cover image This Side of Wild: Mutts, Mares, and Laughing Dinosaurs

This Side of Wild: Mutts, Mares, and Laughing Dinosaurs

Gary Paulsen, illus. by Tim Jessell. Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (144p) ISBN 978-1-4814-5150-5

Paulsen ventures into nonfiction in this anecdotal account of animals%E2%80%94pets and others%E2%80%94that have influenced him. The stories' diverse settings reflect Paulsen's peripatetic and adventurous life, beginning in Wyoming, where he acquired his first horses, on which both he and his border collie, Josh, rode ("I had never seen it before and never since, with other dogs and horses"). During an episode in the Alaskan wilderness, Paulsen recounts how a toy poodle he rescued from a shelter proved an effective, if unlikely, kind of "early-warning radar" when grizzlies were nearby. Some of the most engrossing entries portray animals' imitation of human behavior: while stationed at Fort Bliss, Tex., Paulsen met Betty, a mynah that could mimic President Kennedy, and Gretchen, a dog that lapped coffee from a mug and demonstrated a startling ability to communicate with people. Despite the astounding animal behavior, intelligence, and intuitiveness Paulsen describes, he avoids a sensational "believe it or not" tone, instead offering down-to-earth reflections on human-animal interdependence. An absorbing read for animal lovers of any age. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 10%E2%80%93up. (Sept.)