Showing posts with label animal stories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label animal stories. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Review of The Only Clue: A Gorilla Novel by Pamela Beason

Review of The Only Clue: A Gorilla Novel by Pamela Beason: Mother Gorilla with Baby
 Image by Curtis Yancey from Pixabay 

The Open House


It was obvious to Grace McKenna that Neema, the mother gorilla, was worried and getting closer to a melt-down. She and her baby Kanoni weren't used to so many humans around.They weren't used to hearing blaring music, seeing and smelling popcorn carts, and having reporters and cameramen constantly in their faces. They really hated the smell of the portable toilets that had been brought into the area surrounding their compound for the day.

Gumu, the huge father gorilla, was the most upset of all. He had retreated to his "nest" --  a bunch of tangled blankets at the top of his two-story enclosure. Although Gumu was twice Neema's size, he was much more afraid of strangers than she was. When he was a baby back in Africa, he had watched helplessly while poachers shot the rest of his family and cut up them into pieces.

Neema, Gumu and Kanoni trusted very few humans. Grace McKenna and her staff and volunteers were about the only humans the gorillas would let get near them. Grace was studying the ability of the gorillas to learn language. Neema knew about 500 words of sign language. She could use her sign language vocabulary intelligently with humans and with her gorilla family.

The local college was funding Grace's studies, and the board had insisted on this Open House as a prerequisite for continuing their funding. Grace had a splitting headache, there were rude children teasing the gorillas, and Grace just wanted the whole event to be over.

She was glad when her boyfriend Detective Matt Finn and his helper finally ushered all the visitors out. They had volunteered to handle security for the event. Matt invited Grace to relax at his place for the night. The staff had a party on their trailer on the compound.

Back in the Gorilla Enclosures

Image by m k from Pixabay 


After the humans were gone, Neema ate some strawberries and wanted to play. She went in search of Gumu, but he wasn't in his nest. So she took Kanoni back to her own nest in the barn to see if Gumu was there. But he wasn't anywhere. Instead all she found was a big wet spot on the floor.

"Creeping closer to the big dark wet, holding Kanoni tight, she looked at the spot out of the corner of her eye. Red wet. She leaned close. Meat smell. She touched her fingers to the red and tasted the wet. Meat wet. Red meat smell. Bad, hurt, she signed."
Where was Gumu? She wondered if Gumu was meat and was never coming back. She turned to the back of the barn and saw the wall was open a crack. It had never been open before. She pushed the wall away, grabbed Kanoni, and went outside to search for Gumu.

The Next Morning


When Grace went to feed the gorillas the next morning, all was quiet in the barn. She called them to breakfast, but no gorillas came. They were gone. Someone had removed the padlock from the outside of the door. Matt began to look for evidence, since the animals could not have escaped by themselves. Then Jon Zyrnek, the staff member who got along best with Gumu, discovered the huge puddle of blood and called them all over.

Matt immediately wanted to put out an all points bulletin, but Grace nixed it. Many of their neighbors in their town of Evansburg opposed having the gorillas in their neighborhood in the first place. They had gotten out once before and they were almost closed down then. Word of the escape getting out would endanger their funding, as well.

Grace finally talked Matt into investigating the the disappearance by himself and the staff promised to keep quiet. They canceled all the volunteer shifts, saying that Jon had the flu and they'd all been exposed. They couldn't chance passing it to the gorillas.  They also made up a story about a valuable missing dog that had been at the open house. They needed to report some case involving an animal to get the blood they had found tested at the lab. Jon and Grace continued to search outside, calling and naming the gorillas' favorite foods, but no gorillas responded.

The Undercurrents


Matt doesn't like Jon because he and the volunteer staff are all part of the Animal Rights Union that has been freeing lab and other animals they believe are mistreated. They've all been arrested and Jon had served time. They had begun their volunteer work with the gorillas as a community service sentence. But they enjoyed the work so much they kept at it.

Matt is sure Jon and the others are involved somehow. The gorillas are very valuable, especially since they can sign and paint. The sale of their paintings has helped fund the work. Jon's father recently got out of prison. Matt also considers him a suspect. 

Grace is worried about whether her gorillas can survive on their own in the woods, if that's where they are. She's convinced at least one of them has been killed. When you read the book, you will also be concerned for them and wonder what happened. I couldn't stop reading.

