A sidebar to a true story of fox-domestication experiments in Siberia is presented in this picture book.
For 60 years, Russian scientist and co-author Trut has been involved in the genetic experimentation on the domestication of foxes, and this picture book tells a story of her relationship with one particular fox named Pushinka. Pushinka lived in “Lyudmila’s” home in Siberia, as did her pups after they were born. Dugatkin and Trut’s feel-good story (accompanied by uninspired photos that trot along in a predictable manner) omits the less-uplifting facts. The majority of the foxes used in the domestication experiment live in small wire cages in sheds, and each year the friendliest, as determined by human-administered tests, are selected to breed. The ones not selected are sold to fur farms to become pelts. In addition to selectively breeding foxes for friendliness, Trut also selects and breeds the most aggressive foxes to create hyperaggression in order to study the biology of domestication. Perhaps the most egregious misrepresentation, though, is the schmaltzy attribution of Pushinka’s domesticated behavior toward Trut as the result of love. One day Pushinka barks to warn Trut of an intruder: “Foxes DON’T bark! But love, you see, changes us”—an assertion that ignores the very science that created Pushinka’s behavior: the product of decades of selected breeding, not love. Also, foxes do bark.
A whitewashed account that gravely misleads readers. (additional information) (Informational picture book. 5-8)