The Tarantula in My Purse and 172 Other Wild Pets (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)

The Tarantula in My Purse and 172 Other Wild Pets (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)

by Jean Craighead George

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Humorous, heart-warming, and just plain entertaining, these stories by Newbery Medalist Jean Craighead George recall what life was like as she raised three children and 173 wild pets. On any given day there might be a bat in the refrigerator, an owl in the shower, or a crow at the kitchen table. Jean Craighead George's respect for nature and its many creatures is


Humorous, heart-warming, and just plain entertaining, these stories by Newbery Medalist Jean Craighead George recall what life was like as she raised three children and 173 wild pets. On any given day there might be a bat in the refrigerator, an owl in the shower, or a crow at the kitchen table. Jean Craighead George's respect for nature and its many creatures is evident in all of her writing. Here, she offers a personal, firsthand account of the many animals that made their way into her life and her books.

1996 'Pick of the Lists' (ABA)
1996 Children's Books (NY Public Library)

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Sherri Byrand
This book's subtitle "and 172 Other Wild Pets" may leave some people wondering about the contradiction it presents-if something is wild, then it's not a pet, and vice versa. To her credit, the author touches on this issue. Moreover, several of the stories in this book do not have happy endings. For instance, when George doesn't properly tether the kestrel and a crow comes to harass him, the kestrel flies away still attached to his leash. The beautiful bird is doomed if the author can't rescue him. Sadly, she does not find him. The cycle of love and loss introduced in this book may disturb some children. The first story is an especially difficult one because it also interjects a betrayal of trust between parent and child. The author promises the daughter that if she opens the window to let her beloved owl outside, he will come back; instead, the bird flies off into the night and never returns. The tale ends there; it may have been preferential to learn how trust was regained between mother and daughter, or if it wasn't lost, why. The book presents another obstacle for the younger members of its intended audience as it jumps back and forth in time, often without solid lead-ins; for instance, although the owl disappeared forever in the first story, he shows up in the next story without any explanation as to the time setting other than a vague "one spring." The book gets rolling when it introduces the family's crows, adding fun and interesting asides about other crows and information on their habits. The book is at its strongest when the author discusses the animals as beings that let us see another world through their eyes.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 3-6Transporting tarantulas in a purse may not be the norm elsewhere, but in the George household there's nothing unusual about it at all. A robin in a teacup, an owl in the shower, a bat in the refrigerator...all perfectly ordinary for a family of animal lovers. Noted for her environmental fiction and animal stories, George also shows readers how entertaining real life with wild creatures can be in this delightful autobiographical tale. Continuing a tradition started by her father, the author raised every sort of wild animal right alongside her own children. In a time when "anyone was free to bring home the earth's creatures to nurture and think about," George certainly did. Told in a casual and thoroughly engaging manner, the stories will enchant all animal lovers and even those who aren't. The integration of little-known facts will pique further interest as well. Equally entertaining for adults and children, these brief, amusing vignettes make wonderful read-alouds to share with the whole family.Lisa Wu Stowe, Great Neck Library, NY
Kirkus Reviews
Over the years, George (There's an Owl in the Shower, 1995, etc.) and her three children moved a lot, but wherever they went they gave succor, shelter, and affection to a succession of injured or homeless wild creatures, from ferrets to falcons, spiders to salamanders, bats to box turtles. A screech owl who had fallen from his nest became a TV and toy-train addict in the Georges' care before his eventual return to the wild. Another time, a friend brought a duck egg and a goose egg to the Georges, both of which hatched into birds that grew up convinced they were people. The story nearly ended in disaster when the goose and duck were arrested by a local police officer for disturbing the peace, but George, as usual, came to the creatures' rescue. The book is brimming with similar stories, all narrated with humor and warmth, and all of which will show George's many fans yet another aspect of her life and work.

Product Details

San Val, Incorporated
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
8 - 11 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Screech Owl Who Liked Television

Twig's favorite pet was a small gray screech owl. Had he not fallen from his nest before he could fly, he would have lived in the open woodland, deciduous forest, park, town, or river's edge. But he had landed on a hard driveway instead and ended up in our house. He was round eyed and hungry. He looked up at Twig and gave the quivering hunger call of the screech owl. Twig named him Yammer.

