by Dr. Linda Elder
Kathy Abney, illustrator
Foundation for Critical Thinking
From Website: This is the story of Fairminded Fran and her experience in learning about community cats (also known as feral cats). On her journey Fran hopes to convince Selfish Sam to help with the cats. But Sam cares only for himself. She also asks Naïve Nancy to get involved. But Nancy doesn’t want to make waves, so she always goes along with the crowd. Join Fairminded Fran as she learns about cats that live outdoors and that can’t usually be tamed. Learn important facts about community cats. Think about how their numbers affect the earth. Think about how we can work together to humanely stop the spread of community cats and reduce suffering. Think along with Fairminded Fran.
First Sentence: Fairminded Fran is walking behind her school one day when she sees three small black cats hiding under a dumpster.
“Fairminded” Fran notices three small black cats under the dumpsters at her school. Concerned because they will not come over to her when called, she asks around school if anyone else has seen the cats. Teachers, students, and the principal all say they have not seen the cats. Fran wants to help the cats but she is not sure how to do this. The next day she tries calling the cats, again they run from her. Fran thinks the cats look hungry and scared and may have been looking in the dumpster for food. Since no one is feeding them, she believes the three cats must not belong to anyone.
Fran tries to enlist her friends to help. Selfish Sam thinks Fran is silly to care about the cats. His father thinks cats are a nuisance and Sam seems to agree. “Whenever I see one, I kick it out of my way,” he said to Fran. Fran’s friend Naïve Nancy thinks it would be best for Fran to not get involved nor is Nancy willing. Nancy thinks people should mind their own business and not make waves. Undeterred, Fran brings five cans of cat food to school for the three cats. Together with her teacher, Fran places the open cans near the cats. All three run away, scared.
Mr. Moseby, Fran’s teacher, explains feral cats (or community cats) to Fran. He tells her most of these cats are born outside to a mother who also lives outside and probably always has. They are afraid of most everything having never been socialized. Because food is difficult to find, and the many outdoor dangers, feral cats do not live a long life. The three small black cats Fran found by the school dumpster cannot be tamed. Feral kittens must be rescued by age ten to twelve weeks for this to be possible and these three cats look too old. Mr. Moseby checks around school to see if anyone has been feeding the cats and finds that the janitor, Dan, fed the cats when they were very young but thinks they can fend for themselves now that they are older. A cat rescue organization speaks to the students. Will this be enough to change minds and help the three small feral cats?
I was excited to get this book to review. Being a cat person who lives with a couple different cat colonies Fairminded Fran seemed to be the perfect book to get across my pet peeve (pun intended): cats should be living as indoor cats ONLY and only go outside supervised and leashed.
Fairminded Fran is as much about critical thinking as it is about feral cats. Three characters represent three types of “thinkers.” Naïve Nancy doesn’t care about her thinking, believing it best to leave things as they are and not get involved. Selfish Sam is good at thinking but he is always thinking about himself, causing him to be unfair to others. Then there is Fairminded Fran. Fran is also a good thinker and she tries to be fair with others. Fran tries to see all sides of an issue to make an informed decision. While I appreciate the lesson in critical thinking, I do not think kids will pick this up. Despite a two page explanation of each character’s thinking patterns, kids are going to see this as a book about feral cats.
Fairminded Fran does a nice job explaining what feral cats are and the plight they face living outdoors. Thus far, all the research points to TNR programs as the best approach to containing and lowering the feral cat population. TNR means Trap-Neuter-Release. Getting these cats neutered stops the influx of kitten births. Since these cats are almost impossible to tame, returning them to their natural home is the best thing for the cat. These cats live in colonies, protecting each other and finding food together. Moving cats to a new area breaks those colonies up and puts the feral cats at a higher risk of starvation, harm, and other dangers that would lower their already low life span.
Out door cats, feral or community cats, live an average of two years. This includes the pet that is allowed to wander around all day, coming in and out as it pleases. Indoor only cats (including those that go outside on leashes), live an average of sixteen years. Quite a difference. Many of the feral cats were once pets that either never made it back home or were thrown out to fend for themselves, often when they get pregnant. Neutering cats (and dogs), is very important. Unless you are an official breeder, there is really no reason not to neuter your cat or dog. Doing so is actually better for your pet’s health.
Okay, enough of my soapbox. I like Fairminded Fran. It tells a good story in a manner that makes sense. Great information about feral cats is given along the way. Plus, by bringing in a cat rescue worker to the students, the author slips in even more great information about these community cats. Why is feral and community interchangeable? Feral cats live in colonies in one specific area. That area is the cats’ community and the community is responsible for the welfare of those cats. One person or a group of people can TNR, feed them, care for them when sick, or simply keep an eye one them and call someone when help is needed. It is a community effort to care for these unfortunate creatures.
I think Fairminded Fran is a good book for the school library. Teachers can use the book on a lesson about animals, caring for others less fortunate, thinking critically and with empathy, or as the story time book. Critical thinking can be taught in the schools. I know because most of my undergraduate classes revolved around critical thinking, even the statistics class. In the lower grades, where learning critical thinking would have the most benefits, teaching this is nearly impossible for teachers due to the tests students must now pass to move on. Teaching to these tests have, in my opinion, strangle teachers, not allowing them to use the skills they spent much time and money learning. It is a shame so many wonderful teachers are not being able to use their full abilities. Until they can use the skills and teach beyond the tests, critical thinking will not occur in the school. That leaves this up to the parents.
Fairminded Fran is a wonderful book for all cat lovers. It is great for the classroom and at home. Not much has been written for kids about feral cats, making Fairminded Fran a one-of-a-kind book. The story is a nice read as a bedtime story or a story time read. Children as young as second grade will understand this story when read to them. It will also spark some great conversations. Isn’t that what a good book should do?
To read Dr. Linda Elder’s interview with Kid Lit Reviews, click HERE.
by Dr. Linda Elder website facebook Kathy Abney, illustrator info Foundation for Critical Thinking website Released in 2012 ISBN: 978-0-94458-347-0 52 pages Ages: 7 and up . Copyright (C) 2012 by Foundation for Critical Thinking, used with permission. Text: Copyright (C) 2012 by Linda Elder Illustrations: Copyright (C) 2012 by Kathy Abney
.LIBRARY DONATED BOOK
- It’s a cat fight over feral feline colony on Salem’s Chemeketa college campus (oregonlive.com)
- Fairminded Fran and the Three Small Black Community Cats (irenewatson.typepad.com)
- Feral cat populations can be controlled (Video) (examiner.com)
- Feral cats captured, cared for and released (kgw.com)
- Women Leaves Her Estate To Charity That Helps Feral Cats (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
- Celebrating World Spay Day (petcarerx.com)
- Cats on Deck Launches New 59 Square Foot DeluxePLUS Outdoor Cat Enclosure (prweb.com)
- Black Dog and Cat Syndrome Awareness Month (longislandpress.com)
- Black cats less likely to be adopted, euthanized more frequently (metronews.ca)
- Becky Robinson: Trap-Neuter-Return: The Best Approach to Feral Cat Management (huffingtonpost.com)