Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Writers and Their Pets: True Stories of Famous Authors and Their Animal Friends

Writers and Their Pets: True Stories of Famous Authors and Their Animal Friends

Kathleen Krull
Illustrator:  Violet Lemay 
For ages 9 to 12
duopress, 2019   ISBN: 978-1947458529

Many people think that writing a book is an easy thing to do. It is not. Often writers have to write many drafts before they have a manuscript that they are happy with. They struggle with storylines, and their characters develop a life of their own. Sentences don’t flow the way they should, and words refuse to cooperate. What makes the process even harder is that writing is a solitary business and this leads to writers becoming lonely.

Thankfully, pets don’t mind if their person spends most of their day at a desk. They are there when the writer struggles with the creative process, when rejection letters arrive in the mail, and when publishers or agents are being aggravating. In short, they are the ideal companions because they offer unconditional love and support. When writers are stressed they can pet, groom, and play with their animal. Pets encourage their writing people to get out of their heads, to exercise, and to socialize. They can even serve as a muse or a source of inspiration.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning had a hard time when she was growing up. Illness and depression were her constant companions and she spent much of her time indoors “wasting away in foggy, dusty London.” Then a friend gave Elizabeth a cocker spaniel as a gift and her life took a turn for the better. Flush made Elizabeth laugh, he was happy to be at her side all the time, and he comforted her when she was afraid of something. He made Elizabeth feel safe enough that she was able to “resume contact with the outside world, through letters, and to begin writing poetry again.” Flush became such an important part of her life that she even rescued him from dognappers at great risk to her own safety.

Mark Twain also had a hard life at times and he faced the trials that came his way by using his famous sense of humor to get him through the dark times. He also had another secret weapon. Cats. Twain “was a sucker for cats.” He even went so far as to say “that animals were in many ways superior to the human race.” Twain liked to walk around with one of his many cats on his shoulder, and when one of them, Bambino, went missing he took out an advertisement in the newspaper and offered a reward to whoever brought the cat home.

Many writers over the years have had cats and dogs, but some have had less conventional pets. Alice Walker had pet chickens that she loved, Flannery O’Conner had peacocks, and Beatrix Potter shared her life with a veritable menagerie. The most famous of her pets was a rabbit called Peter, who was immortalized in her story The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

This wonderful book explores the lives of twenty famous authors in a fresh and engaging way. We learn about their private and writing lives, and we also find out how animals of various kinds enriched those lives in many ways. Readers will come to appreciate that the life of a writer is not an easy one, and that they need all the support they can get from their furred and feathered friends.