tries to implement his original plan to set the tom free, but Bob would have none of that. He becomes James’ shadow, following James wherever he goes, often by sitting on his shoulder and looking out the window of a double-decker bus as they travel around London.


James was a guitar playing busker in Covent Garden. Ordinarily, no one would exchange a look with James, much less try to engage him in conversation. He was just another grubby London panhandler that most people don’t see; a person to be avoided and even shunned. But with Bob by James’ side or on his shoulder, people would stop and broad smiles would break out on their faces. Seeing James in the company of the cat softened him in the eyes of the public. Coins and pounds were dropped into his guitar case, sometimes even before he began playing his guitar. Bob was indeed a charmer and that first day busking with the feline was the most lucrative of James’ career up to that point. With time, people started to bring Bob tidbits of food, homemade knitted sweaters, and even asking to purchase Bob who was definitely not for sale. The cat gave the man back his dignity and identity as well as a chance to get back on life’s right track. In James’ eyes, Bob was truly priceless.

James has now lived with Bob for several years, and they are still going strong. James believes in karma – that what goes around, comes around. And he believes that Bob came into his life at an exact, crucially important moment. Bob became the best mate who guided James towards a different, more productive way of living. He states in the last two lines of the book, “Everybody needs a break, everybody deserves that second chance. Bob and I had taken ours...”

Anyone who loves cats or animals will be drawn to this feel good book, about the power of love between a man and an animal. Bob is one remarkable cat who did save James’ life. This read will put a smile on your face and maybe produce a few tears of joy as well.

Long live Bob, James and the human/animal spirit!

Follow Street Cat Bob on Twitter, Facebook, and his blog.


A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life

A Warmer World

How is climate change affecting wildlife? That's the question A Warmer World considers. Of course there are many more questions around climate change that could be at the top of human civilization's priority list. How will climate change affect low-lying coastal communities? How will climate change affect the availability of fresh water? How will climate change affect the availability of food for humans? Since climate change will affect children to a greater extent than it will affect people who are adults now, it makes sense for parents and caregivers to educate our children about what's happening and why. Children and animals have this in common: they didn't create this problem but will need to adapt to it. 


A Warmer World


“A dark night. Fox breaks into the henhouse. He reaches in. He grabs a chicken!!! He stuffs it in his pocket. Fox runs!”

Uh oh. When fox gets home and pulls that chicken out of his pocket he gets a big surprise. Outfoxed has comical illustrations that add a hilarious angle to this picture book.



Ads About Animals

Paul Thurlby, a British illustrator, is making a name for himself in the children’s book field by (among other things) naming the books after himself. And so we have here Paul Thurlby’s Wildlife. This is a visually rich collection of his wonderfully unique, simple yet colorful, drawings of 23 different creatures, each with a fun fact about the animal that helps make witty sense of the accompanying captions. Every animal is represented in a style that is reminiscent of poster ads from the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s.

One example is “Armed to the Teeth” that informs us that, “Sharks are always growing new teeth to replace those that fall out”. Or how about, “Chill out - KEEP COOL” referring to the fact that iguanas must “...move into the shade to lower their body temperature.”

I read this July, 2013 title during a recent “Tales on the Trail” program that the Powell Branch Library holds along the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail. Kids, both young and old, were wildly interested in the text as well as amused by the cool art.

So, Thurlby’s imaginative fusion of strong visual design with wordplay and fragments of information works well on his intended audience. In fact, it should entertain little readers for more than just a single reading.

This book might also appeal to all animal lovers who are young of heart, for there is far more here than first meets the eye!


Paul Thurlby’s Wildlife

A Whey Out Curdling Tale

Ah, the good and simple life. Living on a farm out in the country, with some hens, goats, sheep, and a few cows thrown in for good measure. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?

Well according to author Angela Miller’s 2010 memoir entitled Hay Fever, farm life is anything but easy and carefree. Miller, a Manhattan-based literary publicist, decided one day that her frenetic, super urban lifestyle needed a U-turn into a more placid diversion of some sort. So she, together with her somewhat reluctant hubby, purchase and move into a 19th century farmhouse in rural Vermont, that comes complete with a little over 300 acres of surrounding countryside. The year was 2001, and the farm was envisioned to be a refuge from the NYC hustle and bustle. But the farm’s history as a working creamery and cheese making facility put a bug into Angela’s brain that she too could run a profitable dairy based concern as had its originating owner, one Consider Bardwell. However, until profits materialized, and because she couldn’t bear to totally cut herself off from her literary clients in the big city, Angela came to the conclusion that she would still need to continue being a literary agent during the middle of the week, and run the farm on extended weekend stays. The latter task was made all the more difficult since she had precious little experience in farming, much less operating an artisanal cheese making business.

Angela and Rust, her husband, acquire the requisite goats and other barnyard animals, as well as assemble a cast of farmhands, cheese makers, vets and a sundry other rural characters. They also attend many cheese making workshops and seminars and believe that armed with their newly gained knowledge, they are well on their way to building a world class cheese company on the premises of Consider Bardwell Farm. However, that road is fraught with many unforeseen bumps and learning curve detours that constantly make the project an iffy proposition at best.

This book is a cautionary tale of sorts as Angela recounts the difficulties of running and maintaining the farm, which is the primary source of goat milk that is crucial to the cheese making venture. The year 2008 proved to be an especially difficult time and she particularly concentrates on the many problems that they ran into. For example, one variety of cheese that had previously been a prize winner, was rejected by specialty food retailer Zingerman’s of Ann Arbor, which stated that the 250 pounds that were delivered to them did not match the taste profile of the winning cheese that their buyer had sampled some seven months earlier. It was returned and ended up being fed to the neighbor’s pigs. Soon after that, the farm instituted a new, more stringent control process, continuously testing and grading all the cheese being produced to assure consistent quality from one batch to another.

Currently, Consider Bardwell Farm makes over fifty thousand pounds of cheese annually, has won many prizes, and sells their products at over a dozen East Coast farmers’ markets. They are also found in the cheese carts of many fine dining establishments, as well as in numerous gourmet food shops across the country.

Speaking of farmers’ markets, my husband and I love to visit Kalamazoo’s outdoor version held every Saturday, between May and November on Bank Street. It is extremely popular, judging by the hordes of shoppers it attracts each week. It is also very well run and draws in many participating vendors, thanks in large part to the efforts of the People’s Food Co-op, which took over managing its operations from the city this year.

Last year, we remember purchasing a number of different goat cheese products at the market made by a small local producer. Now that vendor is nowhere to be found. We also searched for them at Sawall’s and the Food Co-op, both of whom used to carry their cheeses, but again these had disappeared from the dairy cases. I even went so far as doing a little more detective work by looking up the farm online. That resulted in the discovery that their prior site had been disabled, and that neither their phone number or email address worked anymore. Yes, artisanal cheese making is a tough, risky business. No one is guaranteed to make a profit and as a result, some farms don’t make it at all.

So go to the Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market, get something yummy (preferably cheese) to munch on and spend some time reading Hay Fever. After all, it’s summer. Time to kick back and relax.

Unless of course you live on a farm!

For more information of the Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market go to:


Hay fever : how chasing a dream on a Vermont farm changed my life

Paw Prints Straight Into Your Heart

In the past, I’ve enjoyed reading many non-fiction books about cats, my all time favorites being Dewey, Kitty Cornered, and Cleo. Now I think that I might have to add a new title to that list, Paw Prints in the Moonlight by Denis O’Connor.

