Apr 19, 2014

The Way of a Horse

by Marguerite de Beaumont

Most of the horse books I read are about behavior or people/animal relationships. This one was different, yet I still found it interesting. It's written by an Englishwoman who established and ran a stud farm. It's all about management. Starts off with the importance of having proper staff, caring for tools, organization, thrift and many other things. Discusses choosing stock, evaluating the points on a horse, breeding and caring for the mares, raising the foals. Health issues, feeding, housing and so on. Some of the views were interesting. She strongly believed in allowing horses to be kept out on pasture as much as possible. Talks about different kinds of training in brief, and about showing horses. There are not many anecdotes here, it is mostly just information. Lots of practical advice. For the right reader, I can see how this book would be very useful, for its good sense more than anything else. In the first chapter the author spectacularly (and quite casually) dated the book for me by quoting Ernest Shackleton, with whom she had held a conversation!

I found this book at a discard sale somewhere.

Rating: 3/5        192 pages, 1953

Apr 17, 2014

Old Crow

by Shena Mackay

I don't know if I should really write anything about this book, I didn't really get it. Gathered more from the flyleaf text than from the narrative itself actually. In brief, it's about a woman who lives in a small English village where the people despise and persecute her. Apparently she was once a beautiful young woman and seduced by a painter, but it must have been a lengthy affair as she has several children by him. And it seems his wife later knew of her. And so did everyone else- and they left her and the children (her family all gone, a grandmother disappeared to Australia who was supposed to send money but died instead) to literally starve. Well, the man wanted to help her and give support, and other times she was offered charity or various forms of assistance, but bitterly refused. The only scenes in the novel that made sense to me were those depicting the suffering of this mother and her children- gleaning fields in winter for cabbages and turnips thrown to feed the livestock, stealing vegetables from gardens and fruit from orchards, gathering coal from the train tracks and cut wood from the forests, freezing and starving in spite of what little they could find. One village woman in particular has it out for this destitute mother and involves herself in deliberate cruelties, the least of which is spreading rumors, trying to get them evicted from their small crumbling derelict cottage. I did not finish the book but I surmise it does not end well. I did not understand the way these people treated each other, nor their relationships- it's a sparse book and failed to inspire me to read enough between the lines.

Has anyone else read this book...? What are your thoughts.

Abandoned        158 pages, 1967

Apr 16, 2014

Hamsters

by Sue Fox

This book on hamsters and their care is pretty thorough.  It has some interesting facts on their history. I was aware that the first captive hamsters were dug out of a field, and that all modern pet hamsters are descendents of the first four captives. What I didn't know was that research scientists were paying farmers to dig up hamsters and turn them in- they were studying a disease that humans and hamsters have in common. Also that the original captive group (also held for research) included ten hamsters, but they escaped their cages twice and some were never found, leaving only four.

After all that, the book goes into much detail on how hamsters live, their needs and care requirements. Different options on housing, play equipment, food and other supplies are carefully compared. Nutrition is examined in detail. The importance of keeping a hamster's habitat clean is emphasized a lot- it can prevent potential disease and keep your hamster healthy. What to do if your hamster gets sick or lost, how to handle an older hamster that is slowing down. Also the role of parents in caring for the small pets, and what children of different ages can be expected to do.

I plan to read several of these books- already finding that they sometimes contradict each other. For example, the previous book emphasized that no child under twelve should have a pet hamster. This one talks about involving children as young as three in hamster care, but clearly states that parents must supervise and be the responsible one. Another difference was that the first book said hamsters should never have citrus or acidic foods; this book includes tomatoes and oranges in the list of fruits/vegetables that are safe for your hamster.

I borrowed this book from the public library. I'm thinking of looking for my own copy, so my daughter will have a reference on hand.

Rating: 4/5      112 pages, 2006

Apr 15, 2014

The Tapir Scientist

Saving South America's Largest Mammal
by Sy Montgomery

Great book about a very interesting animal. I've been wanting to read more books by Sy Montgomery, and so far she never disappoints. In this case, she travelled to the Pantanal (a large wetland area in Brazil) to join a team of field biologists led by Pati Medici. Studying tapirs. The book is all about what their work involves on a day-to-day basis. Tracking the animals. Trying to dart or trap them, taking measurements and samples, discovering where they go and who they hang out with. Things they've learned about tapirs and things they still hope to figure out. Difficulties and problem-solving in the field. Long hours of effort for the reward of a brief moment with an elusive wild animal.

