An­i­mal ethics 101 Cather­ine Kirk­wood & Paige Grant

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - CATHER­INE KIRK­WOOD PAIGE GRANT

Santa Fe i s an un­apolo­get­i­cally pet- crazy town. You can’t throw a ten­nis ball with­out hit­ting a Subaru decked out in “Dog Is My Co-Pi­lot” and “Res­cued Is My Fa­vorite Breed” bumper stickers. We have an in­or­di­nately high num­ber of all-nat­u­ral and fancy pet-food stores per capita. Pet psy­chics abound.

It’s fit­ting, then, that two lo­cal au­thors, Paige Grant and Cather­ine Kirk­wood, chose cats and dogs as the sub­jects for chil­dren’s books that de­liver clear, age- ap­pro­pri­ate mes­sages about re­spon­si­ble pet own­er­ship and the love and con­nec­tion we feel with our an­i­mals. Kirk­wood’s Look­ing for Tula is a non­fic­tion ac­count (sort of; it’s told through the eyes of a dog) about what hap­pened when Kirk­wood moved with her hus­band and two ca­nines from Santa Fe to Mi­ami and one of them got spooked and es­caped the yard in Florida. Grant’s Kit­ten Ca­boo­dle is sim­i­larly rooted in real life: One af­ter­noon, Tessa’s dad comes home from work with a card­board box filled with six kit­tens that he found on the side of the road.

Kirk­wood (who has since re­turned to New Mex­ico) is a painter, and her il­lus­tra­tions of Tula and her other dog, Rocky, the book’s nar­ra­tor, are ex­pres­sive and far be­yond the usual fare found in chil­dren’s books. Kirk­wood’s il­lus­tra­tions are painted on can­vas, which i s clear when a reader peers closely at the page. An open­ing scene, which fea­tures Rocky and Tula on t he back porch of Kirk­wood’s New Mex­ico res­i­dence, i s par­tic­u­larly strik­ing. The dogs look out over a piño­nand-ju­niper- dot­ted hill to the San­gre de Cristo moun­tains be­yond. The green­ery of t he l and­scape and faint dou­ble rain­bow in a clear­ing sky sug­gest sum­mer. Later in the book, af­ter Tula has run away from home and Rocky and their hu­man com­pan­ions are look­ing for her, there’s a scene on a crowded Mi­ami beach, which de­picts ex­posed flesh, palm trees, over­flow­ing trash cans, and striped um­brel­las. Op­po­site the painted il­lus­tra­tions, shar­ing space with the text, are pre­cise pen­cil sketches that imag­ine Tula’s ad­ven­tures while she’s away. In one vi­gnette, Tula roots through a trash can, while in an­other she looks plain­tively out to sea.

Be­cause Look­ing for Tula’s nar­ra­tive is visu­ally ren­dered with such skill, it el­e­vates an ev­ery­day — i f nerve- rack­ing and po­ten­tially heart­break­ing — ex­pe­ri­ence into art. For younger book lovers, es­pe­cially those who may not grasp the mean­ing of ev­ery writ­ten word,

Look­ing for Tula pro­vides am­ple op­por­tu­nity to point out ob­jects in the de­tailed il­lus­tra­tions, from bi­cy­cles to hot- dog carts to Tula’s fa­vorite stuffed mon­key.

Grant’s Kit­ten Ca­boo­dle has more of a mes­sage or agenda than Look­ing

for Tula (namely, t hat hu­mans should spay and neuter their pets and re­frain from leav­ing them by the high­way if they can’t care for them), but it’s de­liv­ered in a palat­able, sweet story ac­com­pa­nied by Lisa Carol Wil­liams’ il­lus­tra­tions. Still, the book does not shy away from sev­eral un­pleas­ant truths and is re­fresh­ing in its forth­right ap­proach. Young read­ers will learn, for in­stance, that peo­ple some­times treat an­i­mals poorly. Tessa’s class­mates adopt two of the aban­doned kit­tens, and Tessa’s mom brings two to the an­i­mal shel­ter. When she re­turns home, she re­flects on the many older shel­ter cats who re­main unadopted. Late in the book, when Tessa asks why the two kit­tens they kept had to be fixed, her mother il­lus­trates cat­pop­u­la­tion ex­plo­sion via a math les­son and kit­tyshaped rubber stamps.

Both Kit­ten Ca­boo­dle and Look­ing for Tula will ap­peal to chil­dren who love an­i­mals, but es­pe­cially those who have pets at home. Each book passed muster with my res­i­dent t wo- year- old, who, like many young chil­dren, likes to hear the same story over and over again. In the case of

Look­ing for Tula and Kit­ten Ca­boo­dle, one hopes that the rep­e­ti­tion of pet val­ues will im­part the idea that our pets are fam­ily mem­bers, and we must strive to do r ight by t hem, al­ways. — Adele Oliveira

In an un­apolo­get­i­cally pet-crazy town, it’s fit­ting that two lo­cal au­thors, Paige Grant and Cather­ine Kirk­wood, chose cats and dogs as the sub­jects for chil­dren’s books that de­liver clear, age-ap­pro­pri­ate mes­sages about re­spon­si­ble pet own­er­ship and the love

and con­nec­tion we feel with our an­i­mals.

Cather­ine Kirk­wood

Paige Grant

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