Bookworm: ‘Piglet’ – The story of a deaf, blind, pink puppy

Presidential stories and  an interesting perspective-shifter

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Columnist

Adult books about pets by various authors

  • By various authors
  • c.2021, various publishers
  • $15.95-$30, various page counts

You owe a lot to your best friend. Pandemic life wouldn’t have been the same without that furry face or those big, loving eyes. Having that silky fur to caress was like therapy; slobbery kisses were a good bonus. Yep, you love your pet so why not read about him, too? Why not look for these great books ... ?

Adult books about pets by various authors.

For the person who absolutely adopts, “The Puppy No One Wanted” by Barby Keel (Citadel, $15.95) is the book you want. It’s the story of Teddy, a sweetheart of a pup who had problems. Once he was brought to rescue, Keel worked with him and tried to find a loving home for him, but it wasn’t easy. Can a scairdy-cat puppy find a happy ending?

Here’s another rescue story you’ll love: “Piglet: The Unexpected Story of a Deaf, Blind, Pink Puppy and His Family” by Melissa Shapiro, DVM with Mim Eichler Rivas (Atria, $26.00). It’s the tale of a tiny pup, the family that loved him fiercely, the home he almost didn’t have, and the inspiration his story continues to offer.

When you put two dog people in a room, what do they talk about? Canines, of course, and “What Is a Dog?” by Chloe Shaw $24.99, Flatiron Books) could be one of the side-topics. This memoir is about the dogs that Shaw has loved and lost, and her journey toward loving herself, both linked in a soft tale that’s devastating and beautiful.

For the young animal lover, try “Rez Dogs” by Joseph Bruchac ($16.99, Dial). This tale, told in verse form, is about Malian, a young girl who’s visiting her grandparents on the Wabanaki reservation when the pandemic hits. All travel is suspended and so she’ll have to stay, but how can she help them stay safe? With the help of a dog, of course, and your 7-to-12-year-old will be glad.

Did you ever wonder why you share your house with another species? In “Just Like Family” by Andrea Laurent-Simpson (New York University Press, $30.00), you’ll see how Fluffy came to the family room, Bosco came to bed, and both enjoy sharing more of our lives than almost any other companion animal in history. This is a fascinating, science-and-sociology-based look at our deep, deep love for our pets, and animal lovers shouldn’t even try to resist.

And finally, for anyone who doesn’t automatically think “dog!” when someone mentions pets, there’s “Why Peacocks?” by Sean Flynn (Simon & Schuster, $27.00). Yes, it’s the story of peacocks – not one, but three of them – and Flynn’s enjoyment of his backyard buddies. Think that’s the whole story? Nope: Flynn also takes readers on a journey to learn about peacocks, where they’re found, and who else loves them ...

If these pet-based books don’t quite fill the bill for you, then you’re in luck: there are lots of great books out there, waiting for you. Just ask your favorite librarian or bookseller for exactly what you want. Don’t you owe it to yourself?

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Presidential history books for adults

  • By various authors
  • c. 2021, various publishers
  • $27.99-$30, various page counts

That bumper sticker on your car is never coming off.

The one beneath it won’t, either, but that’s okay. In a way, they serve as a kind of political history for you, going back a number of years, but wouldn’t a book be easier? Yeah, it would, so revisit history with these great books:

Readers who’ve been around long enough to remember when John Kennedy was assassinated will want to read “Kennedy’s Avenger” by ABC News correspondent Dan Abrams and David Fisher (Hanover Square Press, $27.99) because this book takes readers past the first shock of that week and into the second one: the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV. Abrams and Fisher then write about Jack Ruby’s trial, which happened sometime later and isn’t usually something covered by the history books. It’s fascinating all the same. This is the perfect read for conspiracy theorists, twentieth-century historians, and fans of law-based stories.

Presidential history books for adults.

You almost can’t understand John Kennedy’s presidency without first knowing about his father, Joseph. In “The Ambassador: Joseph P. Kennedy at the Court of St. James’s 1938-1940” by Susan Ronald (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99), you’ll read about Roosevelt’s America; Great Britain, pre-World War II; and about how Joseph Kennedy wrangled himself an appointment to one of this country’s most prestigious, highest-regarded ambassadorships to England. Hint: it didn’t go well at all. Don’t you just love a good scandal?

