cover image The House of a Million Pets

The House of a Million Pets

Ann Hodgman, , illus. by Eugene Yelchin. . Holt, $16.95 (263pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-7974-6

Animal lover Hodgman ushers readers into her basement “barnyard,” home to finches and canaries, three guinea pigs, a large three-legged rabbit and two smaller bunnies (one of whom growls), a prairie dog, a hamster and 26 pygmy mice. Also in residence are two miniature dachshunds (one's breath “smells like thousands of dead lobsters”) and three cats. After introducing her menagerie, the author offers a hodgepodge of anecdotes about past and present pets, plus tips on caring for an assortment of animals. Some of the information shows a light touch: she lists the “worst things my dogs have eaten” (including a boxed, wrapped and hidden handmade Christmas ornament; underpants; and the head of a dead mouse), discusses names her pets have been given (relatives object to her daughter's naming a hamster Mary) and offers tongue-in-cheek directions for cutting a rabbit's nails “in thirteen impossible steps.” But only hardcore enthusiasts will be interested in the author's details of cleaning out her mice's cage and ailments of various pets and their treatments by the vet. Those who do share Hodgman's devotion to animals, however, will be swept up by her breezy style (“Ducks do not belong inside a house. Most people probably know this already. But it took me six ducklings' worth of training before I learned it myself”); for these readers, the book will be a ticket to, er, hog heaven. Ages 8-up. (Sept.)