This book was given to me as a pre-publication copy about ten months ago by a colleague, to whom I will always be grateful to for bringing it to my attention. It features the then twenty-nine year old author, Denis, who at the time lived in North Cumberland, England in a stone house circa 1876, complete with three-foot thick walls. One icy, stormy January evening, he discovers a silver grey cat screaming in agony and distress, twisting and turning in a trap, caught by the hind leg. Upon releasing the animal, he retreats back to the warmth of his dwelling. However, guilt induced concern makes him return to the scene and goads him into following the cat’s bloodstained tracks to an old barn. There he finds what turns out to be a female who, despite her injuries, has been driven by maternal instincts to return to care for her two, very tiny and bedraggled kittens. Being a cat and nature lover, Denis scoops up the entire group and carries them off to the local veterinarian. After examining the three creatures, the vet only has grim news: The mother cat is near death and her two youngsters are not faring much better. The vet proclaims that there is no hope for any of them, and suggests to Denis that the humane thing to do would be to put the entire lot down and thereby end their individual miseries.

While talking to the vet however, Denis notices that one of the kittens has moved to his outstretched hand and snuggles up to it. So he decides to deposit the little guy into a pocket of his sheepskin jacket and leaves the clinic. As he is walking out the door, the vet warns him not to get his hopes up for the kitten because, “The wee thing will suffer and die no matter what you do.”

Back home, the writer takes on the role of nursemaid to the tiny, shrew-sized kitten, who barely clings to life; the sole survivor of the storm’s havoc upon his feline family. He fills the ink sac of an old fountain pen with some warmed up evaporated milk, adds a few drops of halibut oil, and then feeds this concoction to the kitten who lays motionless in a blanket-lined box near a blazing fireplace. As he accomplishes that first feeding, Denis realizes that he has accepted a do or die mission that will require plenty of determination on his part, an unyielding will to live on the part of his charge, and a more than fair measure of just plain old good luck for both of them.

After a few stressful days, the kitten begins to rouse. A few weeks later, he seems to be out of the woods, showing a greater interest in his surroundings and becoming much more active. To encourage further progress, while at the same time assuring the cat’s safety while he goes off to work in a nearby college, Denis ingeniously decides to utilize a wide-bottomed, clear glass jug, covering it with cotton wool and placing the kitten within this new enclosure, next to the fire. Upon his return from work, he finds the kitten standing on its hind legs, peering out from inside the jug welcoming him home.

Thusly, the author names the little survivor Toby Jug. He grows into a truly beautiful adult cat with emerald green eyes, and long black fur that extends down to his nose where bloom a white moustache, mouth, throat and chest. It turns out that Toby Jug happens to be a Maine Coon; one of the largest of all domestic cat breeds. He also happens to have a personality all his own.

Author and cat develop an extremely close bond; Toby’s favorite pastime being sitting on Denis’ shoulder. Unfortunately, after only twelve too short years filled with many adventures together, cat and owner are separated by Toby’s death. That day, Denis makes a promise that he would write and publish a story of the life that he and Toby shared together.

Despite all the aspects that I found very attractive about this account, there was one that bothered me throughout. It was the author’s decision to let Toby wander at will in the fields and woods near his home. Denis states that Toby was his pet, but “...also his own cat who had enough of a wild streak to give him his natural rights and dignity as an animal.” Even though there were several close calls with wildlife and the elements, the cat was still allowed access to the outdoors at his discretion.

Personally, I could not let any of the three beloved felines who currently share our living quarters that same sort of freedom. The many dangers that are out and about, and the inherent risks that they could pose to their health and safety, are concerns that would constantly gnaw at the back of my mind.

This book took over twenty years to write due to the author’s sorrow and pain when he had to recollect their great times together that culminated in the loss of his wonderful friend. It took me ten months to complete reading it, because I found myself re-reading chapters multiple times. Simply put, I did not want the story to come to its inevitable end.

This is a heartwarming tribute that would appeal not only to cat lovers, but to anyone who has ever had a very special relationship with any animal. I absolutely love and recommend it. But make sure you have a box or two of tissues handy when reading. Believe me, you’ll make good use of them.

And if you keep your cat next to your heart like I do, please keep it indoors next to you. That’s the only place where it can revel in and enjoy the natural rights and dignity of being your true friend!


Paw Prints in the Moonlight

Sloth: Deadly Sin or Natural Virtue?

Caution: This blog contains information that just may be too cute for your reading pleasure. If you are disturbed or irritated by anything cute, STOP IMMEDIATELY and avoid any potential future exposure.

Even though I don’t watch much television, one of my favorite shows is Too Cute! on the Animal Planet channel. This program showcases mostly puppies and kittens, (but also occasionally exotic pets), as they are born and develop for the first two to three months of life in various, usually for-profit husbandry households. Each show culminates in the members of the new generation being adopted by their “forever” families. Even though I have watched some episodes numerous times and know that they are slanted toward the “And they lived happily ever after” ending, I still can’t help myself. There’s something about the newborn, no mater what species (well maybe not snakes), that draws me in. Especially so if the producers contrive and manipulate the action to hyper boost the cloyingly sweet “cute quotient.”

But then, a little over one month ago I came upon a book that was “too cute” without the hype. I’m referring to A Little Book of Sloth, written and photographed by Lucy Cooke, a zoologist and founder of the Sloth Appreciation Society. It documents the activities of the real-life sanctuary of Slothville, located in the wilds of Costa Rica, which is devoted to saving these sleepy-looking, engaging, and mellow creatures. The book features some of the “cutest” inhabitants of Slothville, from the orphan Buttercup to Mateo, Sunshine and Sammy, Ubu, as well as numerous other endearing two and three fingered sloths.

Thanks to a uniquely slow nervous system, sloths are known for their lethargic, unhurried movements. They epitomize a lazy, laid back, and ultra chilled lifestyle. But while sloths may look sluggish, they are also quite acrobatic and have the ability to turn their heads around up to 270 degrees, due to an extra neck vertebrae.

Although they appear to be huggable cuddle-bugs as depicted in this volume, sloths do not make good pets and definitely belong in the wild. In captivity, they require special care. For instance, at the Sanctuary, the sloths are given regular baths in a specifically formulated, green leaf tea solution to keep their skin in good physical condition. They also appreciate hibiscus flowers being part of their standard diet.

But don’t despair at your inability to have one of these creatures hang around your home. You can always visit to help an orphaned sloth in need by making a donation, or go to to join the Sloth Appreciation Society.

And don’t forget to check out this book. The pictures alone are adorable, precious and may very well lead to you having an absolutely slothful “too cute” day!


A Little Book of Sloth

One Dog and His Boy

Some little boys want a family dog, some parents don’t want a family dog. Hal Fenton is one of those boys who desperately wants a dog for a birthday present, but his wealthy parents Donald and Albina do not want one. To pacify their son they rent a dog for the weekend; the Easy Pets Dog Agency in London is just the place. Myron and Mavis Carker, owners of the agency, do it for profit, not for the love of dogs. Kayley is the kind teenage caretaker of the dogs. Kayley finds a mongrel, brings it to the agency, and names him Fleck, and pronounces him a rare breed: a “Tottenham” terrier. The Fentons rent Fleck for the weekend. Fleck and Hal are inseparable, that is, until Albina returns Fleck.

