Interspecies Love

I’m a sucker for interspecies love.  Show me a little video with polar bears prancing playfully with puppies, and I’ll be smiling from ear to ear.  Tell me a story about a giant tortoise who adopts an orphaned hippo, and I’ll be holding back the tears.  So it should come as no surprise that my new favorite picture book is a story of interspecies love called Woof: A Love Story by Sarah Weeks.  It’s got everything I could possibly want — engaging and unusual illustrations, zippy rhymed text, and an unexpected love story with a very happy ending.  Dog and cat bliss!

Woof tells the story of a normal dog who does normal dog stuff, like “running and panting, sniffing and growling, rolling in things, digging and howling.”  It turns out, though, that he’s not so normal.  He spies a lovely white cat, and becomes completed besotted with her.  When he tries to profess his love, the problems ensue.  He approaches her to say “I love you!” but all she hears is “Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof!”  When he whispers “You’re pretty,” she hears “Grrrrr…”  The poor pup is so distraught by his communication ills, that he decides to engage in a little digging therapy.  While digging, he finds a “brass bone” (which we recognize as a trombone), and he pours all his passion into playing the brass bone.  Kitty hears his beautiful music, and a spark is ignited between the unlikely couple.  They live happily ever after.

I love this story both for it’s unusual design and it’s playful rhymes.  In storytime today, the story worked for both the toddlers in the audience and the young elementary schoolers.  The toddlers loved the rhymes, and barking along with the plaintive puppy, while the elementary school kids appreciated the incongruity and the wacky illustrations.  It’s pretty rare that a book can captivate everyone from two-year-olds to eight-year-olds, so I wanted to be sure to share this amusing and amazing title.  Check it out for yourself, and see if your whole family doesn’t delight in this dog-and-cat-tastic love story.

And if you want to see the polar bear & puppy play video, here’s a link on youtube. Sweet stuff!

If you want to read about the giant tortoise adopting the orphaned hippo, check out the book Owen and Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship by Craig and Isabella Hatkoff.  It’s the true adventure of a baby hippo who was separated from his pod because of a tsunami.  Wildlife conservationists placed the hippo (named Owen) on a preserve that happened to house a 130-year-old Albradan tortoise named Mzee.  Much to the surprise of conservationists (and everyone else!), Owen and Mzee formed a friendship that lasted for more than two years.  They followed each other around, ate together, and even communicated in clicks and grunts that are not a part of either animals’ normal vocabulary.  It’s an amazing true story that is sure to inspire you if you are as much a sucker for interspecies love as I am.  Enjoy!

– Sam

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