Yammer quickly endeared himself to us. He hopped from his perch to our hands to eat. He rode around the house on our shoulders and sat on the back of a dining-room chair during dinner.

Before the green of June burst upon us, Yammer had become a person to Twig, who felt all wild friends were humans and should be treated as such.

Wild animals are not people. But Twig was not convinced. One Saturday morning she and Yammer were watching a cowboy show on television. They had been there for hours.

"Twig," I said, "you've watched TV long enough. Please go find a book to read, or do your homework." My voice was firm. I kept the TV in my bedroom just so the children wouldn't be constantly tempted to turn it on as they had when it was downstairs.

Reluctantly, Twig got to her feet. At the door she turned and looked at her little owl. He was on top of the headboard, staring at the screen. A rider on a horse was streaking across the desert. From an owl's point of view the pair were mouse sized.

"How come Yammer can watch TV and I can't?" she asked, pouting.

Hardly had she spoken than Yammer pushed off from the headboard, struck the prey with his talons, and dropped to thefloor, bewildered.

Twig rushed to his rescue. She gathered him up and hugged him to her chest. With a scornful glance at me, she hurried to her room. The small owl's round yellow eyes were peering from between her gently curled fingers.

Twig was right: This otherworldly creature was a person. Wasn't his menu of mice and crickets included on the shopping list? Didn't he have his own bedroom in the gap between the Roger Tory Peterson field guides in the living-room bookcase? Didn't he run down into the cozy blanket-tunnels made by Twig at bedtime and utter his note of contentment? And didn't he like TV just as she did?

Most scientists are taught not to read human emotions into animals, but sometimes they wonder about the truth of it. When you live with animals, they often seem quite humanlike.

Later that morning of the TV incident, I looked in on Twig and Yammer. The owl was perched on the top of her open door, preening his feathers. She was sitting with her chin in her hands, looking at him.

"I feel sorry for Yammer," she said. "He's stuck in this house. He needs to see things that move like they do in the woods."

"So?" I said.

"So, I've finished my homework and made my bed. Can Yammer and I watch TV?"

I heard myself whisper, "Yes."

Lettin Yammer Go

When I told Twig she could watch TV that day of the cowboy incident, she stood on her desk and held up her hand to Yammer. He stepped onto her finger. As she climbed down, she touched his toes and the talons curled around her forefinger.

I wish I had Yammer's feet," she said. "Then I could sit on the teeny tiny branches of the apple tree."

Suddenly her brother Craig shouted, "Road Runner's on."

"Yammer loves Road Runner," Twig said, and dashed to the TV in my bedroom. Yammer flapped his wings to keep his balance, and the two joined Twig's brothers, Craig and Luke, before the television. Luke, not quite four, patted the pillow next to him.

"Put him here," he said. A chord of music sounded, lights flashed, and all eyes-particularly Yammer's-were riveted on that zany bird running on and off the screen.

Second to Road Runner was Yammer's love for the shower. He would fly into the bathroom when he heard one of us turn on the spray, sit on the top of the shower-curtain rod to orient himself, then drop into the puddles at our feet. Eyes half closed, he would joyfully flip the water up and into his wings and dunk his breast until he was soaked. A wet screech owl is as helpless as an ant in an ant lion's trap. Having bathed, Yammer couldn't climb out of the tub. We would have to pick him up and put him on a towel by the hot-air vent to dry.

This was a perfectly satisfactory arrangement until we failed to tell a visitor about Yammer's passion. In the morning, unaware of his quiet presence, she showered, stepped out of the tub, and left him there. It was almost noon before we discovered him.

Craig promptly put up a sign: "Please remove the owl after showering." It hung over the shower faucets for as long as Yammer lived with us.

Yammer was devoted to Twig. He sat on her shoulder at breakfast, flew to her hand for food when she whistled for him, and roosted on the window-curtain rod of her room when he was not watching TV.

Meet the Author

Jean Craighead George is the author of over eighty books for children and young adults. Her novel Julie of the Wolves won the Newbery Medal in 1973, and her novel My Side of the Mountain was a Newbery Honor Book in 1960. She has continued to write acclaimed picture books and novels that celebrate the natural world. She lives in Chappaqua, New York, and has had over 173 pets in the time she has lived there, among them geese and ducks.

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