Let the adventure begin! Hal and his pal kidnap the dogs at the agency and begin a journey to his grandparents home near the coast of England, all the while being pursued for the tremendous reward offered by Hal’s parents. The delightful story of Fleck, Otto, the St. Bernard, Li-Chee, the Pekinese, Francine, the poodle, Honey, the rough-haired collie, and even Queen Tilly, the Mexican hairless, is both harrowing and heart-warming. Do they make it to their destination? Read it and find out!

This is the last book written by Eva Ibbotson who passed away in October 2010 at the age of 85.


One Dog and His Boy

Something to Crow About

Crows have glossy black feathers with glints of dark blue and purple. Their life span usually ranges from 9 to12 years. Like humans, they can pretty much adapt to a variety of habitats, eating just about anything that their bodies can digest. Crows are highly social and enjoy traveling in groups. They can mimic various sounds and have a highly specialized and evolved language of communication. A flock of crows is called a “murder.” Although worldwide there are 45 different crow species, the ones most commonly seen in Michigan is the American or common crow.

Crows can be noisy, nosy, and downright annoying at times. Because of their raucous tendencies, some people don’t like them very much, and most farmers tend to lump them into the pest category of animals since they are inclined to dine on their crops. On the other hand, crows have also been proven to be beneficial in farm settings since they consume many insect pests that can ruin a harvest.

I’ve always been intrigued and fascinated by these highly intelligent, comical, and mischievous birds. When my husband and I walk around KVCC’s Texas Township campus, we usually see and hear numerous crows. They tend to hang out in small mobs, idling on and around lamp posts or sauntering along the parking lots and fields; forever on the lookout for a scavenging opportunity. They don’t have to look far since college students throw away lots of fast food offerings such as fries or buns, making the entire site an ever changing smorgasbord. The garbage bins seem especially suited for quick crow take-out buffet dining, and we’ve been amused many times by crow dumpster divers in search of their next snack.

As the Crow Flies is a new children’s picture book that was published in December, 2012. It was written by Sheila Keenan and illustrated handsomely by Kevin Duggan, an experienced nature painter. It beautifully captures and celebrates crows and their world in rhyming verse:

“All day long you’re on the go.
You don’t have time to watch a crow.
But we’re here ...and here... and there.
We poke our beaks in everywhere.”

Just a few weeks ago, I also happened to watch a very well made PBS program, originally filmed in 2010, entitled A Murder of Crows, a part of their “Nature” series. It was enlightening, entertaining and made me especially aware of these birds’ high level of intelligence, as evidenced by the fact that they can manufacture and use tools to solve problems.


And since I was on this crow kick anyway, I also read the “J” non-fiction book, Crows: Strange and Wonderful by Laurence Pringle with illustrations by Bob Marshall, who are both popularly known wildlife advocates.

So the next time you are out and about, listen for the familiar “Caw, caw,, watch for streaks of black wing, and you might be fortunate enough to see crows in an entirely different, more appreciative way.

Crows and humans; we are so different, yet so alike!


As the Crow Flies

It’s All About Me-ow

First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of our wonderful KPL patrons a very happy and healthy 2013! And to start this New Year off on the right note, I would like to correct a glaring omission that I had committed in the preceding year; amends for which will allow me to once again indulge in one of my absolutely, positively most favorite topics of all...cats!

To be specific, I regrettably forgot to mention in my personal “Best of 2012 List,” a book by well known cat lover and owner Hudson Talbott titled, It’s All About Me-ow (special emphasis on the Me).

Intended for early elementary kids on up (yes, even through adulthood), this particularly clever tome delves into the question of who is truly in control of any household where felines may be in residence. In this case, an older and wiser cat named Buddy welcomes a trio of wide-eyed, innocent kittens into his abode; one that he just happens to share with some naïve, yet well-intentioned humans. Soon after their arrival, Buddy takes it upon himself to train the newcomers as to the workings of their new world. In Buddy’s judicious and experienced opinion, success at being a housecat is all predicated upon the very well known and established fact that humans’ only goal in life is to want to make their feline companions happy. But in order to achieve this lofty aspiration, the cats themselves must take control of the situation from the very beginning, thereby aiding their human housemates in finding the exact, correct paths to feline approved pleasure. The accompanying illustrations to the various hilarious scenarios that Buddy utilizes in educating his young charges are very revealing, and are also evidence of the fact that the author/illustrator really does know his cats intimately!

In my own household, there are three very special and beloved cat occupants; Ollie, the eldest, as well as Graham and Lionel, two littermates my husband and I adopted some eighteen months ago. Upon the latter duo’s appearance, we were quite amazed by Ollie, who at first shunned them, but then took it upon himself to show the little guys just what it takes to be an upstanding cat and thereby fit into our family unit. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if part of their training consisted of something akin to the gospel as advocated by Buddy in this book, since all three have us trained very well! In fact, there isn’t one (reasonable) thing that we would not do to make them happy, from impromptu chin scratches, to sharing a cuddle, to daily group play time. We are crazy about these guys. And that’s because they have taught us that to please ourselves, we must first please them. Love has never been so unselfish!


It’s All About Me-ow

More Than Human

You’ll never look at roosters the same after you’ve seen the images of the genetically engineered featherless one shown in this larger-than-life collection of animal portraits by photographer Tim Flach. Treat yourself.


More Than Human


Julia Child’s Fascination with Felines

For many more years than I would like to admit to, I remember spending innumerable Saturday afternoons enjoying Julia Child’s cooking shows on the local PBS station. First, there was her classic “French Chef” series, then “Julia Child & Company,” followed up by “Julia Child and More Company.” All in all, her television career lasted for over thirty-seven years, and included nine more separate series in addition to the ones already mentioned. Considering the hundreds of episodes that she appeared in, it isn’t all that surprising that in 1996, TV Guide named her to their list of the “Fifty Greatest TV Stars of All Time.”

Of course, fine food was the centerpiece of all these programs, as it also was in Julia’s personal life. But there was an additional source of great pleasure for her that until recently was not all that well known. Cats!

When Patricia Barey’s and Therese Burson’s book entitled Julia’s Cats: Julia Child’s Life in The Company of Cats appeared late last summer, I immediately placed a hold on the title. Being unabashedly cat crazy myself, and admiring Julia Child’s spunky, unpretentious, joie de vivre style, I very much looked forward to reading this slim volume, which is enhanced with many black and white photos of Julia and her felines.

As is told in the book, Julia’s story begins in 1948 as a newly wedded bride of thirty-six, who is madly in love with her husband Paul. They start married life living in Paris, France, a country and city obsessed with food and romance. There, Julia and Paul begin to collect the first of many cats who would grace their lives, several of whom adopted the young couple rather than the other way around. By throwing in their lot with Julia and Paul, these felines ended up winning the cat equivalent of the lottery, going on to live in the lap of luxury with a master chef and hanging out as the perfect kitchen comrades with the couple who truly adored them.

But this book is not only about cats. It also follows Julia as she begins attending the world renowned culinary school, Le Cordon Bleu. Here, she receives a failing grade in her final exam at the hands of her instructor and nemesis Madame Brassart, who states that, “Julia does not have any great natural talent for cooking.” Over time, this has come to be recognized as one of the greatest misjudgments in the history of culinary arts education. In 1961, after her well received book titled The Art of French Cooking hit the stands, Julia went on to become an overnight sensation, and her name is still synonymous with fine cuisine to this day.


