Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Critter Critique: The Smile Of A Dolphin

Today's book is non-fiction and it is about animals....so that means I've got a Critter Critique, just for you. This book was also picked up on one of my trips to the local library.

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The Smile of a Dolphin
Remarkable Accounts of Animal Emotions
Edited by: Marc Bekoff
Foreword by: Stephen Jay Gould

The Smile of a Dolphin was published by Discovery Communications, Inc. (Discovery Channel).  Jane Goodall, and many others with successful publications and awards for documentaries and television programming.

The Smile of a Dolphin: Remarkable Accounts of Animal Emotions

This book is full of stunning photographs of a great variety of animals. Each page features a photograph and writing. These passages are each a bit of info and a retelling of an experience. Who are they written by? Some of the leading minds in the field. PhD scientists, founders of various academic programs and foundations, biologists, professors....it goes on and on. About 49 different people and their animal experiences. Science has always been careful of relating animals to emotions. Animals are just animals after all and we can't be anthropomorphizing them. These different accounts though, go to show that there's much more to so many animals than we know. They even suggest that animals show various emotions and reactions towards certain stimuli.

The photographs are beautiful and there's so much information. I was so fascinated with all the experiences these scientists have had. The animals range from different species of dolphins, lizards, dogs, chimpanzees, baboons, whale sharks, rats, elephants, sea lions, guppies, hyenas, mongooses and even snakes. The emotions range from joy to grief to anger in scenarios like social structure, mating and bonding in family groups. There are 4 sections and each section covers one group of emotions. Within each section are 1-2 pages for each experience. So it is very easy to find points to break while reading and to set a good pace. Lots of these experiences made me want to learn more about different animals as well as see what kinds of work the scientists have done. It'd be neat to find some of their award winning documentaries too.
The introduction segment makes it feel very...scientificly geared and for those who have an idea of the way science has treated the possibility of animals having emotions. I thought it came across as too...pretentious? As if the book was planning to go over the heads of laypeople, but once you get down to the reading of the main part, its not difficult to comprehend or understand at all. Their case introduction is just a bit awkward to me. I see what they're trying to say, but overall I find it overdone and way too much. Keep it simple and straightforward please! Readers will love you all the more for it.  

This book is delightful for those who love animals and those who love really good photography. It would make a really nice coffee table book or a great conversation starter. Bringing up one of these experiences could probably open up a whole lot of conversational possibilities for people into animals. I give it a 4 out of 5. 

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