Mom says there are three things I should always remember:
1. The earth gives us everything we need
2. When we dig tunnels, we help take care of the earth.
3. Never bother Daddy when he’s eating the newspaper.
So begins the journal of a young wriggly guy who discovers the ways of the world in the picture book Diary Of A Worm (2003, by Doreen Cronin with pictures by Harry Bliss).
It might still be a little chilly for the nightcrawlers in our backyards, but they’ll soon be up and about. Worms spend the winter deep underground until a warm rain convinces them to squiggle back to (our) civilization.
Anyone wanting a healthy green yard treats wrigglers with great respect – who needs compost when your thriving earthworms are happily pooing rich humus in and about bulbs and seedlings? Not to mention the tunnel networks that aerate the soil.
In fact our little pal gets an A in “Tunneling” on his school report card (but merely a “pass” in “Squirming”).
Take your kids through a worm’s life with this diary (filed in C-62 in the children’s section of the Lennoxville Library, with thanks to Janet Angrave for her Adopt-A-Book donation).
And what other critters are about? Raccoons! We consider these critters annoying pests, but they do eat rodents (and, frustratingly for some, corn). But the little bandits generally stay out of the way, preferring the light of the moon. Except those, of course, who have discovered a fondness for pizza. (And who wouldn’t think fondly of pizza? PIZZA!)
Yet, as strange as it sounds, restauranteurs prefer to sell their slices, rather than giving them out, free, to masked scavengers. “Poor Raccoon,” writes Adam Rubin in Secret Pizza Party (illustrated by Daniel Salmieri, 2013, filed in children’s at C-70). “All he wants in life is some pizza.” And we first see the poor wee thing pressed up against a pizzeria’s giant plate glass window, sadly watching the human diners. (It sure looks like Queen Street to me.)
This book is an ode to the pizza pie, narrated by a sympathetic sort who offers to set up a gooey slice celebration for the raccoon. What a boon! How opportune.
But shhh, no else one must know….
Can secrecy be maintained? Will the raccoon harpoon a slice-a-roon? You’ll need to read this book to find out. And while you’re at it, order a large, with mushrooms. Because you’ll get the nibblies.
A comic troupe once parodied the work of American funnyman David Sedaris by filming a lookalike delivering a piping hot pizza “in 30 bleak anecdotes or less – or the irony is free.”
Sedaris once noted that “in America, people kept telling me how dark the stories were, but I just don’t get it. What other people call dark and despairing, I call funny.”
This writer of short stories and essays, much favoured by The New Yorker magazine and National Public Radio, released a book of animal fables in 2010, titled Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary (filed in Adult Fiction).
The pair thought they were in love, but the chipmunk’s family Did Not Approve. And it got to her; on the day the squirrel admitted his love of jazz, the chipmunk, not knowing what that was, imagined the worst. Years after she dumped him, the chipmunk finds out jazz is a type of music: “When her muzzle grew more white than brown, the chipmunk forgot that she and the squirrel had had nothing to talk about. She forgot the definition of ‘jazz’ as well and came to think of it as every beautiful thing she had ever failed to appreciate: the taste of warm rain; the smell of a baby; the din of a swollen river, rushing past her tree and onward to infinity.”
These 16 short tales present the tiresome people around us clothed in fur or feather, arrogant, self-obsessed, sometime vicious and savage, but always funny. And at least once, you’ll recognize yourself. Ouch.
This is a quick read, well written, and filled with cats, mice and a gerbil, dogs, birds and even a zoo-inhabiting hippo.
The bestiary became popular in the Middle Ages, filled with often fanciful creatures intended to teach Christian values and warn of evil (so factual correctness was not considered relevant). Here’s a description of the fox, from the Aberdeen Bestiary (named for the university which has custody of this beautiful manuscript): “The fox is crafty and deceitful. When it is hungry it rolls in red earth to look as if it is covered in blood. It feigns death by holding its breath. Birds come to sit on the body whereupon the fox jumps up and eats them.”
It’s online at http://www.abdn.ac.uk/bestiary, and was listed in 1542 as being part of the library of Henry VIII, but is likely far older than that.
Here’s another modern effort, JonArno Lawson’s A Voweller’s Bestiary, From Aardvark To Guineafowl (And H) (2008, filed at C-244 in the children’s section). Here you’ll find fabulous wordplay and a commitment to a complex collection of rules in which vowels are paired in multiple ways…. below, only As and Is.
Fatalistic snails trail
Maintaining snailish fatalism,
Lizards transmitting panic,
facing nightfall, vanish again.
Practical snails, spiralling inward,
discarding disdain, craving nirvana
You’ll find all kinds of animals in this tome, from gulls to flies and much more, urban critters and rural beasts alike. It’s intended for children, perhaps, but adults will appreciate the work that went into this anthology of wild things.
Happy first day of spring.
– Eleanor Brown, March 20, 2015