Book Looks

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

More great book reviews from The Dispatch’s Nancy Gilson…

Any animal lover would surely enjoy Bulu: African Wonder Dog (Random House, 323 pages, $15.99, ages 9 to 12).

In what is billed as a true story, Ohio-born Dick Houston -- who has spent most of his adult life as a conservationist and safari leader in Africa -- relates anecdotes about a little white dog and his owners, two former English police officers.

Steve and Anna Tolan have dreamed of living in the wilds of Zambia in southern Africa but don't make the move until Steve, injured in a car crash, is placed on medical disability. The couple retire, move to the African bush and establish a wildlife center.

Soon, they adopt a part-Jack Russell terrier, the runt of a litter. They call him Bulu, or "wild dog," and he lives up to the name.

Bulu likes to survey the landscape, then dash off at the sight of an interesting creature. Anna is terrified he'll be eaten by a crocodile or crushed by an elephant.

As the couple acquire injured or stray animals, Bulu becomes a companion or protector to a baboon that had been chained up at a gas station; a pair of stressed-out vervets (small monkeys); and two orphaned wart hogs named Pinky and Perky, who learn to play with the dog.

Proof of Bulu's affability is found in the book's black-and-white photos, which show him swimming with wart hogs and cuddling with monkeys.

The chapters are written in a comfortable style that recalls the animal tales of English veterinarian James Herriot.

The Tolans are equally likable and committed to animal welfare, and their adventures have the advantage of being exotically African.Bulu emerges as a noble canine, one who thoroughly enjoys his African home and seems capable of being a caretaker to its animals.

Photographer Steve Grubman and writer Jill Davis collaborated on the book, which supplies jumbo color photos of an aardvark, a grizzly bear, a lion, a tiger, the orangutan in the title and more -- and some facts to go with them.

The real fun, though, lies in Grubman's brief anecdotes of what happened during the shoots: A kangaroo jumped over him, a hippo ate 100 pounds of vegetables in 30 minutes, he and a chimp took turns making funny faces, and a giraffe lovingly nuzzled his camera.