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The Meerkat Wars Reviewed By Lois Henderson of Bookpleasures.com
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Lois C. Henderson

Reviewer Lois C. Henderson: Lois is a freelance academic editor and back-of-book indexer, who spends most of her free time compiling word search puzzles for tourism and educative purposes. Her puzzles are available HERE and HERE Her Twitter account (@LoisCHenderson) mainly focusses on the toponymy of British place names. Please feel welcome to contact her with any feedback at LoisCourtenayHenderson@gmail.com.





 
By Lois C. Henderson
Published on December 25, 2011
 

Author: H.S. Toshack

Publisher: PakaMdogo Press, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-9563236-2-0


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Author: H.S. Toshack

Publisher: PakaMdogo Press, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-9563236-2-0

If you are the kind of animal lover that revels in the antics of the smaller creatures on our planet and that chooses to look beyond the attention-grabbing Big Five of the African continent, then you just might be the ideal audience for The Meerkat Wars by H.S. Toshack. This inspiring tale of how a cat helps a clan of meerkats to fend off an invading clan that wishes to take over its territory makes for a heart-pounding and insightful read, not only teaching youngsters (and those of an older generation who still are blessed with the ability to savor such writing) of the habits of these relatively small inhabitants of the African plains, but also encouraging them to empathize with others who may, in appearance at least, seem to be significantly different to themselves, especially at first sight.

The characters that comprise the cast of this tale all come to life under Toshack’s thoughtful and perceptive penmanship. Even if a child has never before heard of the strange breed of mongoose that also bears the name ‘suricate’, they are bound to warm to the author’s lively descriptions of this apparently sun-worshipping breed of small mammal that spends so much of its life underground. By starting from familiar territory, with a cat that, unbeknownst to its owners, stows away on board their Land Rover when they go on safari in the Baragandiri National Park, and who gets lost almost as soon as she arrives in the Park, Toshack cleverly elicits the sympathy of his audience, many of whom most probably have cats as pets, or who have relatives or friends who do. Sheena, despite being the pivotal figure in the story, in her position as a link between the two warring clans, provides an understandable and empathetic connection between the familiar and the unknown on more than one level. Meerkats, on her first encountering them, are as strange to her as they are likely to be for any human who has not yet been exposed to the wonderful range of creatures that there are to encounter in the African bush.

Although Toshack is, at times, inclined to indulge in a fair measure of anthropomorphism, he conveys with ease insights into not only the way of life of meerkats, but also into that of other animals that Sheena encounters in her adventures, such as porcupines and honey badgers. It comes as no surprise, then, to find that Toshack has both lived and worked in Africa, nor that he is a retired English teacher and educational consultant. Indeed, he takes great enjoyment in playing around with the English language, such as when Sheena first thinks porcupines are called ‘porcuspines’ and has to be corrected in her language usage. Toshack’s great sense of humor adds an extra bite to the ease and flow of his writing, which is complemented by numerous fine drawings by Nelson McAlister.

If you and your children become as enamored with Toshack’s and Sheena’s (she is accredited with coauthor status) story as many others have been, don’t fret when you come to the end of this marvelous semi-allegorical tale–there are two others that you should also feel drawn to read: Paka Mdogo and The Gradual Elephant.


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