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Algonquin Books
of Chapel Hill




 "Hilarious debut... delightfully punchy."

Entertainment Weekly
Nov. 14, 2003


"In his hilarious debut, Tarte - a city boy at heart - chronicles how his blissful, animal-free life took an unexpectedly raucous turn when his nature-loving wife decided to share their spacious, early 20th-century Michigan farmhouse with a menagerie of furry and feathery friends: a malicious bunny with an appetite for live wires, a homicidal turkey, a horny ring-necked dove, a trash-talking African grey parrot, and more than a dozen other quirky creatures. Through each new animal is wackier and more demanding than the last, Tarte rebels against his urban instincts and learns to love his personal zoo. After reading this delightfully punchy account, you may never look at Fido the same way again. B+."

Entertainment Weekly, November 14, 2003

"The wholly disarming story of a music reviewer's move to the country, where he gradually, inexorably gathered about him a ragtag band of animals. 'The long smooth slide from keeping one animal to housing more than two dozen amazes me as much as the fact that I'm willing to expend energy on them,' Tarte writes. He was an urban creature, ready (if ill-prepared) to take on the work of writing about reggae and world music because the chance fell in his lap. He was not so ready (though equally ill-prepared) to turn his rural Michigan residence over to a multiplying horde of insistent ducks, geese, parrots, parakeets, turkeys, cats, rabbits, and starlings. They dumbfounded him, controlled and teased him, took their share of his flesh, stole his heart. Since animals inevitably get sick, sometimes mortally, Tarte found that visits to the vet necessitated visits to the psychiatrist; his mood chemistry needed as much help as his menagerie. While he keeps the tone light, peppered with dredging humor ('Pat a hunter's hound on the head, idly suggest that one of these days you'd like to bag a dog with a .22, and expect a heated discussion.'), the author quietly suggests that animals are little packets of alien intelligence fully inhabiting their own world, which is worth tapping into. His furred and feathered companions took Tarte out of himself, gave him a satisfying flinch of pleasure, taught him to live within chaos, introduced him to the strange ceremonies of animal care. As well, they pulled his chain, broke his trust, ate up his time and patience, showed him a thing or two about violence, and died on him. His chronicle of those processes ties them all neatly together, and it sounds like love.

"'Why didn't anyone warn me?' Tarte asks about the consequences of sharing a home with animals. It's a good thing they didn't, or we might not have had this affecting debut."

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2003

"Knowing little about animals, Tarte and his wife naïvely acquire Binky, an impish bunny, at an Easter bunny fair, little suspecting that it will soon dominate their lives and lead to a brigade of other winged and furred beasts. After Binky, they get a canary, then Ollie, an orange-chin pocket parrot, whom they return because he flings his water-logged food all over their floor and accosts them with calls and bites. Then they buy a more docile gray-cheek parakeet, which makes the Tartes realize they miss their raucous friend Ollie, whom they retrieve. Gluttons for punishment, the Tartes acquire a gender-confused African gray parrot named Stanley Sue, followed by ducks, geese, turkeys, parrots, starlings, more rabbits and cats. Every day brings an adventure or a tragedy (Ollie escapes; a duck gets eaten by a raccoon) to their Michigan country house. With dead-on character portraits, Tarte keeps readers laughing about unreliable pet store proprietors, a duck named Hector who doesn't like water, an amorous dove named Howard, a foster-mother goose, patient veterinarians and increasingly bewildered friends. Tarte has an ordinary-Joe voice that makes each chapter a true pleasure, while revealing a sophisticated vision of animals and their relationship to humans."

Publisher's Weekly, August 11, 2003

"In charting how he went from the head of the household to the bottom of the pecking order, columnist Tarte (who usually writes about world music for The Beat magazine) reveals that he did not start life as an animal lover. Indifferent to his boyhood beagle and parakeet, he figured when his new wife began lobbying for a pet rabbit, it would be her pet, not his, and not too much trouble. But somehow, despite severed power cords and chewed woodwork, the rabbit wasn't enough. After a canary he received for Christmas wouldn't sit on his finger, he and his wife went shopping for a small parrot - which promptly bit him. It was all downhill from there, as Tarte's hilarious stories of the parade of animals that joined their household reveal. Cats, parakeets, ring-necked doves, ducks, geese, and turkeys all enter the author's life. Part Gerald Durrell and part Bill Bryson, this heartwarming book will find many readers among Rascal and That Quail, Robert devotees."

Nancy Brent, Booklist, October 1, 2003

"Tarte spent the first 38 years of his life as a city slicker and worked as a columnist for a reggae and world music magazine. A move to the country and his wife's growing collection of indoor and outdoor animals soon changed Tarte's column into a collection of stories about the menagerie that was taking over his life. In his words, 'Our animals have provided me with the only subject besides music that I've ever felt impassioned to write about.' This book is Tarte's attempt to explain how his life came to be controlled by the wants and needs of bunnies, cats, and a variety of birds ranging from parrots to ducks, geese, and turkeys. With the good humor and positive outlook than can come only from having infinite patience and understanding, Tarte recounds some of his trials and tribulations, beginning with the arrival of Binky, a dwarf Dutch rabbit with destructive gnawing habits. Tarte misses the lesson on the folly of impulse buying and soon acquires a parrot named Ollie, who is so cantankerous that Tarte must return him after only three days. Not only did the author and his wife relent and reclaim Ollie but they even acquired other parrots, with equally disturbing results. This light and witty diversion is highly recommended for those who appreciate the value of good humor and a positive outlook on life."

Edell Schaefer, Library Journal, October 15, 2003

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