Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Tarantula in My Purse: and 172 Other Wild Pets by Jean Craighead George

The Tarantula in My Purse: and 172 Other Wild Pets by Jean Craighead George

Rating: 5 stars

I went on a trip last week, and left this book for Lorelei with a Post-It stuck onto it: "DO NOT read this book! Mrs. George is MUCH nicer than your mom! She lets her kids bring any and every animal they want into their home as a pet!  Your mom is not that nice.  Do NOT read this--you'll get too many great ideas!"

She read the book (of course). And loved it.

That's right: Jean Craighead George was a much more tolerant, patient, encouraging mother than I am. She tolerated--no, encouraged!--her three children to bring home and keep home anything and everything they found in the wild. Crows. Skunks. Frogs. Fish. Ducks. Geese. Lots of birds. And yes, even a tarantula.

Because George herself had this sort of upbringing, it was second-nature to her.  So I guess I could blame my dear mom and dad, but...I try not to throw them under the bus unless it's absolutely necessary.

Each short little chapter is about a different pet the George family had, and little quirks and idiosyncrasies about that particular animal and/or that particular pet. It is not overly scientific, and I think that's a really great thing. Instead, there are heaps of small bits of information about the behavior of wildlife that the family learned first-hand simply by observing the animal over an extended period of time. They just wrote down what they observed, and oftentimes George would also provided background about the animal's behavior that she had learned through research while writing one of her many nature books.  (She is the author of more than 100 books, including Julie of the Wolves and, my childhood favorite, My Side of the Mountain.)

This was a great, fun read for me, but also very appropriate for any animal-loving kid. It would be a great read-aloud book as kids wonder "What if we had a ___ for a pet?!" Appropriate for any age at all--just be ready for some wild pet suggestions!


P.S. I heard about this book through the for-adults book The Book Whisperer, which is full of ideas on how to get kids to read more and also has a ton of middle-grade great book suggestions in it.

P.P.S. One fun exercise to do with this book is to read this book together (or, like Lorelei and I did, separate) and then read the I Can Read It book Goose and Duck, which is a cute little fictional story that you quickly find out in the book is based on a totally true story. What a need example of how to come up with a fiction story with a true story, and how you write what you know!

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