From Publishers Weekly
Masson (When Elephants Weep) records his attempt to "raise together a kitten, a puppy, a bunny, a chick, and a baby rat" in hopes that this "might offer some lessons to us humans" on how to avoid bigotry and war. The result hovers between science and cute animal stories, with not enough of either to succeed. Masson tells us a great deal about handpicking the animals, choosing a cat bred not to hunt and a nonaggressive dog, but not much about how he introduces them to one another and their changeable living situations. His discoveries about the animals seldom rise above the banal (rats have delicate ears; chickens eat insects). More of his attention goes to agonizing about reading the animals' emotions and fretting over—but not grappling with—the conflict inherent in wanting to provide the animals with as natural a life as possible while impatiently expecting them to overcome hardwired reactions to predators and prey. In the end, some of the animals become buddies, but one rat dies under mysterious circumstances, and the "peaceable kingdom" proves stressful for the dog. Masson's peaceable kingdom seems unattainable fantasy. B&w photos.
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Masson, best-selling author of books on animal emotions (including When Elephants Weep, 1996, and Dogs Never Lie about Love, 1997), explored the question of whether animals of five different species, raised together, could learn to get along. He hoped that the animals might offer lessons that humans could learn about tolerance and friendship. He obtained a puppy, a kitten, a young rabbit, two young chickens, and two rat pups, and introduced them to his wife and two young children. The story of what Masson learned, both from and about the animals, and what they learned from each other, results in a charming book. Except for the rats (due to their small size), the animals had free range of the house and beach where Masson lived, and often chose each other's company. In a final chapter the author muses on what humans can learn from the animals. This interesting experiment in interspecies friendship is thought-provoking and genially written. Nancy Bent
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