Monday, September 02, 2013

Nonfiction Marvelous Middle Grade Monday-- Animals

 The Last Dogs: The Vanishing Holt, Christopher. Vanising (The Last Dogs #1)
4 September 2012, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Max, a yellow lab, has been abandoned at the vet's and is about to give up hope when the vet's dachshund, Rocky, frees him. Rocky relates how the humans packed up and fled, and Max is bound and determined to go and find them. First, he and Rocky have to battle wolves who want the store of kibble, and who contribute to the vet's house burning down. On the way, the two meet Gizmo, a peppy Yorkshire Terrier. They run into several different groups of animals along the way; the Enclave, run by a controlling standard Poodle, a house filled with cats, and finally, the Corporation. This group has taken over an office building and tried to create an environment safe from wolves, but the leader, the Chairman, doesn't want the group to leave, and punishes anyone who does not do his bidding. One who has run afoul of him is an old friend of Max's, Madame Curie, who has been severely beaten. She manages to give Max vital information about where he might find his humans before she passes away.

The Last Dogs: Dark WatersHolt, Christopher. Dark Waters (The Last Dogs #2)
4 June 2013, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Having narrowly escaped the Corporation, Max, Gizmo and Rocky once again take to the river for traveling, and come across a riverboat and some helpful dalmations. The group's alpha, Boss, is far kinder than previous alphas they have met, and the community on the river boat a much more comfortable one. However, Max still wants to find his humans. When the group meets up with a hyena who tricks Rocky into getting onto a monorail train, they end up in a zoo. There, they meet an elephant who knew Madame Curie, and who tells them of strange experiments done on him and other animals that have caused the evacuation of the people. The story is reinforced by Gertrude, a pig who wants to get back to the lab where the experiments were done. These experiments involved infecting animals with a virus, then neutralizing the virus with electricity. The virus doesn't hurt animals, but is hazardous to humans, which is why people have evacuated and left pets behind. Not only does Gertrude turn on the group, but bad humans appear, and Max learns that his friends on the river boat are in danger.  They manage to save some, but not all of their friends, and must continue their journey to find their humans, as well as to understand the mystery of the experiments. The third book, The Long Road, comes out 5 November 2013.
17333263Strengths: I liked this much better than several other "abandoned pets" books that have come out recently. The dog characters were more likeable and better developed, and their level of understanding was better-- they didn't have full human comprehension of events, but they didn't call cars "growl boxes". The virus experiments are a nice twist and I hope that the third book explains more about that.
Weaknesses: It seems unlikely that Max would be able to find his humans under the best of circumstances, and his journey seems to be somewhat unfocused. I also have to say that Sylvie, my Yorkie Poo, felt VERY affronted at the portrayal of Gizmo as hyperenergetic and rather flightly. She would like to know why Labradors always get to be the heroes and the little dogs are portrayed as helpless. She did like the evil standard poodle in the Enclave, though, as Sylvie has some thoughts of world domination herself.

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas Ottaviani, Jim and Wicks, Maris. Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas 
 11 June 2013, First Second

This graphic novel follows the careers of three women primatologists and chronicles the difficulties that they faced both in the wilderness and in the academic world. All three were proteges of Louis Leakey, and all three faced various set backs as far as education and personal relationships. I had never heard of Galdikas, so found this to being very interesting. My only complaints are that the text is very tiny, so struggling readers would have trouble with this, and while Leakey's tendencies toward dalliances are circumspectly handled, they will not be understood well by middle grade readers.


  1. Anonymous8:12 AM EDT

    These are very unique books! I've never read them. I'm not sure if I would like the first two or not, since I've never read that style of book before. But I guess the only way to know is to check one out and give it a read.

  2. I very much wanted to like Primates but had some of the same reactions you did. Glad to know I was not alone.