Excellent photographs and descriptions of what the field work is like. It's not all about tapirs, either. There's quite a bit of information on the environment, local people, other wildlife, background on members of the research team and so on. Makes for a very well-rounded book that I found very engaging and thorough.

Rating: 4/5        80 pages, 2013

more opinions:
Jean Little Library
Bookshelf: What We're Reading
For Those About to Mock

Wild Horses

Galloping Through Time
by Kelly Milner Halls

Found this one just browsing on library shelves. It's a pretty good read, with nice photographs. All about wild horses, from their earliest beginnings as small prehistoric mammals to the present day. Featured types of horses are grouped according to what continent or region they live in. I did not realize there were so many different wild horses still roaming free in the world. The mustangs, arabians, chincoteague ponies, barbs, white horses of Camargue (in France) and Namibian desert horses were familiar to me. But also quite a few I had not heard of before including tarpans, koniks and Caspain horses.  Also, since they are part of the horse family (all equines) the wild asses, burros and zebra species are in this book as well. I thought there were more than three kinds of zebra, but guess I was wrong. A bit disappointed the book did not discuss the quagga, not even mention it. No Australian brumbies either?

The scientific aspect was nice, a number of interviews with experts are included. Also listings of places you can travel to see wild horses.

Rating: 3/5        72 pages, 2008

more opinions:
BooksforKidsBlog
Journal of Ravenseyrie

Apr 13, 2014

Hamsters

A Complete Pet Owner's Manual
by Dr. Peter Fritzsche

Thought to inform myself more on hamster care, since we have one now. So brought home a few pet books from the library. Learned from the fish experience not to bother with the ones in juvenile non-ficion section. A lot of the info in here was already familiar to me, but I was reminded of some important things- like how stressful it is for the hamster when you rearrange stuff in its home cage. Also learned more about the history of these little pets. They are not really domesticated animals, only having become part of the pet trade since the 1980's. In Syria where they come from, people consider them pests. There are twenty different kinds of hamsters, only a few which are suitable to keep as pets. I also didn't know that in the wild some hamsters hibernate through the winter, they can make ultrasonic sounds (similar in frequency to bat calls) and that they can become diabetic. I was also unaware that the use of exercise wheel in hamster cages is a controversial topic among pet owners. The book included some material based on research, from observing the behavior of wild hamster in their natural habitat. Some of the more useful information in the book (for me) was a list of natural foods the hamster can eat (including hay, cat grass and kitchen herbs), instructions on how to find/trap a hamster that has escaped its cage, and tips on how to help your child deal with the death of their pet when it reaches old age (at two or three years).

Rating: 3/5    65 pages, 2007

Apr 12, 2014

Out Stealing Horses

by Per Petterson

I hoped to like this book. It's one of those I felt sure I wanted to read, but once I started was just not appreciating it. I am certain I was missing the big picture, what was really going on in the story, but by the time I realized this it was too late, I no longer cared. The narrative is about a man living in Norway, just across the border from Sweeden. In a cabin in the forest. Part of it is about him as an old man coming to this place to live in peaceful solitude (rebuilding the derelict cabin, taking walks with his dog), but other parts tell of events from his youth, when he and a friend would go up and down the river, looking for something to do and getting into trouble. I did, at first, slow down to absorb the descriptions of the forest and being there, but was unable to focus enough to read between the lines and really get it. It is one of those books full of understatement, which I have to be in the right mood for. It's full of quietness, musing reminiscences. Has a lot to do with father-son relationships, with his coming-of-age, with some awful accidents that occurred- and it felt like another horrific incident was looming just around the corner, in the pages I did not get to. I didn't want to get to that part. You can read some of the other reviews to see what the readers thought, who did get there.

And for some reason the book reminded me of A River Runs Through It, I'm not sure why. I never finished that one either. If one of you out there has read both and cares to comment, tell me if those two books have much in common?

