by Samantha Bell
Sylvan Dell Publishing
Jacket: “After begging for a pet, a child’s mother finally says “yes.” But which animal will be the best pet? Using animal classification and habitat needs, the child narrows it down from Kingdom Animalia, through invertebrates to vertebrates. Reptiles and amphibians are out, and birds and fish are soon off the list. That leaves mammals, but which one? An elephant won’t fit through the door, and a tiger would be too hard to walk. What’s a child to do?
Opening: “It happened just like this one day, I never could have guessed. I’d waited so long for a pet—Mom finally said “yes!’”
A young child—could be your child—finally has Mom’s okay for a pet and now must choose one. What would make the perfect pet, the child wonders. With so many options, the child—with Mom’s help—uses animal classification to find the perfect pet. At the top is the Kingdom Animalia. Mom insists upon a pet with a vertebra, which eliminates slugs, worms, and jellyfish, bringing the two to phylum Chordata. Next out are house-protecting crocs, which are too big to bathe. Mom suggests a bird—a parakeet or canary—but the child would like an ostrich.
Moving down a classification, to class Mammalia, the child likes the elephant. I would say my mother’s favorite, the giraffe. The child’s mother said both are too big and has the child slim down the choices once more. There is an outstanding picture book all about the order Carnivora appropriately titled Carnivores, and mom must have read it.
Carnivores includes the lion, the wolf, and the bear? Oh, no, Mom takes her child to a Canis lupus familiaris store. Puppy dogs and kitty cats. The child falls for the puppy. Puppies are great. There are so many fun things you can do with a dog and have you have a friend for life. As long as you accept all the responsibilities and chores that a puppy or dog require.
The child finally brings home The Perfect Pet. I like the book mainly for the illustrations. Realistically rendered, the animals take the spotlight. Part of this is because we never see the child. The good thing about that is the child can be any child, boy or girl, yours or mine. (Okay, that is not true. My kids all have four paws, so the child cannot be mine, but could be yours—if you have kids of the two-legged variety)
I love how this story takes us through the classification system for animals. Staring at Kingdom Animalia, to phylum Chordata, class Mammalia, order Carnivora, family Canidae, genus Canis, and ending with [species] Canis lupus familiaris the child makes his choice. The author left off “species,” the final classification.
“Then Canis lupus familiaris gently licked me on the hand.”
In keeping with the goal of learning animal classification, “species” should be before the name. It is not necessary to say “species Canis lupus familiaris,” yet leaving out the word species assumes the reader knows Canis lupus familiaris is the species. Leaving out this final classification is akin to using a story to explain good journalism, including who, what where, when, and leaving out how.
The Perfect Pet will surprise you at the end. The child decides what pet to bring home, but, no spoiler alert needed, the pet will take you by surprise. Kids can learned a little about several animals and a lot about animal classification, some in humorous ways. The animal illustrations are wonderfully realistic, yet some of the situations the animals find themselves in—not seeming to mind—are often humorous. The Perfect Pet is a story first, not a lesson. This story, and the humor, is a good reason why learning the classification system will not feel like learning.
Ms. Bell took what could easily have slipped into boredom and turned it into a fun read where it is easy to forget you are learning something. I enjoyed the book and the illustrations help drive home the animals in each classification. The Perfect Pet meets the Common Core in generational science and social science. Sylvan Dell Publishing, at their website, provides a teachers guide with activities for use in the classroom. The author included a For Creative Minds section after the story. She delves into animal classification at greater length, including a classification chart, additional classes of vertebrates, and an activity.
The Perfect Pet is a must for school and classroom libraries, and an excellent addition to home libraries, especially those homes that homeschool. Teachers trying to teach animal classification will find The Perfect Pet helps engage the child, bringing the lesson into the child’s world, making it relatable and easier to remember. The Perfect Pet is the perfect book for kids thinking of getting their own pet and a wonderful way for parents to guide their child toward the best choice. Maybe an elephant would be your perfect pet.
Released September 1, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-6071-8621-2 (HC) / also avail. in paperback and digital, plus a Spanish edition
Age 6 to 9
THE PERFECT PET. Text and illustrations copyright © 2013 by Samantha Bell. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Sylvan Dell Publishing, Mt. Pleasant, SC.
Christmas Eve is one week away, a mere seven days. (7 days and 6 nights)
The last day to VOTE for the Best Books of 2013 (reviewed on KLR) ends on Christmas Eve, at midnight. That is right before Santa makes his appearance, flopping down your chimney, or, if no chimney, expertly jimmy open a window or door. Who can think of their favorite book while waiting for a home invasion? So, please, VOTE this week before the man in red delights children aged 1 to 101. This will take less than 3 minutes, unless you are counting the time and cannot do two things at once. Then VOTING could take 5 minutes, but still appreciated!