Andy Warner’s Oddball ­Histories: Pests and Pets

Little, Brown. Sept. 2021. 192p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780316498234.
Gr 3-5–Warner follows up his history of micronations, This Land Is My Land, with a similarly tongue-in-cheek graphic survey of 18 animals—from dogs and cats to raccoons (“trash-pandas,” as they’re known in some quarters) and cockroaches. Dividing the volume into three sections titled “Creatures We Find Cute,” “Creatures We Find Useful,” and “Creatures That Find Us Useful” (categories he admits aren’t always that distinct), he chronicles each animal’s history, from first its association with humans to modern relationships. In most cases that association began in prehistoric times, but the author notes that animals such as house sparrows and honeybees were introduced to this continent only within the past few centuries—and even more surprisingly, nearly all hamsters sold as pets are descended from one female captured near Aleppo about 90 years ago. Occasionally Warner ventures into controversial territory, as in an entry on chickens (“From the Jungle to the Nugget”), which treats battery farming and even cockfighting nonjudgmentally. Also, his fulsome narrative tends to give the squared-off panels a crowded look. Still, the art’s figures and action are easy to make out, and Warner lightens the informational load with comical side comments (“Domestication’s a little weird,” admits a dog. “Not gonna lie…”) and at least balances a pointed observation that no animal we’ve domesticated has ever gone extinct with a closing plea for more concern about the disappearance of wild species.
VERDICT Not always comfortable reading, but middle graders will find these historical profiles of supposedly familiar animals both droll and informative.

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