July 2, 2020

Book Review: Pets and Their Famous Humans

Pets and Their Famous Humans Book Cover Pets and Their Famous Humans
Ana Gallo
Prestel Junior
April 21, 2020

In this charmingly illustrated collection of pet-related stories children will find out about some of history's most important scientists, artists, writers, and musicians and their beloved animals. Did you know that Mozart's pet starling was the inspiration for his Piano Concerto No. 17? Or that writer Dorothy Parker loved animals so much she let a pair of alligators swim in her bathtub? These are just a couple of the stories in this delightful and surprising collection that profiles the strong bond between humans and their pets. Some of these stories are touching: Frida Kahlo memorialized her pet deer Granizo in her painting The Wounded Deer. Some are a little quirky: Albert Einstein, convinced that his parrot, Bibo, was sad, told bad jokes to cheer the bird up. Each of these wonderfully entertaining stories is made even more appealing by Katherine Quinn's captivating illustrations. Rich in detail and reminiscent of folk art, they capture the humor and poignancy of these fascinating pairings. Together these stories and illustrations will create lasting impressions that will help young readers identify historic figures and spark joy in friendships with the animals in their own lives.

Pets and Their Famous Humans is a lovely gift book, perfect for any animal lover. While the majority of the pets are either cats or dogs, there are some birds, a deer, and two crocodiles added to the mix. The crocodiles belonged to writer Dorothy Parker, the deer to artist Frida Kahlo. While some of the pets, like Freud’s Chow Chow, are well-known, some may not be as familiar, like Charles Dickens’ raven, Grip, or Albert Einstein’s parrot, Bibo. 

Each person gets two pages, one a painting of that person with his or her pet, and another page describing the pet and its relationship to its famous owner. Then there’s a short paragraph on the person’s notable accomplishments. The illustrations are wonderful, and there’s just enough information describing the pet. 

It’s a beautiful book on many different colors of paper, and that presents a problem. As pretty as the colors are, they aren’t always the best background for the black type. I don’t like to have to strain to read, so it might have been better to stick with the lighter colors for background.

I have only one other minor quibble, and that’s in the section on Isaac Newton. The author has paraphrase a quote, but has put it in quote marks. The original quote is easily attainable online and it was a bit jarring to read the paraphrase. 

My complaints are minor compared to the beautiful presentation and the interesting pairings of pets and people. Anyone on your gift list will enjoy this charming book for both the text and the illustrations.


Review by

Susan M. Ewing
Past president, Cat Writers’ Association
Past vice-president, Dog Writers Association of America
Award-winning author, 14 animal books
“Cats! Train Your Owner” (Flash Cards)
Numerous magazine articles
Pet columnist

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