In addition to this adult account, released at about the same time was a children’s volume about Child and one particular cat. Minette’s Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat by Susanna Reich is a forty-page book about Julia learning to cook in Paris with her devoted feline friend, Minette, at her side. Although she has the best products of fine food preparation within constant reach, truth be told, Minette is not too fond of gourmet meals, often preferring the taste of a freshly killed mouse instead.

So, whether you are a Julia Child admirer, a cat devotee, both or even neither, you are in for a treat with these two volumes. As Julia might have said, “Bon Appétit, happy reader, Bon Appétit!”

It should be noted that had she lived, Julia Child would have celebrated her 100th birthday last August.


Julia's cats : Julia Child's life in the company of cats

Not just a Christmas story...

Piggybacking on Christine's post (2 down from this one), I also just finished a book about living with autism. This is a topic many of us can relate to, as 1 in 88 children are identified with having an autism spectrum disorder ( The book I read is The cat who came back for Christmas by Julia Romp. The book details single mom Julia's extremely difficult time raising her son George, who was eventually diagnosed with autism. He communicated poorly, had many behavior issues, was never affectionate or loving, and rarely showed happiness...until they took in a stray cat when he was 9 years old. George and the cat, Ben, had an instant connection and George quickly came out of his shell, beginning to communicate on a level (both with the cat, and with his mom) that Julia had never thought possible, even showing affection toward Julia that she had longed for since his birth. Then the worst thing possible happened...when Julia attempted to take George on their first real vacation, Ben went missing. As the months dragged on with no sign of Ben, grief-stricken George regressed, and Julia searched desperately, knowing the only way to get her son "back" was to find their cat. I won't give away anything else (although the title doesn't leave much to the imagination), but I must say this is one of the BEST books I have read in a long time...could not put it down.


Cat who came back for Christmas


Peter McCarty is a Caldecott honoree illustrator; that is, he won an award for his artwork for his picture book: Hondo and Fabian. His most recent picture book is Chloe, featuring a little bunny who has a mother and a father and twenty brothers and sisters; Chloe is in the middle.

One day, Chloe’s dad surprises everyone and brings home a new television set for some family fun. After dinner the family watches a television program. However, watching television is definitely not fun for Chloe who decides that playing with the tv box and bubble wrap packaging is much more entertaining and imaginative. Soon, each of Chloe’s siblings dumps the tv show and joins their sister Chloe. Even mom and dad can’t resist Chloe’s bubble-wrap popping and bigbox playtime!

Peter McCarthy’s calm, ethereal, sometimes comical illustrations are adorable. He’s written several children’s books and the first book that got my attention is Honda and Fabian, a story about a dog and a cat. Baby Steps is based on a month by month chronicle of his daughter Suki’s first year of life with the most beautiful, delicate life-like drawings of a baby.



6 Cats +

Author Bob Tarte is at it again, this time with the rather lengthy titled, Kitty Cornered: How Frannie and Five Other Incorrigible Cats Seized Control of Our House and Made It Their Home.

Tarte, a Lowell, Michigan native whose previous books include Enslaved by Ducks and Fowl Weather, has written a laugh out loud, true life account about his wacky existence living with six cats under one roof! His feline cast of characters include Agnes, Lucy, Maynard, Moobie, Tina, as well as Frannie the star stray. Being a celebrity in her own mind, Frannie, among other attention seeking eccentricities, insists on being petted while she eats.

And as if six fussy felines weren’t enough, Bob and his wife Linda also care for a variety of other abandoned animals such as rabbits, grey parrots, parakeets, songbirds, doves, hens, ducks and geese; in other words any animal that comes their way and needs a helping hand.

But the anecdotal antics in this volume focus mainly on the felines who constantly entertain, delight and sometimes aggravate their human owners. This book gets four enthusiastic Paws Up from me. It’s an enjoyable read for any animal lover who isn’t in complete sync with household harmony or perfection, but rather thrives on chaos and constant activity. The author uses great observational humor mixed with true compassion for these animals to paint memorable portraits of each. And each one is truly a one of a kind character.


Kitty Cornered: How Frannie and Five Other Incorrigible Cats Seized Control of Our House and Made It Their Home

I’m Not a Plastic Bag

I’m Not a Plastic Bag by Rachel Hope Allison, is a wordless graphic novel about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch published in association with Jeff Corwin Connect, a company founded to raise awareness of issues facing the earth and its many inhabitants.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a swirling spiral of manmade litter in the central North Pacific Ocean. It formed accidently as the result of discarded waste (mostly plastic) bits and pieces that have pooled together through the naturally occurring movements of oceanic winds and currents over the course of many years. The Patch occupies a large and relatively stationary region between Hawaii and California. Research shows that this marine debris field negatively affects at least 267 species of marine birds and animals worldwide including seals, whales and turtles.


Plastics are materials that have been designed to last, in some cases almost forever. They are also cheap and readily available making them ever-present throughout the human world. In fact, millions of plastic bags are tossed away every single day, some of which make their way into waterways and eventually the middle of the Pacific Ocean. There they join the Patch, one of the largest, unintended accumulations of consumer waste on the planet!


After learning about this Patch, illustrator Rachel Hope Allison felt she had to spread the message of substituting bio-degradable bags for plastic ones. By using her artistic imaginings of this real threat to our environment, she does a commendable job portraying the trash items and their interactions with one another, as well as their devastating effect on marine life. The negative message is pretty clear, but there is also a strong positive one: The hope that readers will get excited about decreasing their plastics consumption footprint on the environment.


Jeff Corwin, the conservationist and television host of “Ocean Mysteries”, wrote the forward to this book. In it he drives the enormity of the issue home by stating; ”The journey of discarded waste is wide-ranging and far-reaching. A produce bag from a distant supermarket, masquerading as a jellyfish, could find its way into the belly of an endangered sea turtle.” Read Jeff’s review of the book.

The United States has only 5% of the world’s population, yet generates 40% of the world’s trash. All of us can make some simple changes in our daily habits and thereby reduce ocean bound plastic garbage and help marine life survive into the future. And now is a great time to start!

After all, it may be just an innocent plastic bag at the market, but it could turn into a serious threat to an animal’s life if it joins the Patch.


I'm not a plastic bag : a graphic novel

Gods Without Men

Hari Kunzru’s weird and wonderful new novel Gods Without Men masterfully weaves together multiple story lines and characters with a deeply mysterious rock formation in the Mojave Desert loosely threading it all together. The novel, legitimately I believe, has been compared to “The Hours” by Michael Cunningham and David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas” in the way it magically snaps back and forth through time and changes perspective without losing a bit of its momentum. Ultimately this rather surreal novel leaves it to the reader to determine what strangeness is happening out there in the desert, but along the way as more and more questions are raised and fewer conclusions offered you become twisted in knots of inquiry that pull you deeper into this book and don’t let go. This is Kunzru’s fourth novel and I enthusiastically recommend them all, they are all so different and all so great. 


Gods Without Men 




A New Offering of Children’s Books

Dogs—big ones, small ones: the varieties are nearly endless. A new offering of children’s books here at the library about dogs provides something for almost any child who wants a story about canines.

