Animal Place: Where Magical Things Happen

Animal Place
Illustration by Eric Sakach

By Kim Sturla

Illustrated by Eric Sakach

1994. Softcover. 44 pages. Order from UPC $9 + $2 S&H.

Animal Place, 3448 Laguna Creek Trail, Vacaville, CA 95688 (707-449-4814)

Reviewed by Karen Davis, PhD

What makes Kate finally accept spending her weekend with "a bunch of stupid animals" is her Mom promising her a stop at Hamburger Universe on the way home. So how come, two days later, the little girl skips the Saturn cheeseburger and tells her Dad and brother Joe, "I'll just have some fries"?

Can a cow really enlighten a child's universe and put her on another planet? In Animal Place: Where Magical Things Happen, this happens. Though ironically it is Joe who can't wait to visit the exciting refuge for dogs, cats, cows, chickens, pigs and the rest of the gang, it is stubborn Kate who has the illuminating experience. Her mentor--"this enormous beast with two large eyes the color of chocolate and bordered with eyelashes as long as her fingers"--is Jesse, the cow.

Like all the other animals at Animal Place, Jesse has a special story inside her. And while pouting Kate is "careful not to listen too closely, for fear she might get interested," she absorbs the fragments of information about each animal imparted by her Aunt Kim and Uncle Ned as she and Joe tour this refuge filled with "green grass and more animals than they ever believed possible√Ďall roaming around peacefully." Most importantly, Kate is subconsciously touched by a cow who, blessed with luck and courage, had managed to jump out of the truck taking her to slaughter when she was a calf.

This enchanting story is based on a real Animal Place, a nonprofit sanctuary for abused and unwanted farm animals co-founded by the author, Kim Sturla, director of The Fund for Animals office in Vacaville, CA, and Nedim Buyukmihci, a professor of veterinary ophthalmology at the University of California, Davis. The book is wonderfully illustrated in black & white and in color by Eric Sakach. It includes a glossary of key terms like "refuge" and "protect" and a biographical sketch and photo of each animal featured in the story--Jesse the cow, Betty the chicken, Venus the pot-bellied pig, and the others.

For like Kate's dream, this fiction is firmly rooted in reality. It shows, as does Jim Mason's book An Unnatural Order (1993), that while humans may not have their fellow animals consciously in mind very often in today's world, "nevertheless they are wired into some of the basic circuits of our brains. They are still alive, well, and kicking at the deepest levels of our consciousness." Animal Place is for children; An Unnatural Order is for adults. However, both books beckon irresistibly to those who intelligently desire to know and to cherish, instead of stupidly banishing and abusing, their next of kin.