Abandoned       238 pages, 2003

more opinions:
Reading Matters
Blogging for a Good Book
Fleur in Her World
Ready Steady Book
Interpolations

Apr 8, 2014

Guide to Freshwater and Marine Aquarium Fishes

Simon and Schuster's

The very last fish book off my shelf. It's a field guide. On fish and other aquatic life (plants, amphibia, reptiles and invertebrates) you might keep in an aquarium. For a book of its age, the photographs are really excellent and the care/biology information in the introduction seems pretty solid. Although I blinked at an image caption that stated: The ideal aquarium is a reconstruction of a self-sufficient natural habitat, in which plants and animals rely on one another for nourishment. When such a state of balance is reached, there is no need to change the water or feed the animals. I was baffled by this. I don't think you can every get to that point. Maybe you can have the enclosed ecosystem balanced well enough to go long periods without a water change, and for the animals to support the plants- but surely the fishes and other aquatic life must still be fed? Unless it's an outdoor pond, I suppose. Someone please do correct me if I'm wrong. The photo showed an indoor aquarium. I'm pretty sure it still needs input of food. 

Well, it was another book I more or less browsed through. Enjoyed the gorgeous photos. The book was brief enough on listing numerous closely-related freshwater species (only one platy, a few barbs, two kinds of small catfish as samples) that the saltwater section was almost equal in length, and the pages on invertebrates, amphibians and other living things (like hydra, water fleas, mollusks- not all critters you'd want in your aquarium I'm thinking) rounded it out nicely. I never saw turtles, newts, frogs or the axolotl featured in an aquarium book before.

Rating: 3/5    337 pages, 1976

Apr 7, 2014

The Wildlife Detectives

by Donna M. Jackson

For the first time in months (been doing the Dare) I allowed myself to browse a little bit in the library. Walked through the kids' section so I picked up a few J non-fiction books. This one is about how forensic science is used to solve crimes against wildlife. It's doubly difficult to prove things because of course the animals can't tell you anything themselves. Careful matches must be made between samples and specimens to prove exactly what species a piece of evidence came from, in particular. One individual case of a famous bull elk in Yellowstone Park that was illegally shot is followed throughout the book as a example. While of course the book is not as detailed as I would like, it was fascinating regardless. I learned something in particular about deer taxonomy- there are only five species of deer in America- whitetail, mule deer, elk, moose and caribou. I paused when I read that in the book- what about blacktail deer, what about key deer in Florida? So I made a quick search of wikipedia and learned that blacktail deer are a subspecies of mule deer, whereas key deer are a subspecies of whitetail. Hah. Also interested to learn that while bald eagles are completely protected by law- no one can kill them, trade sell or otherwise use their body parts- Native Americans are allowed to use eagle feathers in their sacred ceremonies. So when eagles are found dead of natural causes (or killed by people and not needed as evidence) their feathers and other parts are sent by the National Eagle Repository in Colorado to Native Americans throughout the country (who must apply to receive them). One Navajo medicine man is quoted stating that the eagle feather he uses in healing rituals had been handed down by his grandfather from prior generations- that particular feather is a couple of hundred years old. I am impressed at how sacred they hold the single object. 

Well, a good book. Older kids would learn a lot from this one.

Rating: 4/5    47 pages, 2000

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Apr 6, 2014

Chosen Forever

by Susan Richards

Finished this book a few days ago but had no time to write. It wasn't what I thought at first; I assumed from the cover image and prevalence of equines in the few photos inside that this was another book about horses. After a few pages in I flipped to the front to read the flyleaf text and even more telling, the card catalog subject listings (or whatever that's called) on the publication data page- it said authors, biography; nothing about horses. So. There are horses, they are not the spotlight. Instead the book is about how the author experienced the success of her first published book, Chosen by a Horse. How she went on book tour and grew from being frightened at facing an audience of readers (or empty chairs) to feeling confident and even relaxed. How she met up with friends and family not seen in years and had some closure, renewed some relationships, learned some stories of her own past that helped with the healing process. Horses, friends, loving books, meeting readers, travelling around the country, dealing with a few age issues plus anxiety, meeting a man again. In the end it is a story of joy. I liked this book. It's a feel-good story, but one that is also painfully honest. Not all roses (do you even want roses?) Very real.

Rating: 3/5      278 pages, 2008

more opinions:
Lis Carey's Library
curledup.com