April 25, 2012
Tails Are Not For Pulling
By Elizabeth Verdick
Illustrated by Marieka Heinlein
1-4 Preschool Free Spirit 24 pp.
1575421801 Board $7.95
Part of Free Spirit's Best Behavior series, Tails Are Not For Pulling is as straightforward as the title suggests. Verdick's approach to introducing little ones to the proper way of treating pets is simple. As the foundation of her approach, she asks the reader, "if pets could talk, what do you think they'd say?", introducing the concept that meows, barks and squeaks are the primary way that pets communicate. She then goes on to ask the reader, "but what does that mean?" before positing pet-friendly answers, like "fur is for petting" and "tails are not for pulling". She also mentions that pets, unlike stuffed animals, have feelings and can often get scared or angry. She advises the young reader to watch and listen to pets when they hiss or growl, because this is how animals warn you to stop. Finally, the text ends by reminding the reader that "pets are for loving, not teasing" a message underscored by an illustration of a boy and a girl snuggling with their obviously happy dog and cats. As an added bonus, the final two-page spread contains "Tips for Parents and Caregivers" on how to use the book (interactively) and how to help children be good friends to animals.
Verdick's message is clear, transcending the sometimes clunky prose and rocky rhyme scheme. Heinlein's illustrations are simple and appealing, with broad-faced kids interacting with expressive, sympathetic looking pets. Though a bit moralizing in tone, it remains an effective introduction to the proper treatment of animals and a good way to broach the topic of how animals communicate with toddlers and preschoolers.