Cover: Why the Wild Things Are: Animals in the Lives of Children, from Harvard University PressCover: Why the Wild Things Are in PAPERBACK

Why the Wild Things Are

Animals in the Lives of Children

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Product Details


$30.50 • £24.95 • €27.50

ISBN 9780674017528

Publication Date: 03/15/2005


256 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches


As [Melson] amply demonstrates, young people often seem to have a closer relationship with their pets than they do with their parents… Children, she suggests, may even understand animals better than they understand adult humans, since animals’ behavior is simple and straightforward. It…may come as a surprise to some readers just how unexplored this area of child development is… This perceptive, ground breaking account sheds valuable new light on a fascinating subject.—David Pitt, Booklist

[A] fascinating new book… Melson says the child–animal connection is underresearched, underestimated, and underutilized. It’s not that every child needs a pet, but every child benefits from exposure to animals, she says, whether it’s fish in a bowl, pigeons in a park, or zebras at the zoo.—Barbara F. Meltz, The Boston Globe

Melson has prepared a fascinating and thought-provoking book whose time has come. What varying roles do animals in the home, yard, classroom, park, and zoo play in the psychological, social, physical, and moral development of children? As Melson so thoroughly points out, scholars and researchers alike have long ignored the developmental consequences of relationships between children and animals… Melson explores the various impacts of keeping pets and effectively presents children’s use of animals as symbols in exploring, clarifying, and reflecting different facets of children’s sense of self… In this balanced look, Melson does not fail to point out the troubled side of some child–animal relationships, featuring a candid look at possible links between animal abuse and family violence and animal neglect and abandonment.—M.M. Slusser, Choice

A particular animal book recently printed is worth sharing with you. Gail Melson’s Why the Wild Things Are won’t teach you why elephants weep or why cats paint. But Melson, a professor of child development at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., will give you fascinating insights into how kids interact with pets, wildlife and livestock.—Phil Arkow, The Courier-Post

[This book is] a reminder that each generation of humans needs an environment of living things to thrive as surely as it needs oxygen and water. It is an alert, warning us to ensure that children not lose their sense of connection to other species as they grow into adulthood. Obviously, this is an important book, not only because it provides a corrective lens for those in Melson’s own field of study, but because it effectively argues for the importance of correcting the myopic vision of the culture at large.—Marion W. Copeland, H-Net Reviews

[Why the Wild Things Are] draws on psychological research, history and children’s media over a 10-year period to examine youngsters’ connections to animals and how their experiences may shape them as adults. The book also explains how caring for pets helps children develop nurturing skills… Caring for a pet is a gender-neutral responsibility and can be especially valuable for boys who may feel, rightly or wrongly, that other forms of nurturing compromise their masculinity.Pet Age

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