Review of “Animal Wise” by Virginia Morell

I wish this book could be assigned reading for everyone! Not only is it absolutely wonderful with never a dull moment, but it is full of fascinating and important information about the ways in which animals have been proven to be sentient, intelligent, and emotional beings, having self-awareness, fears, pains, ties to family, and a love of fun and play. They also sneak, connive, strategize, and combine with others to achieve goals. Given our common genetic and evolutionary heritage, we should realize that they have a lot to teach us about our own behaviors, just as we should not find it so strange that our own behaviors can provide clues about theirs.


Some examples of the great developments in animal research you will learn:

  • How scientists figured out that bowerbirds have an artistic sense of perspective;
  • How they know if animals recognize themselves in mirrors;
  • The vocabularies of a certain breed of dogs and how they can even pick out objects after seeing two-dimensional pictures of them on paper!
  • Fish sing to communicate! We just can’t hear them without special instruments.
  • Rats giggle, and love to be tickled; they also feel pain, and other emotions that make them questionable research subjects.
  • Why elephant poaching makes a worse impact than even just the killing;
  • And how PTSD can make young elephants grow up to be delinquents.

I could go on and on. This is a book I listened to in the car, and I was grateful for Bluetooth so I could call Jim (hands free) every five minutes and say “WAIT till you hear THIS!” He listened to it after I did, although one wonders why he needed to after all my phone calls.

The narrator, Kirsten Potter, is terrific. She did her homework on pronunciations, and added just the right inflections and voice changes for different scientists profiled in the book.

Evaluation: Don’t miss this book!

Rating: 5/5

Published unabridged on 9 compact discs by Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc., 2013


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11 Responses to Review of “Animal Wise” by Virginia Morell

  1. sandynawrot says:

    Gah! I must read! You know how I love my animals. The Nawrots are observers of animals. My brain would probably explode from this one.

  2. Yes, I have audio issues, but this sounds like one I must try!

  3. Charlie says:

    It does sound fascinating. I’m amazed by the fact about dogs, though maybe that’s because my dog doesn’t seem too intelligent. And the fish, wow, I’m wondering if there’s a recording (if possible) out there to listen to.

  4. BermudaOnion says:

    Boy, does this sound good! I can still remember the first time Milou spotted herself in a mirror when she was a puppy. She wanted to play with that puppy! She loved watching animals on TV and would bark at them!

  5. Rita K says:

    will have to get this one for the trip!!

  6. That sounds exactly like a book I would love! I’m going to see if my library has it.

  7. Yay! My library had an online audio copy available that I checked out and am downloading right now. 🙂

  8. Richard says:

    I got so dog tired just reading this review that I felt pretty sheepish afterward. Ok, no more monkeying around–here’s an “unwise animal” anecdote for you, Jill. When I was growing up, our otherwise super friendly and much beloved family dog used to bark out of all proportion at men who were wearing hats: postmen, delivery men, random truck drivers, etc. One day my dad came home from somewhere wearing a baseball hat for a change. Rather than appreciatively greeting him as usual, our dog started barking at him–presumably because of his hat disguised–and then seemed to LOOK EMBARRASSED when she realized who the guy in the hat was. I’m not making this up. I don’t pretend that the story will be of any real interest to anyone outside our family, but I think it helps prove the idea that animal wisdom comes in many shapes and sizes. 😀

  9. I do believe that this is one that I must listen to!

  10. stacybuckeye says:

    Will this make me upset? I tend to get overly emotional about the plight of animals.

    • Stacy,
      No, this is nothing like Old Yeller! LOL My reaction was to be filled with joy over reports of the growing recognition of the mental and emotional lives of other beings!

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