zoo tycoonWhen I was younger, the Tycoon series of games was really popular. Everyone seemed to be playing them and after several months of begging, I was finally able to convince my mother to purchase a copy of Rollercoaster Tycoon. As I was looking over the videogame section at the library, imagine my happiness when I found Zoo Tycoon, a build-your-own-zoo game put out by Microsoft Studios for the Xbox 360 in 2013.

Looking online and also talking to other gamers results in a wide variety of definitions for the term “tycoon games”. In tycoon games, instead of just controlling one character, you are acting instead like “the manager” who is in control of a wide variety of people or animals, as well as the place where all of the activity is happening. That is very true in Zoo Tycoon. Here the game offers you tutorials, so you aren’t flying blind into how to operate and run your zoo. As the over-seer of the whole zoo, you need to remember to play smart because the guests who visit your zoo, as well as the animals, will ultimately decide just how well you are doing as a zoo tycoon.

This interactive game lets you design your zoo, build, and then manage it to make sure more and more guests keep coming and visiting. Once you build your zoo, you then get to have face time with all of your animals. You are allowed to adopt and care for your animals with the ultimate decision for you to then release them into the wild.

This game was interactive for me and definitely brought back memories of the older tycoon games that I had played. Check it out and let me know what you think!

pet pals animal doctorAll throughout college, my teachers told me that the best way to entice a child to learn was to make learning fun. You’d also get bonus points as a teacher if you could trick kids into learning without them even knowing it. One of the best ways that I have found to do this is to slip that learning to them in the form of a video game or even a classic novel that has been re-done as an illustrated graphic novel.

As I was searching for new titles to intrigue the kids I know, I stumbled upon Pet Pals: Animal Doctor, a game available for the Wii. It allows players to pretend they are a veterinarian and perform surgeries using the Wii remote. What I found most interesting about this game is that the level of learning is high. More than thirty medical cases, that are based on real events, are presented within this game with mini- and micro-games that allow players to play, feed, and clean the animals and to also perform some specialized procedures. Players will be able to operate and interact with a variety of animals that range from the familiar to the exotic. This game won the Editor’s Choice Award of Excellence from the Children’s Technology Review and also the Parents’ Choice Silver Award.

soul all living creaturesBased on the author’s twenty-five years of experience as a veterinarian and veterinary behaviorist, The Soul of All Living Creatures delves into the inner lives of animals – from whales, wolves, and leopards to mice, dogs, and cats – and explores the relationships we forge with them.

As an emergency room clinician four years out of veterinary school, Dr. Vint Virga had a life-changing experience: he witnessed the power of simple human contact and compassion to affect the recovery of a dog struggling to survive after being hit by a car. Observing firsthand the remarkably strong connection between humans and animals inspired him to explore the world from the viewpoint of animals and taught him to respect the kinship that connects us. With The Soul of All Living Creatures, Virga draws from his decades in veterinary practice to reveal how, by striving to perceive the world as animals do, we can enrich our own appreciation of life, enhance our character, nurture our relationships, improve our communication with others, reorder our values, and deepen our grasp of spirituality. Virga discerningly illuminates basic traits shared by both humans and animals and makes animal behavior meaningful, relevant, and easy to understand.

Insightful and eloquent, The Soul of All Living Creatures offers an intimate journey into the lives of our fellow creatures and a thought-provoking promise of what we can learn from spending time with them. (description from publisher)

ivanThe 2013 Newbery award winner, Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan, is everything you might expect it to be, plus a little extra. Ivan is a silverback gorilla, a natural-born protector and warrior of the animal kingdom; as the narrator, his stream-of-consciousness thoughts and memories make up the novel. After poachers pluck the infant Ivan away from his home in the jungle, his domain of 27 years is a run-down circus, and his only friends are the other few animals there. But with the arrival of Ruby, a baby elephant, Ivan suddenly has someone to protect, and he sets off on a course to change all their lives for the better.

Like other winners, Applegate tackles a delicate, powerful subject and makes it accessible to children. Also like others, the writing is elegant and spare, made accessible to a young audience but no less sophisticated for it. There’s humor and heartbreak, but they don’t exactly balance each other – if you can’t handle sad animal stories you will have to stay far, far away from Ivan. Despite a hopeful, happy, neatly-wound-up ending, the grim tone of this book and its experimental structure make it an unusual book for children, but one that I’d recommend to them as wholeheartedly as I would recommend it to an adult. It’s a story of friendship and adventure and creativity, and a great addition to the list of Newbery winners.

I’m going to cheat a little. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot would be my choice, but I love all four in the “All Creatures” series.

The story begins with the author’s arrival in Yorkshire during the Depression when veterinary jobs were scarce. A city boy, James has to quickly learn how to care for horses and cows in very primitive conditions.

He soon learns to love the beauty of the Dales and his eccentric clients. His tales of caring for beloved pets as well as farm animals can be heartwrenching as the patient doesn’t always survive.

There is plenty of humor in his hilarious descriptions of the Yorkshire dialect, way of life, and diet, as well as his volatile boss Siegfried and Siegfried’s irresponsible yet charming brother Tristan.

Not only are the books laugh-out-loud funny but you come to know the village of Darrowby, James, Siegfried and Tristan so well that you never want to leave the little world that Herriot has created.

Soul of a DogDo animals have souls? Jon Katz grapples with this question, which has intrigued philosophers through the ages, in his newest book Soul of a Dog. Katz studies the animals on his Bedlam Farm, especially the dogs but also the sheep and donkeys, Mother the cat, Elvis the Snickers-eating steer, hens and goats. Katz comes to see each of them as unique individuals, capable of great feeling and understanding.

Katz’s stories about animals are a joy to read – humourous, thoughtful, unsentimental. Each animals’ personality shines through without anthromorphization. They are complete as they are, they support their humans and allow them to live their fullest life. There is Rose, the single-minded work dog, Izzy, who visits the local hospice, bringing smiles and peace to troubled minds, Fly the rescue dog who nearly died, and Lenore who is all about love and affection. A keen observer, Katz notes how his animals interact with each other and with humans and finds self-awareness and admirable qualities again and again.

For anyone who has owned a pet or loved an animal, this book is a must-read.