Middle grade readers who like funny mysteries will enjoy The Trouble with Chickens: a J.J. Tully Mystery by Doreen Cronin. J.J. is a former search and rescue dog, so he’s not very impressed when two chicks named Dirt and Sugar, and their chicken mom, ask for J.J.’s help in tracking down their missing siblings. They offer J.J. a cheeseburger if he will help. What dog could resist such an offer? This is the first in a new series by Cronin, author of Diary of a Worm, a best-selling picture book.

Little Dog, Lost is the story of a small town, a boy named Mark who wanted a dog, and Buddy, a dog who had lost her way. Newbery Honor award winning author Marion Dane Bauer has written a satisfying chapter book story with evocative illustrations that will appeal to children. This would also make a good read-aloud story.

Switching gears a little, Stay; the True Story of Ten Dogs tells the true story of Luciano Anastasini, who works for a circus. His family have been circus performers for generations, and when an accident means he can no longer work as an acrobat, Luciano has the idea of developing an act with dogs. But he chooses dogs from the pound, the ones nobody else wants. In the book’s introduction, author Kate DiCamillo says. “It is a story of second chances, belief and love. Mostly, though, it is a story of the miracles that can occur when we (dog or human) are extended the grace of being well and truly seen by another.” Wonderful photographs showcase the personalities of Luciano and his talented dogs.



The Trouble with Chickens: a J.J. Tully Mystery


I watched the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart interview author and dog lover Maria Goodavage about her latest book entitled Soldier Dogs: The Untold Story of America’s Canine Heroes which was published last March, and I immediately put it on my must read list. By the way, MWD is the acronym for Military Working Dog.

Throughout history, dogs have been used in numerous martial roles: Attacking enemies, protecting fighters, as well as alerting soldiers when they detect danger. They have also been deployed as trackers, messengers and first aid deliverers, especially in high risk areas where humans would more likely than not be able to get through. But today their most common job is to sniff out explosives.

This book is an engaging account of the dedicated canines who play significant roles in our military’s efforts both past and current. While the exploits of military working dogs have been documented in earlier war efforts, much of the information in this volume concentrates on the hostilities in Afghanistan. In 2010, working dog teams in that country were credited with finding more than 12,500 lbs. of explosives. Current figures show that the Department of Defense has some 2,700 U.S. military working dogs in service throughout the world, with about 600 found in actual warzones.

Ironically, MWDs are classified as equipment by the Department of Defense. It’s a designation that fell upon military dogs after the Second World War, when the military started purchasing canines. Of course handlers see their dogs as anything but equipment. Handlers put their lives on the line for their devoted canine companions, and the reverse is also true. A common refrain among handlers who have been deployed is “war would have been hell without my dog.” Dogs and their soldier counterparts spend almost every minute together. Handlers and their canines eat, sleep, play and work together. As a result it’s not surprising that extremely close bonds are formed. Some soldiers feel so close to their dogs they have even shared their honorary medals with them, and many make a point of adopting their dogs when they return home.


So the military’s practice of categorizing soldier dogs as mere equipment seems odd, out of touch and somewhat heartless. After all, these animals are hard working and vibrant partners who should be treated with respect, kindness, and love, all of which their soldier handlers freely lavish upon them.

Many of the dogs used by the armed forces are German Shepherds and Belgium Malinois, although other breeds are also occasionally drafted. I can especially appreciate the use of German Shepherds. My step mother-in-law used to breed these very disciplined canines. They are highly intelligent, aggressive and have a keen sense of responsibility and devotion to owner and family. They are natural protectors and enjoy having a job to do, which makes them highly suitable for military purposes.

This book is written in an easygoing style which relies heavily on first hand accounts, observations and quotes from those involved with MWDs. It also chronicles the stories of soldiers whose dogs did not come home, dying at the hands of the enemy; an all too common and heartbreaking reality of this world.

Over the years MWDs have become an invaluable part of the complete modern army. As former Four Star General and current CIA Director, David Petraeus put it: ”The capacity they bring to the fight cannot be replicated by man or machine.”

So here is a salute and a heartfelt thank you to our military and their canine heroes!

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Soldier Dogs: The Untold Story of America’s Canine Heroes

There Once Was a Bunny with an Ear Not So Funny

Patrick, a Dutch Blue Dwarf rabbit, has lived with us for a little over two years. He weighed a meager four pounds when we adopted him from the Great Lakes Rabbit Sanctuary in Willis, MI, not too far from Ann Arbor.

Right from that first day when we met him we knew that he was going to be a handful. As we were readying him for his trip to his new home, one Sanctuary staff member casually mentioned that we should be careful in handling Patrick, since apparently he had started to nip people recently. No problem, I thought. He seemed docile and sweet enough. And besides, how much pain can a diminutive bunny inflict? A few days later I learned the hard way. Being irresistibly cute, Patrick was the recipient of many kisses from me; something that he did not enjoy as much being the recipient, as I did being the giver. So to get his displeasure through to me, one day he bit me on the cheek just as I was about to land a particularly loving smooch on that adorable little nose of his. The pain was tolerable. But I was shortly thereafter admitted to a local urgent care clinic to clean up the wound and stop the bleeding.

After reading up on domestic rabbits in a 2008 book titled, When Your Rabbit Needs Special Care: Traditional and Alternative Healing Methods by Lucile Moore, I was only a little bit happier to learn that only highly intelligent rabbits nip or bite. Supposedly, that’s because they know what they like and don’t like, and have no inhibitions in communicating their desires as forcefully as they can. No dumb bunnies for our family!


Patrick turned out to be brilliant - absolutely brilliant! However it was a brilliance that came with an attitude the size of Texas! A few months later in a momentary lapse of judgement brought on by his delightfully sweet appearance, I was once more bitten, this time on the lip. Back I went to the clinic to have it super glued together. No worries, but from that time on, I decided to show my affection to Patrick from the back of his head, so that my face was not in his. In all honesty, after that second bite, for a moment or so (actually it was a little longer than that), the thought of taking him back to the Sanctuary from where he came did cross my mind. But a promise is a promise, and I did pledge to take care of that rabbit until death did us part. However, who will precede whom into the great hereafter is still up in the air.

Well, as it happens, about three weeks ago we almost lost Patrick. On that Sunday morning, (why do these things always take place during the weekend when most vets are closed?) we noted that Patrick was uncharacteristically tilting his head and that one of his ears was drooping. After consulting the internet, we came to the conclusion that the treatment would be rather painless, relatively inexpensive, and that recovery would be imminent. The next day we took him to a local vet known to have some familiarity treating rabbits. She confirmed our diagnosis and prescribed an antibiotic for the infection in his ear. After administering one dose of the medication that day, Patrick began wheezing terribly and breathing through his mouth, which is not a good sign in bunnies.

He was visibly worse the next morning, but our local vet was not in the office, and rather than take him to the emergency clinic here in town that has little experience dealing with rabbits, we decided instead to transport him to a clinic in Grand Rapids. Although the vet there did have some knowledge of bunnies, after several hours he called saying that they couldn’t do anything more for him. However, he also suggested that we take him to see a true rabbit specialist in Cascade, MI. Although the specialist didn’t hold out much hope for his prognosis upon his arrival, after several days of intensive care, Patrick started responding positively.

