When it comes to living in a new neighbourhood, getting acquainted with neighbours seems to be a top priority, so author of bestseller Sad Animal Facts Brooke Barker makes friends not only with human neighbours, but also, most importantly, with two crows and a Eurasian jay. Based on the fact that crows can memorise a human face, the “Friendship Station” built on Brooke and her husband’s balcony in Amsterdam consists of their passport photos and just enough nuts to keep the avian friends visiting every morning. Crows take a liking to some humans, and “gossip” about their faces, just like many of us do. Brooke’s illustrations are playful and lively reminders that we can always find our wild half out there in the forest (or wetland or ocean). It’s truly consoling that there is an animal who understands, and whose life we can relate to. Next time when you feel all alone in the world, read Brooke’s sad animal facts and find out who will be in the wild that might squeak or growl “I know that feel bro!”
While the law of nature keeps pushing the boundaries of our friends in the animal kingdom, your books are riveting and give us insights to see nature differently through your lively drawings and humour! How do you come up with the idea of illustrating sad facts about animals and their babies?
I’ve always loved animal facts, especially the sad ones. No one talks about how amazing it is that elephants only sleep two hours a night, and polar bears mothers go eight months without eating, and how koalas are only social for fifteen minutes a day. It’s nice to know that if you’ve had a long day or are going through a weird mating ritual, there’s an animal who understands. But no one liked hearing sad animal facts at work or at parties, so I started illustrating them instead.
What do you enjoy most when doing a book?
My favorite part of these two books has been the research. I love reading studies and animal books, and now that I’ve been in the business of sad facts for a few years, editors, researchers, and zoologists will send me new information that they discover. Some animals are truly a walking (or flying or swimming) sad fact, and no matter how many I learn I’m still surprised. One sad fact about the books is I always seem to learn an incredible new fact just when it’s too late to put it in the book, and I have to save it for the next one.
Do you have dogs/cats or any animals at home? Please tell us one quirky fact and one sad fact of them.
I’ve wanted a dog for the last decade, and this month my husband and I finally adopted one. His name is Kip, and I think he was worth the wait. Kip’s past life didn’t involve any tooth cleaning, so a week after we got him he had to have 27 teeth removed at the dentist. A quirky fact is that if we’re gone for a few hours, sometimes he’ll take one of my pens or notebooks into his bed to snuggle with. I guess maybe they smell like me.
Have you had a fun encounter with animals when traveling?
When we were in Amsterdam last year, our neighbourhood was full of crows. Crows can memorise a human face they like or dislike, and are even able to describe that face to other crows. I really wanted these birds to like us. I built a “Friendship Station” on the balcony with passport photos of us and a pile of nuts — and by the end of our time in the Netherlands we were friends with two crows and a Eurasian jay who would come and visit us every morning.
What’s your beloved project/product/book/tv show/movie with an animal theme?
I just watched the first episode of Tuca and Bertie, the animated series by Lisa Hanawalt. Tuca and Bertie are two birds who are best friends, but they’re also sort of people, they wear tennis shoes and have day jobs. I’m obsessed with keeping track of the ways the characters are more animal or more human: in the first episode there was a chase scene and I kept whispering “Can’t you just fly and catch them?” I guess they don’t fly.
What are the top three instagram accounts about animals that you follow?
I follow so many animal accounts! Three of my favourites are:
The American Museum of Natural History @amnh — They post photos of animals I’ve never heard of, with stories and facts I’ve never heard.
Paige Davis @pythonpaige — She rehabilitates and cares for a huge menagerie of birds of prey, and has great videos of them.
The Dogist @thedogist — All my brain really wants is beautiful photos of cute dogs.
To find out more about Brooke and her works, please visit the instagram @sadanimalfacts
All images provided by Brooke Barker