________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 7. . . .October 15, 2010.


Animal Talk: Remarkable Connections Between Animals and the People Who Love Them.

Joyce Grant-Smith.
Halifax, NS: Nimbus, 2010.
124 pp., pbk., $14.95.
ISBN 978-1-55109-778-7.

Subject Headings:
Human-animal relationships-Anecdotes.

Grades 6 and up / Ages 11 and up.

Review by J. Lynn Fraser.




Animal Talk is a charming and sentimental book that tugs at your heart. Based on interviews and the author’s own experiences with her pets Grant-Smith provides her readers with a variety of stories including horses, lions, dogs, cats and chickens, that deal with the intelligence, kindness, personalities, and self awareness of animals.

     The author’s stories range from the ‘isn’t that cute’ variety to sad tales and stories that encourage the reader to ponder how animals communicate with each other and with their human owners.

     One story in the book is about Rascal, a dog with a pick pocket’s capacity for stealing cookies in plain sight, who proved himself to be a valiant protector of a canine friend, Zoe, while working with Forest, a hated canine rival for Zoe’s affections, to keep her alive (p.17):

Zoe had been snared in the trap on the night she and Rascal had run off, and since then Rascal and Forest had taken turns looking after her. They had somehow worked out shifts so that Zoe was never left alone.

When Zoe’s owners went to the trap line to free her, there were bits of rabbit skin lying all around. The two male dogs had hunted rabbits for her to keep her fed while she was trapped.

     The heroic services that animals provide for their human owners are also shown, through various examples, by Grant-Smith.

     Roy, for example, was a handsome and strong farm horse. Roy’s owner, Burton, suffered from epileptic seizures. In one instance, Roy protected Burton from being gored by a panicked steer while Burton was incapacitated by a seizure (p.57):

Fortunately for Burton, Roy knew what to do. Many other horses would have panicked over the steer’s aggression, adding their own stamping hooves to the deadly confusion. Not Roy. He carefully moved toward the steer, placing himself directly over Burton’s wracked body. He then planted his huge hooves around Burton. He stood motionless, protecting his human companion…as the agitated steer lunged and snorted beside him.

When Burton eventually regained consciousness, he found himself underneath his horse, safe from harm.

     In Animal Talk, we learn about animals and their ability to communicate with humans. But a larger lesson is also taught — that it is important in one’s life to be attentive and attuned to life’s small gifts — such as the friendship of animals.

     The book is interspersed with lovely black and white photographs and has a list of useful websites at the back of the book. The author’s writing style is gentle, and the design of the book makes it accessible for younger readers.

     Grant-Smith’s book could provide an interesting starting point for discussions about animal rights, the treatment of animals, pet ownership and responsibility, consciousness and self awareness in animals, communication and understanding among animals and humans, and what defines a family.


Located in Toronto, ON, J. Lynn Fraser is an author and freelance writer whose magazine articles appear in national and international publications.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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