NONFICTION

Our Animal Neighbors: Compassion for Every Furry, Slimy, Prickly Creature on Earth

Bala Kids. Sept. 2020. 32p. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781611807233.
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PreS-Gr 3–The concept of neighborhood extends beyond the diverse group of cartoon characters depicted in the opening pages of this book. The text spotlights the unique skills of all living beings. For example, owls use night vision while bats use sonar. Pigs have a powerful sense of smell. Human intellect has led to remarkable inventions. Despite their different kinds of intelligence, however, a common bond exists between all creatures—not just ones with obvious similarities. Every living being has needs, desires, strengths, fears, and a will to survive. And humans are not the only species to seek companionship, love, and safety. The illustrations show animal moms cuddling their young and humans snuggling with their pets and with one another. Human characters are drawn with a variety of skin tones and cultural identifiers. This title makes a convincing case for compassion with a tone that is perfect for its audience. Nonetheless, there is an underlying animal rights agenda that proposes actions that may feel too radical for some readers. In one scene, foxes watch as a white woman evaluates her wardrobe. In another, a cheerful hamburger looks down on cattle that do not anticipate their future. These illustrations seem to emphasize the authors’ position, which is detailed at the end in a plea for a plant-based diet. Adults should be prepared for conversations with young readers.
VERDICT A serious message delivered with humor, simplicity, and charm makes this book an excellent purchase for families that value open-ended discussions. Also a good resource for classrooms and libraries that welcome diverse opinions and points of view.

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