My Review  


I recommend this book to those who are interested in the intelligence of gorillas and their ability to talk to humans. They would find the book fascinating even if there were no mystery. I read this, the second book in the Neema series, because I had enjoyed the first book so much. Now I see a third book is also available and I plan to read that one, too. I like learning more about the capabilities of gorillas. But I also like trying to solve the mystery.

I would recommend this to any animal lover who likes mysteries  It's full of not only gorillas, but also dogs and Neema's two pet cats. The human characters are believable, though Matt seems to have a stereotyped view of Jon. The animal characters are also well-developed.

I found myself looking for clues right along with the detectives. The author shows us not only what the humans are doing, but also what Neema is doing. We know just enough to hope that the story will end happily, but we still have to wonder until the very end.

You might also be interested in my review of the first book in the series: The Only Witness.






Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Monday, October 8, 2018

The Robin Revue: Watching Our Baby Robins Hatch

Oh what a show I enjoyed this Spring! I enjoyed an up close and personal seat to a family of baby robins being born. As a nature and animal lover I was in awe of two industrious robins persevering in a city neighborhood to expand their family on my front porch. I usually write reviews on Review This!, but thought this was a revue all could enjoy.


Day 1 What Is On The Porch Light?


As I drove into the driveway I noticed something hanging on the front porch light. Hmmm. The something looked like straw. Upon further investigation I determined the something was dried lawn clippings and a few pieces of string. Hmmm. The light bulb had not quite shown brightly yet.

The light bulb began to glow a wee bit brighter when hours later I drove down the driveway and noticed quite a bit of activity on the porch light; I saw a bird flying to the porch light with a mouthful of string. When I returned hours later I discovered a nicely built nest on top of the porch light. (It took awhile for the light bulb to burn brightly, some days are like that!)


I wasn't sure this would be the best place for a nest - but what do I know. I love all animals, but admit I know little about birds. At this point I wasn't sure what type of birds had built the nest as I had not gotten a good look at the nest. Although the nest looks lopsided and perhaps flimsy the nest was actually anchored around the point of the top of the porch light.

 Mom And Dad Robin Continue Nest Building


The nest became a very popular hangout for Mom and Dad Robin. I had identified the birds as robins and they must have been doing a little internal nest housekeeping with the amount of activity to and from the nest from the trees nearby. I was still questioning if this was a great place for a nest. I tried to look at the location from the robins' point of view. Yes, the nest was high off the ground and well, that was about all I could come up with ...  I thought about not turning the light on at night or what would happen if the light was accidentally turned on? I thought about the UPS deliveries, the dog walkers, the dog who lives in the home of the nest! The porch light did not seem like a great location, but of course I was vested in keeping this nest safe.

As the robins did housekeeping in the nest I found both robins quite nonchalant about the location and the bustling activity in and out the door. I was warned robins could dive bomb you if you are too close to the nest, but these two robins were pretty laid back. Until.... the eggs were laid.

We've Got Robin Eggs


Disclaimer: The photos are not always are not always the best quality as the porch light is 8 feet high and I had to get on a step ladder and then blindly hold out the camera over the top of the nest while trying not to fall off the ladder! 

One egg and Two Newborn Robins


And then there were 3 baby robins. Okay, not exactly the cutest little fuzzballs!



But growing fast!


Starting to get feathers!


Dad Robin Is An Excellent Guard


As Mom robin tended to her duties on the nest it was clear Dad Robin was not going to allow anyone near the nests. He was either in a tree about 50 feet away chirping or on this bush 10 feet away standing guard. If you opened the front door or he saw you approach the front door from the interior through the storm glass he would start shrieking and start dive bombing the door. (Dive bombing bird = not good photos!) I was so curious to see the robins, but did not want to disturb their newborn family or stress the birds. 



Taking photos of the bird nest became a two person challenge. If both birds were gone I would very very quickly try to take a photo.

The Family Of Three Robins Grows


Since I could not see what image I was taking it was always a surprise when I checked the photos.


I can't believe how quick the baby robins grew. The average baby robin takes two weeks to reach the size of their parents. The nest was quickly becoming a tight fit for the three babies.


The babies would hold their heads up and cheep cheep waiting for mom to return.


By ten days old the feathers had grown and it was difficult to find the babies in the nest with all the feathers.