After several more days, we were able to take him home where we continued his treatments. He seemed very happy to be back in his own environs at last and his condition improved dramatically, almost on a daily basis. The three feline members of our family, Ollie, Graham, and Lionel kept vigil over him and seemed to really care about his condition. They took turns lying by his cage and keeping him company throughout the day. It seemed obvious that they were hoping for his recovery almost as much as we were.

Finally after more than two weeks at home, Patrick is close to his normal self. No more force feeding him, no more meds or penicillin shots. He’s back to a normal bunny routine of constant eating and pooping with intermittent naps or jaunts around his area. He is still very assertive and isn’t above nipping the hands that nursed him back to health. But he is our bunny; we love him dearly and wouldn’t have it any other way!



When your rabbit needs special care : traditional and alternative healing methods

Rin Tin Tin: the Life and the Legend

When I read that Rin Tin Tin: the Life and the Legend was Library Journal’s pick for top nonfiction title of 2011, I was intrigued.

Author Susan Orlean has written a wonderfully readable book, not only about Rin Tin Tin, the iconic dog star of films and TV. Her story ranges widely and touches on the early history of Hollywood and films, the bravery and use of animals in war, and much more.

The story begins on a battlefield in France during World War I. A young American soldier, Lee Duncan, discovers an orphaned German shepherd puppy in a bombed out kennel. He has left his own dog behind in America, and adopts the small pup. Duncan, who was raised in an orphanage, feels an affinity with the abandoned dog, whom he names Rin Tin Tin. He immediately senses that this is an extraordinary dog, and is fortunately able to bring “Rinty” back to the US. The rest, as the saying goes, is history—and what a ride it is!

Susan Orlean is a respected reporter who spent ten years researching and writing this book, the story of a dog born in 1918 and his descendants, and the people who loved them and helped to insure their legacy.

This is a book for all people who have ever had or loved a dog.


Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend

It’s almost butterfly time!

With the weather we’ve been having you can’t help but realize that butterfly season is right around the corner. The library has lots of really good books on butterflies. One of them is simply called Butterflies by Seymour Simon. Simon does children’s science educational books with simple titles like Cats, Global WarmingThe Universe and Penguins and they all have great pictures. The pictures are all close-up and graphic. His books are colorful and well written. The information is useful and comprehensive at a child’s level. There’s no better way for you and your kids to spend the day than in the garden with this book looking for butterflies and learning just about everything they need to know about them.



World Without Fish

For a fast-moving look at the crisis of the oceans, check out Mark Kurlansky’s World Without Fish, a 2011 release geared to readers aged nine and up. Kurlansky, a former commercial fisherman, explains how overfishing, pollution, and global warming are a triple threat to ocean eco-systems. He argues that these threats must be resolved by the generation of people that are not yet adults. I appreciated the nuanced explanation of the problems and the potential solutions that are available to us. Punctuated by a multi-part comic strip narrative and other illustrations by Frank Stockton, World Without Fish is fascinating for its design alone. Mark Kurlansky is the author of the bestselling Cod, among other books.


World Without Fish

Warm Hearts and Cold Noses

Those of you who have read my previous posts here, will be well aware of my weakness when it comes to cats. We currently live with three domestic felines, and I have had the pleasure of the company of quite a few others over the years, all of whom I dearly love. However, this does not mean that I am indifferent to, much less prejudiced against, those of the canine persuasion. In fact, my affection for all animals began with dogs.

It started when as a small child living in the Cleveland, Ohio suburb of Parma, I laid eyes upon my first hound. I don’t really recall it’s looks, just the fact that I was instantly drawn to it and it to me. All dogs were now officially identified by me in my naïve way of thinking as my best friends ever. And there was nothing more important in my life at that time than to make friends with each and every one as soon as I saw it. By the time I was six, I was often never to be found anywhere around our house, since I was out chasing dogs of all breeds and sizes in the neighborhood. They led and I followed. Not being able to locate me and growing somewhat desperate, my mother would often resort to calling my seventeen year old cousin who had just attained his driver’s license to track me down in his ‘55 Oldsmobile. His task was to bring me home in one piece, preferably without any motley mutts in tow. My behavior never resulted in my family actually getting a dog of our own, since my mother was dead set against the idea, and her veto power was absolute. But still I was on affable terms with each and every pooch in a four block radius around our house. And to this day at family get-togethers, my childhood obsession with dogs is rich material for nostalgic anecdotes that are always good for a chuckle or two.

Just as much as I am attracted to dogs, so too am I attracted to fiction about them. As a result, I very much looked forward to reading A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron. Sometimes hilarious, and oftentimes heartrending, this is a rather unique work of fiction since it’s told from the dog’s perspective and is a search for the true meaning of life. While this task may be too much for most humans to contemplate, much less to seriously consider undertaking, the book proposes that it can be that much more daunting for canines. The story follows a dog who finds himself reincarnated over the course of several lives. As a result it tries to weave together a common purpose for these lives and discover how best to fulfill that purpose.

Somewhat reminiscent of Garth Stein’s 2009 novel The Art of Racing in the Rain, where a lab terrier mix narrates his experiences as a canine and observes what makes human beings “human,” Cameron’s work similarly produces a wealth of insight and emotions. As a bonus for Michiganders, Cameron, being a Michigan native himself, sets the story in various state locations.

So, if you have ever gazed into the eyes of a dog and wondered what that creature in front of you was capable of thinking, this book might help answer that question. It certainly suggests that there might be much more than just walks, sniffs, supper and squirrels on the agenda.


A Dog’s Purpose

Holiday Read-Togethers with Kids

We usually travel to my sister’s place in Cleveland, Ohio to celebrate both Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. It’s a hectic, yet fun time for all, but especially so for the kids. In this case, I’m talking about my niece’s two young girls Zoya, age 7 and Maya, who is 4. To keep the tykes from being underfoot in the kitchen while celebratory meals are being prepared, I have taken to bringing a bag full of children’s books to read to them. All three of us find a comfortable sofa, oversized pillows or bed in a quiet nook of the house and settle in for some choice holiday stories. After doing this for the last 3 years or so, the girls eagerly look forward to our holiday read-together times.

During Thanksgiving our favorites have included Run, Turkey, Run! by Diane Mayr, as well as A Turkey for Thanksgiving by Eve Bunting. In both of these humorous kid’s tomes, the turkey does not get eaten on Thanksgiving Day and instead a vegetarian meal is served. In Run, Turkey, Run! the meal substitution is completely unintentional, when the turkey manages to outwit the farmer and his family who have to settle for grilled cheese sandwiches as a result. However in A Turkey for Thanksgiving, a non-turkey menu is planned from the very start, as the moose family (all fervent vegetarians by birth) invite their local turkey neighbor to sit down with them for the feast as their guest of honor. And of course as befits this special status, he is placed at the head of the table.

For the Christmas holidays, some of our past favorites have included: What Dogs Want for Christmas by Kandy Radzinski, The Christmas Day Kitten by James Herriot, Wake Up Bear...It’s Christmas! by Stephen Gammell, as well as the British classic, The Church Mice at Christmas by Graham Oakley.

On occasion, I like to mix-up the repertoire a little by also including stories not related to the holidays. One of these is Frankie Works the Night Shift by Lisa Westberg Peters, which happens to be Zoya’s particular favorite, and which I have had to read numerous times due to the incessant clamor of an unyielding, adoring (and adorable) audience. To further keep interests high, along with the stories I will sometimes incorporate a craft or two that relates either to the holiday theme or the main character of a book.

