Tuesday, September 22, 2020
Sept. 22, 2020

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Check It Out: Learn how animals rate, and a few things about death

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• “Animals Reviewed: Starred Ratings of Our Feathered, Finned, and Furry Friends,” by Association of Zoos & Aquariums (Timber Press, 179 pages)

When you want to buy a new refrigerator or dishwasher, it’s always a good idea to review the ratings in Consumer Reports. If you want to find a good hotel or try out a new restaurant, you’ll probably search Yelp or Trip Advisor for customer ratings and reviews. No matter what you’re looking for, there’s going to be a review for it somewhere because this is what humans do: we rank, score, like, badge and star anything and everything.

No wonder then that the Association of Zoos & Aquariums decided to jump on the rating bandwagon as well. After all, having a way to assess a new arrival could be very helpful … or very funny. “Animals Reviewed: Starred Ratings of Our Feathered, Finned, and Furry Friends” is a delightful, tongue-in-cheek collection of species ratings created by AZA and other conservation organizations.

Here’s just a sample of the wittiness. I don’t know if you remember my recently acquired obsession with beavers (here’s another plug for “Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter” by Ben Goldfarb — it’s wonderful!), but I have to share the Oregon Zoo’s five-star rating of the American Beaver: “So Much Fun — Cuts through standing water like butter. Perfect for lakes and ponds. Setup is easy, and it won’t flip. Variable speed. No mount for GoPro.” Another favorite of mine is about an animal I’ve never heard of — a Sichuan takin — but he sounds like a very interesting fellow. From the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, N.Y.: “Not As Described — Still not sure what I purchased — resembles a combination of a goat and a moose? The ears appear to be installed upside down. Climbed up on the roof and won’t come down.”

Take a look for your favorite wild animal and see if it rates enough to be included in this humorous read. For all you gardeners out there, the Slender-tailed meerkat: “Five stars — Excellent Product. Dug the holes I needed (and some I didn’t realize I needed) in an hour and a half. Bonus: haven’t seen a bug in days. Highly recommended.”

• “Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big Questions From Tiny Mortals About Death,” by Caitlin Doughty (W.W. Norton, 222 pages)

“It’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” — Woody Allen

OK. So, we’re all going to die — someday. Bummer. Well, there’s no point in getting all gloomy about it, but it might be wise to ask some questions before that day arrives. How do I make a will? How do I pre-plan for my funeral or memorial service? If I die alone in my house, will my cat eat my eyeballs?

Whether you want to admit it or not, you’ve probably wondered what Mr. Beans, your faithful, loving feline companion, would do if you kicked the bucket while preparing his dinner. You know who isn’t afraid to ask this question? Kids. And thanks to author and mortician, Caitlin Doughty, all of us can learn the answer by checking out her entertaining new book “Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big Questions From Tiny Mortals About Death.”

Doughty points out in the book’s introduction that “all death questions are good death questions,” but it’s the questions she gets from kids that are often the most provocative and perceptive. “Why don’t bugs eat people’s bones?” “Will I poop when I die?” “What would happen if you swallowed a bag of popcorn before you died and were cremated?” Doughty answers all of these and more with wit and charm. By the way, if you live alone and have cats (or dogs — it doesn’t matter), consider getting a roommate.

Jan Johnston is the collection development coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Libraries. Email her at readingforfun@fvrl.org.