Peg Kehret might be our generation’s version of Dr. Doolittle. The best-selling children’s author, who lives in the shadow of Mt. Rainier, shares her home with a dog who is deaf and two cats, one of which is blind. She uses hand signals to communicate with her dog Lucy, and she’s careful to leave a clear path for Mr. Stray to navigate sightlessly but safely between bed, food, and litter box. Her other cat, Dillon, sits on a certain sofa when he wants attention. “Body language is important in my house,” she says.
And so is cross-species empathy. This carries over into the dozens of books Kehret has written for grade school readers – many of which include animals as major characters. She has written about brave dogs, clever cats, animal shelters, zoos, and her own small wildlife sanctuary.
She doesn’t shy away from the tough stuff – some of her books tackle the topic of animal mistreatment. But her stories also demonstrate that youngsters can help make things better.
“I’ve tried to show young characters who are smart and kind and who solve their problems without resorting to violence. If kids can relate to such characters, they’re learning good life lessons.”
Kehret is pleased to report that many young readers take action once they’ve read her books.
“I’ve had hundreds of letters over the years from young readers who have been inspired to help in some way,” she says. Many have organized pet food drives. Some classes have gone on field trips to local animal shelters. One school even has an after-school club that meets weekly to knit blankets for shelter cats.
Kehret hopes her books have an impact in two ways: helping kids learn to read for pleasure, and helping them learn compassion and personal responsibility by encouraging them to care for animals.
Dr. Doolittle would be delighted!
Photo Credit of Peg Kehret and her dog Lucy by Vicki Taylor
Barbara Lloyd McMichael is our ground reporter in South King County, Wash., and author of the syndicated book review column “The Bookmonger.”