Book Review: Capyboppy by Bill Peet

Capyboppy written and illustrated by Bill Peet

Book type: picture book
Ages : all ages but probably intended for 5-8

A drawing from Capyboppy

A drawing from Capyboppy

This book tells the story of a pet capybara named Capyboppy that was kept by the Peet family during the 1960s. The story starts with teenage Bill Jr. getting a juvenile capybara to keep as a pet. Capyboppy makes himself right at home, scaring the cats, chewing on things, sleeping on the couch with Margaret Peet and swimming in the pool with Bill Jr. and his friends.

Things start to go bad when the Peets build an pen for Capyboppy out in the yard and Bill Jr. leaves for a long vacation in Mexico. The depressed capybara attacks a local kid who has come into his enclosure to feed him grass. Tommy Peet kicks Capyboppy as hard as he can, sending him to the bottom of the pool.

Eventually Capyboppy recovers from injuries sustained by the kick but the Peets determine that he is no longer a suitable pet. They end up donating him to the LA Zoo where he is put in the hippo enclosure. The book ends with Capyboppy happily eating all the hippos’ food.

Owner’s Review: FiveGreenHands_tiny
The drawings in this book are amazing. Bill Peet managed to capture ever nuance of expression that I see in Caplin’s face every day. In many ways, Caplin acts just like Capyboppy and in other ways not. For instance, Caplin loves his innertube that we got him largely because of this book. On the other hand, Caplin never chews on anything except your occasional cord. Both Caplin and Capyboppy like to sit on the couch but Caplin would never roll over the way Capyboppy is portrayed.

The lesson of the story appears to be that exotic animals don’t really make good pets. This is probably true for most people. The Peets don’t give much thought to the requirements of caring for a large, needy animal like a capybara before they get Capyboppy. They also don’t seem to take their responsibility for the animal as seriously as they should. And after Tommy kicks Capyboppy into the pool to protect the young neighbor, he spends two days doing nothing and yet the Peets do not take him to the vet or seek any veterinary help for him. That seems very irresponsible.

Even with the drawbacks mentioned, I think this is an excellent book. The drawings provide a wonderful insight into capybara behavior.

Caplin’s Review: FiveGreenPaws_tiny

It’s hard to be objective about this book. Capyboppy is my hero and the world’s most famous capybara (although I sometimes claim to have surpassed him). The artwork in the book should be in the Louvre or some similarly prestigious art museum where it can be appreciated by all and preserved for eternity.

Not only is Capyboppy my hero, he is my role model. Every pose I strike is an attempt to copy his elegant style, the sublime cuteness of his expression.

But the tragedy at the end is almost too much to endure. Sure Capyboppy looks happy in the drawing of him at the zoo but how could he be? I could never be happy if I had to go live with hippos instead of with my owner. My little heart would be broken forever.

7 comments to Book Review: Capyboppy by Bill Peet

  • sounds like a very sad book.

  • Alex

    It is, really, a very sad book. I have a great respect to Peets family, but I can not understand how could they neglect their dependent, Capyboppy. I was shocked when I read that Capyboppy was lying, not responsive, and they left him in the street, in his den, for two nights. I can not imagine Caplin’s owner leaving him outside without help.

    And it is very clear that they loved Capy dearly, so it all just does not match together. It’s more of a story of good, well-intended people who made a lot of mistakes. I am sure they cried over Capy more than any of us.

    Anyway, it’s a heart-breaking story, and, honestly, I would be cautious when giving it to the child. Though, we have to teach kids that life is sometimes unfair and sad…

  • Melanie

    I think it is possible that much of what happened in real life was left out of the book. I’m sure the true story is more complicated than this. We have communicated with Bill Peet Jr. and he is a very nice man. I think their whole family was devastated when they had to give up Capyboppy, especially Mrs. Peet.

    Here is a link to the final end of the story and it is even sadder than the book:

  • Alex

    Yes, I know the true story. Maybe you remember, we talked about it earlier? You can feel their grief – it struck me when I read the phrase “Margaret burst into tears”.

    I don’t know why I keep thinking about this story for two years since I’ve read it, and it still hurts.

  • Francine Rossi

    This is just unbearably sad. I guess it hits me more because it’s a capy, after all, folks all over the world take on exotic animals and abandon them! I am really grateful that you are sharing your life with Caplin and providing an example of what life with a wild thing is REALLY like!

    (grey Jed would be nodding wisely at this point—he lives large!)

  • […] quite impressed by the world’s largest rodent, the capybara, featured in Bill Peet’s Capyboppy.  This capybara is a bit shy; he’s resting towards the back of the frame.  Note the […]

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