Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America by Jon Mooallem | Book Review

Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America

Such a good book!  And this time, I actually knew this beforehand.  If you read my reviews regularly, you might know that I have a tendency to read books without a single glance at the back cover, and get surprised quite often.  But this time I had already read a chapter excerpt from the book months ago and had liked it, so I had a feeling I'd like the whole book.

The author had noticed that his infant daughter's world was filled to the brim with wild animals.  They were on her clothes and her bedding and in her picture books.  They were not, however, actually, physically present in her world.  She'd never seen anything more wild than a pet dog.  So the author set out to find out what was happening with wild animals in America, and to expose his daughter to them.

Wild Ones has three parts:  Bears, Butterflies, and Birds.  The author travels to Canada to find out about polar bear conservation efforts in a place called Churchhill, then to California to find out about butterfly conservation, and finally to Florida to learn about whooping crane conservation.  He is able to take his toddler daughter on day trips to see polar bears and butterflies, but it turned out the whooping crane set-up was too tentative to plan for with a toddler.  But that ended up totally not being the main point of the book.

Jon Mooallem did a fantastic job of remaining neutral in tone as he wrote about three different groups' conservation efforts.  I learned so much and never once felt "preached to," the way you sometimes do with these save-the-animals books.  The hubby has very, very strong opinions on stuff like this (he would say he's "anti-hippie/let-nature-run-it's-course") and I felt comfortable recommending this book to him.  It's fascinating to learn what's being done; the lengths that some people are going to in order to save some iconic species, like the polar bear.  And the author doesn't just stop with describing current efforts- he also talks about past efforts, the current outlook for the species in question, and what more or less could be done.  He talks with conservationists who are working their tails off because they honestly believe that their small group can save a whole species, and he talks with conservationists who honestly acknowledge that they're barely a stop-gap in the decline of the species.

Because Mooallem isn't a scientist himself, but a "regular folk" like you and me, this book is highly readable.  I highly recommend it!  I will warn you, though:  you might be left, like me, with a strong desire to travel to Canada to see polar bears.  :)

*I own my copy of Wild Ones.

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