The Washington Post

Books: ‘Unlikely Friendships’

For a period of time last weekend, the ninth-most-popular book on, out of all the thousands of books on, was the cutest widdle thing you ever saw, yes it was, because of all the itty-bitty facey-waces and the whisker-poos and especially the snuggle-muffin babies with their teeny feet.

The book is called “Unlikely Friendships.” It depicts 47 incidents of inter-species affection, such as the cover image, in which a wee little rhesus monkey gently rests his head on the back of a white dove. Or the male pit bull who allows a flock of chicks to use him as a raft in the swimming pool. A raft! In the swimming pool! A pit bull and baby chicks, are you hearing this?

The author of this magnificent tome — whose official release date is listed   as July 1; Amazon has been shipping early — is Jennifer Holland, a Washington-based senior writer for National Geographic. “I’m normally writing about critters that are harder to love,” she says. Frogs and insects, mostly; toward the end of the month she’s traveling to Vietnam for a story about the use of poisonous venom in pharmaceuticals. “It’s normally a more biological perspective. Not so much the ‘Awww’ factor perspective.”

In this book, which you must have, there is a pygmy goat clambering on top of a hippopotamus, a leopard snuggling a dairy cow and a horse gently nuzzling a fawn. Holland says there are also words, but we did not notice them as on Page 127 there is a big picture of a greyhound and an owl curling up on the couch to watch television.

It turns out these adorably improbable pairings are a whole subgenre on Amazon, the reading equivalent of taking a Xanax, guaranteed to gently stroke your brain into calmness. Our literary selves say we want Junot Diaz. We really want a gorilla cradling a bunny.

When Holland checked the Amazon rankings last week, “Unlikely Friendships” was down in the 2,000s, which is a logical place for a work from a small press (Workman) with a small marketing launch and no plot to speak of, although it does offer a cat licking an iguana. After its meteoric weekend rise, the book dropped slightly in the rankings. It’s currently No. 25, though topping science and wildlife rankings.

Some sort of a psycho-socio-anthro-ologist person would probably look at this book and say that it has nothing to do with cuteness and really symbolizes how, deep down, humans want to see beyond differences. That we believe that love comes in many forms, and that we all can really get along if we just look past surface differences, much like the elephant on Page 4 that is best friends with a sheep. They cuddled and napped together!

Meanwhile, this article was supposed to review the book, but I forgot.

Wait, here: Awww.

Monica Hesse is a staff writer for the Post Style section. She frequently writes about culture, the Web and the intersection of the two.



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