The Human-Animal Connection

An Elephant in My Kitchen: What the Herd Taught Me About Love, Courage and Survival, by Francoise Malby-Anthony

In 2009, Lawrence Anthony, a South African conservationist, published the New York Times bestseller The Elephant Whisperer, in which he recounted his experiences with a herd of rogue elephants that otherwise would have been shot.  In 2012 Anthony died, and Francoise Malby-Anthony, a “chic Parisienne” who had fallen in love with him and joined him in caring for the herd, took over responsibility for it.  An Elephant in My Kitchen is her account of the years since Anthony’s death, and is officially book two in the Elephant Whisperer series.  In it she talks about the challenges of running the preserve as a woman, incursions by poachers, conflict with authorities, and stories of caring for lost and orphaned baby elephants, rhinos, and other animals.  It is described as a “captivating and gripping read,” and a strong addition to the annals of life lessons learned by humans from animals.

Saving Jemima: Life and Love with a Hard-Luck Jay, by Julie Zickefoose

For an account of a human-animal relationship a bit closer to home, this book tells the story of the author’s adoption of a tiny, tailless fluffball of a baby blue jay that’s sick and starving.  Zickefoose saves Jemima, and after a summer of entertaining bird antics, dedicates herself to preparing the growing bird for release into the wild.  But after release Jemima turns up with a deadly disease, and Zickefoose turns her energies to healing the bird again–this time on camera for the PBS show Nature.  Zickefoose herself is enduring heartbreaking changes in her life, and this is the story of her relationship with a feisty blue jay who helps teach her to endure.  The book is illustrated with photographs, and also with the author’s beautiful drawn and painted illustrations.

Our Wild Calling: How Connecting with Animals Can Transform Our Lives–And Save Theirs, by Richard Louv

Richard Louv’s last book was Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Kids with Nature-Deficit Disorder.  Here he delves more deeply into specifically human-animal relationships of the kind that Francoise Malby-Anthony and Julie Zickfoose describe in their books.  Through both scientific studies and anecdote, Louv explores the nature of our connection with animals, our co-evolution, and the lessons we can learn from them.  Chapter headings include “Species Loneliness,” “The Mind-Altering Power of Deep Animal Connection,” “Becoming the Grasshopper,” “Do They Love us Back?” and “Welcome to Symbiocene City.”  Kirkus and Booklist give Our Wild Calling starred reviews, and Psychology Today calls it “a game-changer.”

-Jared J.

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