I don't know if there is a runt of the litter in the bird world, but one little robin always seemed to be buried in the nest while two of the babies were adept at sticking their heads up above the nest.


Day 12 brought a nest full of what appeared to be very mature robins. By this time the family had become very territorial of the robins and anxiously checked all day to make sure they were safe. However due to their size it was clear leaving the nest was in the imminent future.

Time To Say Goodbye!


Right on schedule Day 13 brought the departure of the baby robins. I did not want to disturb the robins as we anxiously awaited lift off so did not take any photos. My family kept their distance to nervously watch the departure. It was more of a kerplunk then lift off. Thankfully the exit was a safe kerplunk into the fluffy tree and then the babies and parents flew to the tree about 50 feet away.

Whew! I was definitely vested in this little ole family and was relieved it was a successful journey from egg to exit.
Collage of the birth of baby robins.


All that was left was the nest as a reminder of our time together! As if on cue after the babies exit the nest fell off the porch light on Day 14. 






Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Meet Mr. Bear Squash-You-All-Flat: A Book Review

Why Is This Book So Popular with Children?

I first met Mr. Bear Squash-You-All-Flat when I was about seven. I was already reading by then, but Mom still read it to me. It had been a gift from my Cousin Edna, who was the first to read it to me. I liked the book so much I kept it. When my brother came along about three years later, both Mom and I read it to him as soon as he was old enough to understand it -- about three. He loved it and couldn't get enough of it. We had to read it over and over. The author, Morrell Gipson, has a real feel for what appeals to children. The illustrator, Angela, evokes just the right emotions with her watercolor paintings.

Mr Bear Squash You All FlatMr Bear Squash You All Flat


Why do young children love this book so much when it might seem violent to an adult? Young children often feel small and helpless, just like the animals who watched Mr. Bear squash their houses. They can identify with those animals who run and hide when they see Mr. Bear coming toward their homes. Then they can rejoice when Mr. Bear gets what he deserves at the end of the book. 


Encourage Interaction As You Read Mr. Bear Squash-You-All-Flat Aloud


This book is full of the repetition that children love.  Adults can help them build anticipation by asking them what they expect to happen next. Adults can make the book for fun by imitating Mr. Bear's voice as he issues his warnings. By the time the child has heard the book read several times, the adult can invite him to repeat the warning with Mr. Bear. The adult can also ask children toward the end of the book what they think will happen when Mr. Bear tries to squash the tire house. Those are just my ideas. You will think of many more ways to interact with the child you read to. 


Meet Mr. Bear Squash-You-All-Flat: A Book Review
Check Price for Mr. Bear Squash-You-All Flat
I scanned this book cover from my own copy. 


Meet Mr. Bear Squash-You-All-Flat

Mr. Bear Squash-You-All-Flat got his name because he liked to squash things -- especially the houses of smaller animals. He was too lazy to build himself a house. 

Most of the time Mr. Bear lived peacefully and didn't bother the other animals. He would sleep quietly under the trees since he had no home of his own. When the moon was full, though, all that changed. That's when he would get really grumpy and go on a house-squashing rampage and squash every house he saw. You can see how he does it on the cover of this book. (See it above.)

The Illustrations

The edition I owned almost seventy years ago is out of print. I was happy to see this new edition bring it to new generations of readers. It has the same illustrations by Angela that I loved. Although they reveal Mr. Bear's grumpiness and anger, they aren't scary. Sometimes there is even a touch of humor. The artist does a great job on the facial expressions of all the animals. You can check out more of the book's illustrations on its Amazon page by clicking to Look Inside.

The Plot

Whenever Mr. Bear decides to squash a house, he gives fair warning by stating who he is and that he intends to squash the animal's house after he counts to three. That gives the animal inside time to run away and hide. Then the homeless animal goes in search of another house. On the day described in this book, he squashes three houses. After each house he squashes, he feels less grumpy, and on this day he felt cheerful enough after squashing the third house to go take a nap. 

Meanwhile, the homeless animals discovered a very large tire and moved into it together. They were quite happy there until after the next full moon when they saw Mr. Bear approaching their new house. The baby rabbit spotted him first and ran to warn the mouse and the chipmunk. They ran to hide behind a large oak tree, hoping Mr. Bear would leave their house alone. Not a chance! I'll leave it to your imagination what happens next.

Get Mr. Bear Squash-You-All Flat for a child you love now. 



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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