Saturday, September 12, 2020

How to Hold Animals

How to Hold Animals is an interesting picture book for young readers(?). Due out 3rd Nov 2020 from Simon & Schuster on their Scribner imprint, it's 128 pages and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats.

This is a difficult book to review. On one hand, there are certainly times when knowing how to handle a pet or potentially injured animal safely is very important. On the other hand, most of this book's content isn't concerned with house pets, but with wild/exotic animals and especially insects and reptiles.  The book is divided into sections with photo tutorials from a veterinarian, a photographer, a pet shop owner, and a reptile handler (!!).

I can't think of many situations where children really should be learning this information. Most insects and many animals are relatively fragile and can easily be injured or killed by mishandling. Additionally, this book covers quite a number of poisonous and/or venomous animals and the author states quite clearly that handling these animals badly will result in painful bites or bloodshed or both. Since the book includes pictures of people handling crocodiles, monitor lizards, and poisonous snakes, I'm a little wary of enthusiastically recommending that kids should be encouraged to follow suit. The author does stop short of directly encouraging kids to grab their local alligators, but there are -numerous- photos of butterflies, crickets (which can give a fairly painful bite), praying mantids, and -scorpions- in the book. 

Maybe this book is meant as satire, and I'm just too square to get it, because I did get a giggle out of picture sidebars which said things like: "Always expect it to bite!" and "Poisonous lizards are rather excitable" and "Crocodiles are really strong". There are several places in the text where the author says straight out: "To me, merely watching animals is the same as not being interested in them. Instead of talking loftily about animal protection, I'd rather pick an animal up". Additionally, I found it troubling that the author said "You could take this home and look after it. It would be interesting". Everyone knows that every kid ever has brought home frogs, toads, tadpoles, etc, but just capturing wild animals and bringing them home is (and should be) very frowned upon.

No, I can't recommend this book. The pictures are interesting, but no.

Two stars. Major problems.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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