“Beast is the only pet that one dollar will buy, so Isabelle takes him home and is allowed to keep him for the purpose of scientific observation. In this day of required journals and portfolio evaluation, Carr is right on the cutting edge of pedagogy. While youngsters may not appreciate the timely nature of the book, they will adore Beast and his relationship to Isabelle’s family. The young scientist’s descriptions of Beast behavior from her notebook are straightforward and understated (“I watched him raid Dad’s closet. I wrote, ‘Likes red ties only’”) and even the tense climax, when Beast becomes ill, is gracefully handled… Words and pictures work so well together, in fact, that one recalls the totality rather than the usual experience of remembering one or the other first.” – Horn Book
“Forget the crampy confines of realism: this pet is a huge frolicking furball that naps in the chandeliers and wears Dad’s red ties…. Carr’s deadpan text captures the tone of a child’s innocent delivery as it reflects the little girl’s observations of her new pet’s habits.” – School Library Journal
“The notebook has fascinating entries: ‘Likes to nap on the chandelier. Dances to the drone of the dishwasher. Likes ketchup, moos for more.’… Beast is immensely entertaining.” – Philadelphia Inquirer
THE NATURE OF THE BEAST
by JAN CARR
Attention, young scientists!
When Isabelle finds a crisp dollar bill on the sidewalk, she decides to buy a pet. But the only pet on sale is Beast. Mom’s not happy with Beast in the house, but Dad thinks it could be a good science project. He hands Isabelle a notebook and instructs her to write down everything she observes about his behavior. “Likes to nap in the chandelier,” writes Isabelle. “Likes ketchup. Moos for more.” Beast is Beastly! Will Mom let Beast stay?
How's this for cool? Sixteen years after Beast came out, I finally got to meet the illustrator, G. Brian Karas!
WHY I WROTE THIS BOOK
I like science. I like information about animal behavior. I like keeping journals.
And I like the idea of a big, furry Beast wreaking havoc in an otherwise organized household.
Interesting tidbit: When my son was in middle school, his science class went to the zoo to observe animals. They were given strict instructions by their excellent science teacher (We love you, Clover!) to write down only observable behavior. For example, they could write, "The chimpanzee yawned." But they couldn't write, "The chimpanzee felt sleepy." That would've been subjective, something they might infer from the behavior, but not the behavior itself.
In my book, most of the behaviors that Isabelle writes down are objectively observed, "Spits on paw ten times exactly, then lathers up his fur." But the last entry, "Beast is happy," is completely subjective. And my son felt compelled to alert me to this after his trip to the zoo.
But of course a story is a story, and mine needed a happy ending.
C'est la vie!