This is a lovely book, both the contents and the illustrations. Tracey Stewart has been an animal lover since she was a child. She eventually became a veterinary technician. She's also the wife of Jon Stewart of the Daily Show. They made headlines a few months ago when Jon retired from the Daily Show and they announced that they were buying a farm in NJ and setting up a farm animal sanctuary.
In November, my niece Amy and I attended the Farm Sanctuary Gala in NYC, which honored Tracey and Jon for their commitment to animal welfare. At the party, Tracey announced that they and Farm Sanctuary were 'getting married'. Their farm in NJ will be an official Farm Sanctuary farm animal sanctuary.
Tracey's book is beautifully and copiously illustrated by Lisel Ashlock. The text is comprised of short pieces about Tracey's experiences with animals and pieces about animal behavior. It's simply and clearly written and is easy to read. I think it's suitable for teaching children how to respect animals and how to effectively and appropriately interact with them.
She writes about the personalities of individual animals and the general nature of different species. Pigs are smart, cows are extremely maternal, turkeys are curious, goats are playful and adventurous. Most animals are very social. They grieve, they feel the same emotions humans do, they feel pain. There is no such thing as a 'dumb animal', not even in the vocal sense. She makes strong arguments, in a very nice way, for treating animals much better than we now treat them. Farm animals are the most routinely and commonly abused animals on Earth. It's wrong to accept torture and suffering as 'normal'. It's only 'normal' because humans have decided it is.
Tracey writes about cats and dogs and horses and about what their body language tells us. We need to learn to listen and watch animals. They may not speak English, but they are definitely communicating. She also writes about wild animals and birds. Their family takes part in the annual Audubon bird count each year.
My husband and I have been supporters of Farm Sanctuary since the mid-1990s. We've had two adopted cows there: the late, great Rhonda and our current dairy steer, an anomaly, Lawrence. We met Lawrence when he was less than a year old. He was such a baby that he sucked on the ties of my hoodie. Now he's huge, but sweet. Most male dairy cattle are slaughtered for cheap veal at a few weeks old or left to die (I've seen photos of them stacked up like fire wood) since they can't produce milk and haven't been bred to bulk up for beef.
You don't have to steel yourself to read this book. It's not graphic and does not go into details of the abuses of animals. It's approach is positive and hopeful. This is a book to read, to share, and to admire.