Thursday, February 9, 2012

Animal tales: new stories for tweens

Cats, dogs, birds, goldfish ... the variety of animals that live with humans is astounding (though cats may insist they choose whom they want to live with!) Here's a variety of new fiction and non-fiction books about animals, with settings from neighborhood backyards to Caesar's palace in ancient Rome. Wherever they are, and in whatever home they find themselves, animals (and their humans) have great stories to tell.

Dancing Through the Snow, by Jean Little (Kane Miller) Fiction. Abandoned as a toddler, Min Randall has been rejected by one foster family after the other until she finds it nearly impossible to trust anyone. Then, when Min's current foster mother takes her back to children's services just before Christmas, Dr. Jessica Hart -- who knows Min's history -- surprises everyone by taking her in. It isn't easy for anyone to break through Min's tough exterior, and although Jessica tries, it's really Min's experiences with neighborhood pets and a stray dog that soften her up. If you liked Clay Carmichael's Wild Things, give this emotionally intense yet ultimately uplifting story a try.

Tiger, Tiger, by Lynne Reid Banks (Laurel-Leaf Books) Historical Fiction. Stolen from their home in the wild, two tiger cubs are brought to ancient Rome -- one to be the pet of Caesar's daughter, Aurelia, and the other to kill men in the Colosseum. This "gripping, tantalizing examination of power, sacrifice and mercy" (Publishers Weekly) tells the suspenseful story of the brother cubs' lives with drama and emotion, and the author's descriptive writing brings the tigers' tale, a bittersweet love story (between Aurelia and her cub's keeper), and its third-century Roman Empire setting to life.

Nuts: A Novel, by Kacy Cook (Marshall Cavendish Children) Fiction. A squeaking noise outside 11-year-old Nell's bedroom leads her to a baby squirrel abandoned in her yard, and soon she is convincing her parents to let her rehabilitate not just one injured squirrel, but two. Despite the advice of an online squirrel expert to give the orphaned babies to a certified wildlife rehabilitator, Nell determines to heal and raise the squirrels on her own...but she has no idea what she's getting into. This upbeat yet thought-provoking story presents some differing perspectives on the natural world and is sure to hold animal lovers spellbound.

ER Vets: Life in an Animal Emergency Room, by Donna M. Jackson (Houghton Mifflin) Nonfiction. If you're interested in someday working at an emergency vet clinic, or if you just wonder what goes on behind the scenes at a pet ER, this "well-researched and well-written" (School Library Journal) book is one you'll want to read. Illustrated with a wealth of photos -- some sad, others sweet, and some (such as detailed shots of surgery) not for the squeamish -- it offers a glimpse into a typical day for the veterinarians, vet techs, and others who work at a clinic, provides information on the history of veterinary care, and explains how to make a pet first-aid kit.

Animals in the House: A History of Pets and People, by Sheila Keenan (Scholastic Nonfiction) Nonfiction. Ever wonder when people started welcoming animals into their homes? Or how the number of people in America compares to the number of pets? (You might be surprised!) From famous people's pets to animal-related superstitions to which pets are most popular -- dogs? birds? lizards? cats? armadillos? -- this fun, illustrated book covers just about anything you might want to know about the history of people keeping pets.