I was taken in by the adorable cover of the upcoming book How to Hold Animals by Toshimitsu Matsuhashi. I thought it would be a whimsical and helpful guide to holding animals for kids. It is designed for kids and adults, written by several Japanese men (a pet shop owner, a veterinarian, a reptile handler and a wildlife photographer) but I cannot describe it as very whimsical.
I was able to read a digital Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of the book from the publisher. After reading it I can’t say that I recommend it.
I actually really felt bad for the animals in many of the cases. It focuses mostly on the specific animals these men seem to encounter, with a major focus on reptiles and bugs especially. It starts with a little blurb about how children should be encouraged to hold animals but I don’t even agree with this. There’s really no reason a child needs to learn how to catch and hold a dragonfly, butterfly or other insect easily harmed by being held.
The kids never restrain them or pinch their wings shut like this book demonstrates. There’s also no reason a child needs to learn how to hold a dangerous animal that has painful bites, kicks or stings (or in the case of prairie dogs, is one of the best ways to still catch the plague in the United States!).
I’m just baffled as to why I would want to teach my kids how to catch and hold a scorpion, a monitor lizard or an alligator snapping turtle. Many of the descriptions tell kids that the animals are likely to bite and it will be painful or there will be a lot of bloodshed.
The end section has animals that are especially dangerous like anacondas and crocodiles. It tells kids not to hold them but it has pictures of the author holding them all and still gives advice about how to do it.
I liked the section featuring the vet the best. Those animals struck me as typical pets (rabbits, dogs of different sizes, cats, hamsters, etc.) and it was good advice about how to hold them to treat them as a vet, how to not get injured, and how to make them feel safe.
The wild sections and the exotic pet sections seemed far more exploitative of the animals and just left a bad taste in my mouth. If the book featured the vet then I’d probably give it 4 stars, but that was only a short section and the other sections really seemed unwise, unsafe and sometimes inhumane.
Yes, kids can learn how to grab insects and reptiles in the wild and hold them without hurting them, but how many attempts will it take before they get the knack, and how many creatures will they harm (and bites and stings will they incur, in some cases) before they get it down? It’s not necessary. Leave wildlife alone and take a picture, or just watch them and let them be on their way.
How to Hold Animals (affiliate link) by Toshimitsu Matsuhashi is expected to be published November 3rd 2020 by Scribner. While I would recommend the vet section for helpful information for holding pets (and an injured owl), I have serious reservations about the advice pertaining to capturing and holding wildlife.
I read a digital ARC of this book for review.