So if you have kids, nephews, nieces or friends with children, go to your local library to stock up on some fun titles. Then take some time out, gather up the troops, read, laugh and enjoy.

Reading together: It’s a great way to put that memorable, extra special, human sparkle into the next generation’s holiday season!


Run, Turkey, Run!

The Dog Who Came in From the Cold

If you are looking for a funny, poignant, delightfully read audio book, The Dog Who Came in From the Cold by Alexander McCall Smith, is just the thing.

The dog in question is a Pimlico terrier, with the rather elegant name of Freddie de la Haye. Freddie and his owner, William, a middle aged wine merchant, live in alively London neighborhood apartment building called Corduroy Mansions, with a varied, quirky assortment of residents.

To his complete surprise, William is approached by British intelligence agency M16 who want to recruit Freddie for a spy mission. It involves placing a tiny recording device in Freddie’s collar, and putting the dog in the middle of a Russian spy ring to monitor conversations.

The mystery involving Freddie is intertwined with stories of Corduroy Mansions residents’ lives, loves and foibles and the reader, Simon Prebble, brings just the right touch to the tale and the characters.

Many readers may recognize the author McCall Smith from the Ladies’ #1 Detective Agency series and other books. The first title in the series about Freddie and his human friends, Corduroy Mansions, is also available at Kalamazoo Public Library.


The Dog Who Came in From the Cold

Living In Relative Harmony

This past July, I posted a blog about kitten care. That effort came about as a result of our family’s recent adoption of two rescue kittens. As promised then, this is an update about their and our family’s progress together.

The two kittens, Graham and Lionel are a little over six months old now, which means that their individual looks and personalities are beginning to shine through. And at this point in time, they don’t look or act like there is much common parental heritage. While it is true that kittens born to the same litter are more likely to share only their mother’s genes since they have different fathers, in this case even a remote resemblance to maternal ancestry seems to be hidden.


Both Graham and Lionel are supposedly of mixed breed, but that has not prevented them from being quite handsome. Graham in particular appears to have more than a smidgen of some pure bred feline in him. He has very soft, long fur and an especially elongated, bushy and willowy tail. He seems to know of the attractiveness of his back extremity, and will take every opportunity to show it off by swaying it back and forth in an exaggerated manner whenever a human is in the vicinity; somewhat reminiscent of a feather boa in the beckoning hands of an old timey cabaret dancer. In addition to drawing attention to himself, Graham also has found a more utilitarian use for its length by completely covering his nose and ears with it when he wishes to sleep undisturbed.


After doing some research in The Encyclopedia of the Cat by Bruce Fogle, DVM, my husband now firmly believes that he is mostly Norwegian Forest cat, a breed that possesses pronounced tufts on their ears and paws, as does our Graham. Whatever is his lineage, it’s clear that he is proud of his good looks. He washes himself much more than his brother, and often purrs with enjoyment while doing so. Actually, Graham purrs most of the time because he is one very happy-go-lucky, devil-may-care kitten!

Lionel on the other hand is a short haired orange and white tabby with attractive markings on his back. He is a bit smaller than his brother, but whatever he lacks in stature and looks, he seems to have made up for by having more than his share of smarts. In both looks and personality, he closely resembles our beloved Cosmo, who died from renal failure last February. Lionel learns quickly, understands commands and is very enthusiastic when it comes to playtime.

Both kittens respect Ollie our other cat, three years their senior. To our surprise, he has taken upon himself the task of surrogate parent, washing each kitten regularly, showing them where the chipmunks come to the sliding glass door, and when are proper nap times, snack times etc. If they don’t show respect to him and his direction, he does not hesitate to swat them with his oversized front paws or give them a sharp nip, thereby reminding the miscreant who is boss.


Unfortunately for Patrick, our four pound house bunny, pet politics in our home has turned somewhat for the worse. Whereas Ollie has always left Patrick alone, both Lionel and Graham have developed an unhealthy fondness for the game of “Hunters and Hunted”, with you know who being reluctantly yet steadfastly cast as prey. Whenever they get bored and left to their own devices, both kittens begin stalking, chasing and roughhousing with Patrick. We on the other hand try the best we can to get it through to them that this is a big no-no. This is usually accomplished with a few well aimed squirts of water from a spray bottle, accompanied with whoops and hollers of reprimand. While water is of course harmless, it is also disliked by most cats, and this combination has been most effective in dissuading Lionel from engaging in this behavior. However, Graham seems to enjoy all things aquatic, (again my husband blames this on his Norwegian Forest cat ancestry) and is curious and amused as to why anyone would want to spray him with water, how we accomplish this feat and even how the water bottle sprayer works. But however slowly, both kittens are learning that the pursuit of bunnies is not an acceptable diversion, and find other ways to amuse themselves. This is a good sign that they are maturing and that their listening /obeying skills are on the increase; a major positive for both our household and Patrick’s nerves.

Every evening I organize a play session with all three felines - Ollie, Graham and Lionel - that lasts for about 45 minutes, so that they can all chase, jump, retrieve and especially interact with one another. This last activity is most important since it builds positive feelings about each other, while decreasing jealousies. No one ever misses playtime; it’s clearly the highlight of their hectic day, which includes many naps, eating, drinking, listening to mellow music and getting into whatever mischief they can. And so our three feline family members live a life of comfort and relative harmony.

Hmmm, I wonder how Patrick feels about that “harmony” part?


The Encyclopedia of the Cat

Make Way for Ducklings

I wonder how many times I’ve read this book aloud. Hundreds, at least. I remember the book from my childhood and I’ve since shared it with children at home and at the library.

How is it that a book published in 1941, with illustrations in only one color, is so loved by kids? Those one-color illustrations in Make Way for Ducklings are certainly a big part of the attraction... the ducks are realistic, the perspectives and angles are varied, and there’s a strong feeling of movement and action. But the story is nearly perfect, as well. Words are practical yet poetic, the conversations between Mr. and Mrs. Mallard are wry; Mrs. Mallard, especially, has a bit of attitude that allows for no nonsense from anyone or anything.

If it’s been a while since you’ve spent some time with Robert McCloskey’s ducklings, visit the Children’s Room for a reminder of the power of a picture book.


Make Way for Ducklings

Memoirs of a Goldfish

Ever wonder what a day in the life of a goldfish is like?  Well, wonder no longer.  Michgan author Devin Scillian's brilliant book, Memoirs of a Goldfish (excellently illustrated by Tim Bowers), takes you through not only a day but several days for an adorable little goldfish.  He gets curious, grumpy, lonely, excited, and nervous among many other things.  He finds friends, love, and probably himself.   I like him and so will you!  (P.S.  Tell all your friends about him, too, since this book is the Michigan Reads! title for 2011!)


Memoirs of a Goldfish

Kitten Adoption

After making the commitment to adopt two male rescue kittens, I realized that maybe I needed to brush up on some pointers for their care, since it’s been quite a while from the time when we last heard the pitter patter of tiny kitten paws on our household’s floors. So, I picked up some cat care books at the Eastwood Branch Library. One in particular, Cats For Dummies was especially helpful because it contained clear, no-nonsense information on the topic.

