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Book Review: Capybara: The World’s Largest Rodent

Capybara: The World’s Largest Rodent (Super Sized!)
by Natalie Lunis

Book Type: Juvenile, non-fiction (ages 4 -8)
Date of publication: 2009
Publisher: Bearport Publishing

Synopsis:

Topics covered include:

  • A Really Big Rodent
  • Wet, Grassy Homes
  • Big Teeth
  • Noisy Groups
  • Bringing Up Babies
  • Extra-Large Enemies
  • Everybody into the Water!
  • Sneaky Swimmers
  • Rodent Ranches

The book’s format is that each left-hand page contains up to about 80 words of text and one to three small photos with the opposing page having a single large photo on the same topic.

Interior page of Capybaras: The World's Largest Rodent

Interior page of Capybaras: The World's Largest Rodent

Owner’s Review:

This book is more for the lower end of the age range rather than the higher. The text is informative, as far as it goes, which is not very far. All of the data is correct, the layout is nice and the photos are wonderful. In fact, I’d buy it for the photos alone. But I don’t think the text is entertaining enough for very young and it is not informative enough for the older children.

Caplin’s Review:FiveGreenPaws_tiny

I liked this book. As my owner said, the photos are really great! There is one of a capybara jumping into the water that is just the perfect action shot. The photo of the jaguar looked just as fierce and terrifying as those awful cats really are. And photos of the baby capys with their moms were so sweet. I also liked the way the little facts were framed in capybara fur. There wasn’t much text but what it said was a pretty good description of us capybaras.

Book Review: Capybaras: A Natural History of the World’s Largest Rodent

Capybaras: A Natural History of the World’s Largest Rodent by Rexford D. Lord

Book Type: Technical, Natural History
Date of Publication: 07/2009
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press

Review_CapybarasNaturalHistory

Synopsis:

This is a technical book requiring the reader to have a general familiarity with biological concepts and techniques as well as a familiarity with anatomy. The chapters are:

  • General Characteristics of the Capybara
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Natural History, Ecology and Behavior
  • Diseases, Parasites and Hazards
  • Census and Population
  • Conservation and Management
  • Case History: A 10-year Population Study

The entire book, including appendicies, is 159 pages, although the pages with color plates are not counted.

Owner’s Review:  GreenHands3

Since I have a degree in biochemistry and have done graduate work in biology, I have the appropriate background to understand and interpret the technical data in this book. But still, I was surprised by the amount of actual data verses meaningful analysis. And many of the points are repeated in several chapters, giving the already thin volume an air of desperation to fill its pages.

I did learn several interesting facts. I learned that the smaller capybaras in Panama and Colombia are actually considered a separate species, making two capybara species rather than one. I also did not know the extent to which capybara populations have plummeted through most of their range due to overhunting. Some of the information on predation and disease was also interesting but much of the disease section was inconclusive and probably wouldn’t even be of much interest to a vet.

Much of the book focuses on capybara management in the llanos of Venezuela. Of interest in these sections was the large number, and large percentage, of capybaras “harvested” each year. But most of this would be useful only to a rancher in that region.

The photographs are interesting but not the striking images I would expect someone who had spent 10 years studying these animals to have taken. The cover photo is a good example of this. It’s not a bad photo but it is not a great one either.

On the whole, the book was a bit of a disappointment, especially as there is so little information about these animals available.

Caplin’s Review:   GreenPaws2

Reading this book made me so glad I am a pet capybara and not one living in the wild or on a ranch. Apparently, the life expectancy of a capybara on an Hato in Venezuela is only 1.5 years! And those are the capybaras that have it easy!  The photograph of a baby capy being sprited away by a caracara was especially disturbing. And the story about a male capybara randomly picking up a baby with his teeth and killing it! How horrible is that?

He did cover some of our nicer aspects though. Mother capybaras will nurse any young in their band, not just their own babies. Capybaras form a protective circle around the young to protect them when threatened. And he mentioned what excellent swimmers we are.

I didn’t even bother to look at any of the charts ortables of data though. That stuff bores me. I have to rely on my owner to tell me if there’s anything important there.

Book Review: Hooway for Wodney Wat

Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

Houghton Mifflin Company, Houston
Copyright 1999
Ages: preschool – grade 2

Book_WodneyWat

Synopsis:

Wodney Wat is a shy rat who cannot pronounce his r’s, a serious affliction for a rodent. His classmates in an elementary school attended apparently by only rats but taught by a guinea pig, make fun of him so Wodney (actually Rodney in case you didn’t get it), almost never speaks. One day a new rodent joins the class, Camilla Capybara, who is large and smart but also aggressive and careless toward the lesser rodents. Wodney and his classmates are all scared and jealous of Camilla, and like most youngsters, they dislike her because of her differences. When the young rats and Camilla go outside for recess, Wodney is inexplicably chosen (you’ll remember his classmates don’t like him either) to lead the game of Simon Says. Wodney mispronounces everything, for example saying “Wake the leaves” instead of “Rake the leaves.” The other kids all understand him because they know about Wodney’s problem but poor Camilla Capybara takes him literally. When Wodney tells everyone to “go west,” Camilla heads off in the sunset never to be seen again. This makes Wodney the class hero.

Owner’s Review: OneGreenHand

I think the message of this book is that some differences should be tolerated (Rodney’s speech impediment) while others should not (Camilla’s size and the fact that she is a different species). I don’t think this is the book’s intent but it can certainly be read that way and a fair percentage of readers are bound to see it, even if only subconsciously.

Another thing I disliked about this book was that it doesn’t show Rodney striving to overcome his speech problem. My son had this exact problem when he was the age of the average reader of this book and through hard work and speech therapy, he learned to pronounce his r’s correctly. Obviously not all disabilities are treatable, for instance my husband is a paraplegic and we find it really annoying when people say you can overcome that type of injury by trying harder. But this is one disability that can be corrected if treated early enough and that message is totally missing from this book.

Caplin’s Review: OneGreenPaw

I got so excited when my owner said we were going to read a picture book about a capybara! I love pictures and I love capybaras, what could be better (besides yogurt)? But why did the rats pick on that poor little capybara? She was at a new school, just trying to make friends. It’s always hard when you don’t know anyone and everyone else is friends with everyone else and they won’t even talk to you. Especially if you’re a little different like Camilla was in this story. Maybe she just knocked those kdis over because we capybaras have our eyes on the sides of our heads so be don’t have binocular vision.

And the illustrator drew Camilla as big and ugly and the rats as cute and small. I can’t help how big we are. And anyway, plenty of people think I’m cute. Do you really have to be small to be cute? At the end of the book I had to wipe the tears out of my eyes as my poor cousin walks off and is never seen again while all the little rats celebrate. I hope Camilla found her way home and I don’t blame her for never going back to that school.

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

Synopsis:
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.