Do your kids wish they could bring wild animals home as pets? The Tarantula in My Purse and 172 Other Wild Pets by Jean Craighead George (HarperCollins; Reprint edition, 1997) tells the story of the George family, whose home was a haven for injured or abandoned wildlife, long before current laws banning such practices. Their temporary pets included a screech owl, ducklings, crows, fish, a turtle, a skunk, a raccoon, a weasel, a bat, and—of course—a tarantula.

This is a nonfiction book, written for children in the upper elementary grades. It is realistic in its portrayal of animals, telling not only how cute they are as babies, but the eating behaviors of boa constrictors, not-so-nice animal rivalries, saying good-bye to creatures when they grow up and return to the wild, and the occasional death or mysterious vanishing of animals.

If you have a very sensitive child who wants all happy endings, this is not the storybook for that child. The animal behavior is realistic, not fairytale. But if your boy or girl wants to know how wild things really act when they live with people, this is a fascinating read. It tells the reader about feeding baby animals, bird imprinting, migration behaviors, funny habits, interesting interactions that grow out of so many creatures living under one roof, and different kinds of animal intelligence. There are moments of sweetness and beauty.

The book is marketed for 8- to12-year-olds, and runs about 135 pages in length. There are nice black-and-white drawings scattered through the pages. The Tarantula in my Purse and 172 Other Wild Pets is available in libraries, on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble. Jean Craighead George has written many well-known children’s books about animals.

Donna Fujimoto is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. She has published both devotionals for adults and short stories for teens. Her children love to read.

Mrs. Fujimoto has a collection of short stories, 9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge, available as an e-reader at Amazon. Find our review under “N” in the alphabetical listing: Titles We’ve Reviewed.

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