My main concern was Ollie, our 3½ yr old resident feline. He would have to be properly introduced to the “kitten kids” for the adoption to have any chance of succeeding. While friendly with those he knew, Ollie was more than just a little skittish when confronted by strangers, be they human or of another species. This wasn’t surprising considering that we found him abandoned at a local community college when he himself was a kitten, and from the looks of him at the time, he seemed to have been abused and on his last legs. So, any changes made to his current comfortable surroundings in our home, was met with fear, suspicion, disapproval and avoidance on his part.

Following the suggestion of an online source, I had a neighbor bring over the kittens to our home. This was done so that I would not be associated with the tykes in Ollie’s eyes. Prior to their actual arrival, I showered Ollie with lots of TLC and attention. A healthy dose of freshly picked catnip didn’t hurt either. Despite all these careful preparations, when the kittens did arrive, Ollie, true to form, refused to come to see what the commotion was all about. When he finally did make it downstairs, I tried the best I could to completely ignore the two super cute kittens and instead paid all my attention to our tenured cat.

Initially, Ollie displayed some hurt feelings in the form of increased hissing and attempted swipes at the youngsters. Four days later however, the hissing subsided and he sat down on his favorite ottoman in the center of the living room to observe their playful interactions with each other, as well as with Patrick, our house rabbit. Several days later on, he began slowly to accept them as family members and even attempted to roughly “play” with them, but only under my close supervision. Yes, there is still some swatting and jealous feelings but considering the circumstances, Ollie is adjusting quite well to little Graham and his bother Lionel.

Stay tuned for future updates as our newly re-formulated family coalesces!


If you are interested in adopting a kitten or cat, check out the SPCA, Pet Rescue Network or Animal Rescue to name just a few area sources. We found our new family members at Animal Rescue where one of their volunteers, Leanne, was a surrogate mother for these wonderful kittens from age of one week (when they were found), to nine weeks. She did a fantastic job teaching the kittens proper litter habits and socializing them so that they are comfortable with human touch, thereby increasing their chances for growing into truly loving companions.

Animal Rescue spays/neuters the kittens before you are able to bring them home. They also have their first booster shots and an ID microchip is placed underneath the skin in the neck area in case they turn out to be quick escape artists or get lost. All these services are provided for a reasonable adoption fee. Also prior to the adoption, a comprehensive questionnaire needs to be filled out by the prospective adoptive parent.

Right now it’s the high season for litters of kittens. Most are in desperate need of good indoor homes. Can you help? The following photos are current kittens looking for great homes. If you have what it takes, please contact Leanne at 269-375-5402 or You’ll be glad you made this all important commitment to help a feline (or two) in need!



Cats for Dummies
cats-for-dummies-cover-160 S732

Cat Women: Female Writers on Their Feline Friends

I picked up this compilation of stories to take on vacation as a beach read, and was very much looking forward to indulging in some great cat themed essays.

The first offering turned out to be disappointing, and unfortunately set the stage for the entire book. It was written by Sophia Dembling about her cat Aretha. By her own admission it is a tale of neglect. It begins with the author packing to get away for the Christmas holidays. Her cat slips out the front door and instead of doing the right thing, which would have been to miss her plane and find the cat, the writer abandons Aretha, boards the plane and is off on her merry little holiday. When the owner returns, she finds Aretha sitting in her neighbor’s backyard with no interest in the author, nor any intention of ever returning to Dembling’s home. This story showed me that the author was not writing about her feline “friend,” as is promised within the forward to this book. Unless, of course, you are the type of person who abandons your friends whenever it might inconvenience you to help them out.

A few of the essays that followed were of a similar theme written by women who weren’t crazy about their cats. In fact, some were by individuals who didn’t even like cats, much less loved them. Let’s just call them, “feline tolerant,” and rejoice in the fact that no cat haters were included.

That said, many of the essays were actually very gratifying, written with great love for the cats personified, and befitting the description of this collection. A very nice touch is that all the stories are accompanied by black and white photos of the felines in question, and these add to the tributes paid to these remarkable and well loved feline companions.

So, be a little finicky and read the ones you like and bury the rest. You’ll be happier if you do both!


Cat Women: Female Writers on Their Feline Friends

Cleo and Cosmo: A Family Tribute

Stories about animals are my weakness and Cleo: The Cat Who Mended a Family by Helen Brown was a must-read for me, and should be equally so for all cat lovers. This honest memoir, though sometimes tinged with grief, is filled to the brim with hope and liberally slathered with a dry sense of humor.  

Native New Zealander Brown, and her two young sons Sam and Rob, pay a visit to a friend’s house where a litter of kittens had just been born. Brown, a self-confessed dog lover has no intention of adopting any pet that day; much less one of the feline persuasion, who also happens to have the unfortunate fate of being the runt. But that is exactly what happens! The kitten is supposed to be delivered for Sam’s 10th birthday. Tragically, it’s a gift he never receives. Sam is accidentally killed by a car while trying to save a pigeon in distress. Naturally, the family becomes grief stricken and has a difficult time coping with everyday life.

However, weeks later as had been previously agreed upon, the little runt kitten arrives - much to the dismay of Helen, but also to the sheer utter delight of her youngest son, Rob. After some debate, Cleo (named for Cleopatra), ends up staying and brings much needed joy and comic relief to this devastated family. This vulnerable, tiny animal with its emerald green eyes, while in reality helpless is nonetheless gutsy and full of life. In time, and in more ways than one, the cat begins to charm the family with it’s reckless abandon and rambunctious, playful ways. Even the family’s elder pet, an old retriever named Rata, is smitten.

Reminding one of the pages of Marley and Me, this impish black creature ended up bringing much joy and warmth to the Brown family for almost 24 years! So what they say must be true; “A cat always turns up in the right place at exactly the right time”.



But this blog is not only about Cleo. It is also a tribute to another remarkable cat named Cosmo. Cosmo was my and my husband’s beloved companion who died during the snow storm on February 2nd, 2011, while I was reading Cleo: The Cat Who Mended a Family.

Cosmo was 14½ years of age when he succumbed to renal kidney failure. We adopted both him and his litter-mate brother Julius, when they were a mere 7 weeks old from the KL Cat Hospital, whose staff nursed Cosmo, Julius and their 3 siblings during the early weeks of their lives.

Due to the crazy and wild nature he exhibited in his youth, Cosmo was named after Cosmo Kramer, a character on the Seinfeld show. As time passed and Cosmo matured, he began to exhibit a true heart-of-gold disposition; a creature who first thought of pleasing others, be they humans or cats, before pleasing himself.

At the age of 7, he was found to have a pre-cancerous eye condition, which was monitored by a veterinarian ophthalmologist at the Michigan Veterinary Specialty Clinic in Grand Rapids every 6-8 months. Five years ago, he was also diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, which sent him to the Kentwood Animal Clinic for 2 weeks to receive radiation iodine treatment in an isolated area in the clinic. Finally, in November 2010 he was diagnosed in the supposedly early stages of kidney failure and had to receive subcutaneous fluid injection about 3 times per week. Throughout all these physical ailments Cosmo’s light-hearted, caring temperament made it easier for all.

Unfortunately, although Cosmo seemed to be doing well with the subcutaneous therapy, his remaining time with us was very limited. Even his perpetually sunny personality could not save him after his kidneys shut down completely. Our veterinarian, Dr. Dame, did everything in his power to help, but to no avail. Cosmo died peacefully in his sleep, in the early morning hours of Groundhog’s Day. He is terribly missed, truly loved, and his memory will live in our hearts forever.


Cleo: The Cat Who Mended a Family