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Review: Pet Sounds
Pet Sounds: New and Improved Stories From the QC Report by Quinn Cummings. Quinella Media USA. 2013. Review copy from author. It’s summer, so time for another “vacation reads” book.
The Good: Let me be honest. I am not a pet person by nature. I am, instead, the sister and aunt of pet people, and since we all live together in one house, I have had being a pet person thrust upon me. I went from no pets to three cats, a chicken (don’t ask about what happened to the others), and double digits of hermit crabs.
It is easy to write a book about pets for fellow pet people. I don’t even want to say pet lovers, because while it is clear that Cummings loves her pets, it is also clear that she is a pet-person. An animal person. Who both attracts animals, and also goes the extra mile for animals. (As Cummings explains on her blog, The QC Report, “A dollar from the sale of each book will go to Sante D’Or, a shelter on the east side of Los Angeles.” And as she explains in her book, she volunteers at a local shelter.)
Animal people are, well, like my niece who believes that any book cover is made better by the presence of an animal. (She approves of the cover for Pet Sounds.) Or people like my various friends who have pets. For example, when I read about the cat who liked to kill small creatures and bring them back as gifts, I thought, oh, Leila at Bookshelves of Doom will like this book because her cat does that. I easily thought of other pet people who will connect, identify, and laugh along with this book.
But a book for a reluctant pet person to enjoy? That is a much trickier thing because I don’t, by default, think like a pet person — well, think whatever it is that pet people think about pet stories. At first glance, it would seem that I am not the audience for this book.
And yet, Dear Reader, I LOVED this book. So, yes, you pet lovers out there, will laugh and cry (and feel good because of the contribution). But the other ones? The ones who are more like me? Who wonder why are you spending money on pet food when it could be spent on food or cardigans? Will also love this.
Because Pet Sounds is funny. Laugh out loud funny. Mark Twain funny. I kept highlighting passage after passage. It’s funny about pets, and owning pets, and what the pets do. “That is the same cat that normally treats us like roommates arbitrarily assigned by the dorm manager until sophomore year when she can move off campus to live with the cool drama majors.” “”Sometimes I think we keep [the dog] around because it comforts us humans to know that no matter what we do, we are still not the dumbest mammals in the house.” And you don’t have to be a pet person to enjoy that humor.
And Pet Sounds is also warm, showing what people will do for the animals in their lives. Not just the obvious, in terms of food and vet bills, but, well, when someone is allergic to pets and keeps them? That is dedication. And it’s educational. I understand, a bit better, the way the cats in this house act. (Though I still don’t understand the recent cat war that has resulted in George refusing to leave the basement while Miles and Gentle Hunter are all, “third cat? There is a third cat? Are you sure?”) And both those things, like humor, are just as much for us non pet people.
And Pet Sounds is also wise. “But pets exist in my experience to remind me of life’s greatest truths: stuff happens; roll with it; everything will work out; and don’t forget the water bowl.” And this may be why I loved this book so much. Because those truths are the truths I believe in yet need to be reminded about.
Two more reasons I love Pet Sounds. First, as is discussed in the Geek Mom interview of Cummings by Melissa Wiley, Cummings got the idea to collect her blog posts about her pets and make a book. She discusses the process, including getting an editor and shaping the blog posts into a book. I geeked out about that, because I love process details like that. (Geek Mom? Geeked out? See what I did there?) Second, reading Pet Sounds was like spending time with a good friend: the conversational tone, the humor, the references all had me not just nodding along but sometimes talking to the book. (For the record, the book did not talk back.)
So final verdict: a Favorite Book Read in 2013.
About Elizabeth Burns
Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is email@example.com.
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