It’s a terrible thing to pick up a book knowing it’s going to make you cry. If you have pets and you care deeply for them, you might want to bring your tissues.

A Book for Sad Pets is told from your pet’s perspective. It’s about being a guardian and a parent to all our small friends, whether they are cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, or other critters. It’s a collective monologue and a plea for kindness and understanding. Even though we may laugh at the silly things that they do, pets need our reassurance that they are still pretty and smart and that they didn’t do anything wrong. They need stability and love. It serves as a reminder that a pet’s love is unconditional, that you are their whole world, and that they are not objects to dispose of but living, breathing, loving friends. It’s a sad reminder that their lives are brief (though not quite as brief as the book itself), and that we need to appreciate them and be gentle with them while they are with us.

A Book for Sad Pets is closer to a picture book than a graphic novel—it is told with sparse words and simple but emotionally powerful sentences, invoking both tears and laughter (but mostly tears). The art wonderfully fits the soft, pleading tone of the book. Tipping’s watercolor illustrations are lovely, the colors occasionally spilling out of frames and outlines, creating a gentle and dreamy effect. Her art fully focuses on the pets—in one frame that includes people, the edge of the panel is actually comprised of the outline of the people’s silhouettes, so that they are literally cut out of the scene. This distances the people in the panel from the reader, allowing the reader to effectively empathize with the fear and anxiety of the rabbit in the pet shop display. Blank space is also used very effectively, creating pause and asking the reader to meditate on what they are reading, and to fully absorb the sentiments.

A Book for Sad Pets is appropriate for teaching children about taking care of animals, but also serves as a good reminder for adults as well. It’s perfect for someone who has just brought home a new pet, or for when you are mad at your pet for breaking or chewing on something of yours. It allows you to take a breather, re-contextualize the situation, and remind yourself that their perception of what happened is different, and they likely don’t know that they did anything wrong. It’s a reminder to be kind. After reading this, you will want to hug your pets extra close.

A Book for Sad Pets
By Kristin Tipping
ISBN: 9781941250341
Uncivilized Books, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

  • Maria Aghazarian

    Past Reviewer

    Maria Aghazarian is a librarian at Swarthmore College and the Lower Merion library system, in the stretch of southeastern Pennsylvania otherwise known as the “greater Philadelphia area.” Her love of graphic novels started with manga in middle school, but exploded after graduating college when she learned that superheroes aren’t the be-all and end-all of comics. She aims to support small and independent presses, and manufacturers of sturdy bookcases.

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