Speaking of a good scandal, look for “Watergate’s Forgotten Hero: Frank Wills, Night Watchman” by Adam Henig (McFarland, $29.95). It’s the story of the then-24-year-old night watchman who was on guard duty the night the Watergate Hotel was broken into: his life, his struggles, and what happened to him in aftermath of the news-making crime. Wills, the only African American attached in any way to the Watergate scandal, was the one who called the police. They arrested five burglars, and the rest is history ...

And finally, relax a little and read a Presidential love story inside “The Man I Knew: The Amazing Story of George H.W. Bush’s Post-Presidency” by Jean Becker (Twelve, $30.00). Becker, you may remember, was Bush’s Chief of Staff and she begins her story the “morning after” Bush was “fired” by the American people, losing his seat in the Oval Office to Bill Clinton in November of 1992. Becker was there that day, and she writes about how the former President dealt with the disappointment, and the optimism that allowed him to turn the setback into a chance to benefit others, over time. Becker remained close friends with the former President until the end of Bush’s life; because of that accessibility, this deeply personal peek inside the lives of the elder Bush family is an absolute joy to read.

Ah, but you want to know about some other guy in the White House, and you’re in luck: kindly ask your favorite bookseller or librarian for help. They’ll guide you toward the book you need about the guy you voted for (or not). To begin, just get in the car ...

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“Maiden Voyages”

  • By Siân Evans
  • c.2021, St. Martin’s Press
  • $28.99, higher in Canada; 368 pages

What would you do if you won the lottery? Pay some bills, splurge on a vehicle, perhaps. Eliminate a school loan, donate to charity, and then take a vacation, maybe a cruise to somewhere exotic. That’d be a nice change although, as in “Maiden Voyages” by Siân Evans, ocean travel used to be a chance to change lives.

A hundred years ago, if great-grandma wanted to travel overseas, whether for immigration or pleasure, it’s likely that she had one option: she went to a coastal port, bought a ticket or got a job, and boarded a ship. It took planning and guts and sometimes weeks, but there was simply no other way to transverse the ocean then.

Once there was a time when it was rare to find a woman on a ship; aside from the occasional captain’s wives, stowaways, or gender-hiding adventure-seekers, few crews tolerated a feminine presence. By the turn of the last century, though, women were not only welcome on ocean liners, but they found employment there, assisting the growing number of seafaring ladies who may or may not have brought their personal maids.

One of those stewardesses was Violet Jessop, who started her career in 1908, at the age of twenty-one. Born in Ireland and raised in Argentina, Jessop went a-sea to support her siblings and her widowed mother. Her career might have lacked attention, if not for her experiences on the Titanic and the Britannic, both of which sank, both of which Jessop survived.

Evans writes that women who supported the troops in World War I changed the world of work when the Great War ended – and they changed the way the Royal Navy operated. Ocean-going women were the reason formal luggage was invented. They helped escort new immigrants to new opportunities. And they were there bringing glitz and glitter, amusement and scandal to both sides of the ocean...

In a nearly-instant world where we can often have things seconds after we decide we want them, “Maiden Voyages” is an interesting perspective-shifter.

How it shifts will depend on how the reader approaches this book.

First, there’s the travel aspect: author Siân Evans writes of protracted journeys that, depending on the traveler, could mean weeks of tight quarters, tainted food, and zero amenities – all information that’s surprising in its inclusiveness here. You can expect to be told of the opulence and prestige and the wealth aboard the ocean liners, but she also relates the realities of the steerage passengers. That puts the whole idea of early-twentieth-century ocean travel into very sharp focus.

On the other hand, there’s the history, as Evans tells of determined women who went to work at a time when most women didn’t, doing jobs they often had to forge themselves. It’s a fierce chapter in women’s history, and you’ll be impressed.

Be aware that this book sometimes dives a little too deep and you may need to come up for air sometimes. Still, if you love unique peeks at history (and vacations!), “Maiden Voyages” hits the jackpot.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.