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Friday, March 29, 2013

Artful Reader’s Club Review: “My Wild Kingdom”

“My Wild Kingdom” by Marlin Perkins
This autobiography is an interesting insight to the man that most know for his television program “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom”.  He was also the director of the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago from 1944 until 1962, when he became the director of the St. Louis Zoo until his retirement in 1970 (tho he stayed on there as Director Emeritus until his death in 1986). 
Besides being an autobiography of the man himself, it is an interesting insight into the practices of early zoo keeping.  The ideas of ‘conservation’ in the 30s, 40s, and even 50s are a far, far cry from what we now know. 
Written in first-person narrative, you feel as tho you are sitting in his office listening to him tell you about his fascinating life.  His folksy yet formal style of storytelling is just like you heard him speak on “Wild Kingdom”.  
It’s a fun nostalgic read for those of us who are “baby boomers”.
However, I chose this book for my March review for a very personal reason.
I knew Marlin Perkins.  Oh not in a ‘go over for dinner’ kind of way (don’t I wish!) but nevertheless, in a sweet way that typified the man.
I was ‘that kid’ who read every book I could get my hands on that was about animals.  Seriously…I read the entries in the World Book encyclopedia.  Growing up near St. Louis meant we made a lot of trips to the zoo.
Being Mr. Perkins was a very hands on type of zoo directors, one would see him walking about the zoo grounds, often with distinguished guest but also sometime by himself.  One of those times he was by himself I spotted him.  Being the 5 or 6 year old animal lover I was, of course “Wild Kingdom” was one of my favorite shows and he was my hero.  I was SO excited to see him.  My parents encouraged me to go tell him “hello” but I lost my nerve about 10 feet from him.  When he noticed this little kid gazing at him, he smiled and motioned me to come closer.  I’m not sure how our conversation started, but at some point I told him I knew EVERY animal in the zoo.  So he asked me about the critter in front of us. 
“That’s easy!  That’s a Bactrian Camel!”
Then I proceeded to tell him everything I knew about that camel.  After spending a few minutes with him, my folks gave me “the signal” that meant it was time to leave Mr. Perkins alone and come back over to them.  As I skipped off (on air!), he told me he looked forward to seeing me again sometime. 
Several years later (I was about 11 this time), his wife Carol was speaking in my little town as a fund raiser for her new wolf sanctuary.  My parents were going out for the evening but they arranged for my sitter to take me to her lecture.  Mrs. Perkins spoke about a recent trip to Australia and at one point in the slide show she asked the audience if anyone know what animal she had on the screen.  No hands went up.  I leaned over to my sitter and whispered “It’s a dingo.” 
And the sitter raised her hand and made me tell what it was.  Mrs. Perkins looked at me for a moment and asked if I would come down and talk to her for a moment when the program was over. 
When we walked down to her later, she smiled and said “Teri?” 
I nodded ‘yes’.
Her smile grew broader as she said, “So you're the one.  Marlin wondered if you’d be here tonight.”
I tell you, I could have just burst with happiness!  (And my sitter about fell over with shock at me being ‘known’ by a famous person.)
That ‘friendship’ lasted until I married and moved away.  Every time I went to the zoo, I was looking for a very particular grey head in the crowd.  The times I saw him, we would exchange greetings and small talk; usually about something to do with the zoo but sometimes I’d tell him something about me too.
Marlin Perkins passed away in ’86 and it was a sad time for me. 
Many years later in 2005 while on a road trip, Himself and I passed thru his home town of Carthage, MO and visited a memorial to him. 
And more years later I took Little Bird to see his statue at the Marlin Perkins Plaza at the St. Louis Zoo.  I am so looking forward to showing her and Little Hoss the zoo, and teaching them all about the creatures who live there.
And telling them about a sweet man named Marlin, who loved the animals too.
For my art piece, I digitally altered photographs I took while in Kenya.  I used the "neon" and "HDR" aps to get this look, then put them together using the 'collage' feature.  The animals pictured are:
Top row: Impala, Giraffe, Zebra
Middle row: Cape Buffalo, Elephant, Wildebeest
Bottom row: Leopard, Rhino, Lion


  1. Thanks for the recommendation. I'm always looking for good books to read.

  2. Oh how perfect. I used to live near Carthage, MO, and had no idea there was a statue of Perkins there. This truly IS a small community.

    I was thrilled that you had the chance to become friends with Perkins. I never saw Wild Kingdom, but I heard (or possibly read) about him after his death. And your digital depiction truly makes it a WILD, wild kingdom!!

  3. I so enjoyed reading your review and your personal recollections of the man. Wonderful times. Your digital artwork is stunning, especially as you have taken the photos yourself. A worthy tribute to a much loved and admired zoo pioneer.

    Janet xx

  4. What a lovely story to tell!
    And your art is pretty cool! I can imagine it being a postcard to be sold at the zoo. Well done! ♥

  5. I might have to read this one, only if for the fact that it is written in the first person. I haven't read much writing that makes the tense really work, and the idea of an autobiography written in present tense truly intrigues me.

    And the art, is colorful and warm. The pictures? Sweet!

  6. ohh this made me well up a little, such a wonderful story and wow such memories. I am so glad you had this man in your life and that he was such a positive influence.

  7. Oh that story brought a lump to my genuinely lovely :)Thank you for sharing. Your digi art is amazing...I particularly like how the Cape Buffalo came out :D XXX

  8. What amazing memories you have, sounds like a wonderful man!

  9. This is a lovely review to read, and the personal connection makes it even better. It sounds like an interesting book, even if in the UK we have not heard of the writer or the TV programme. Your digital art is so effective, and such a different way to see the animals portrayed. It's lovely. Had a nice time here!

  10. I just LOVED Marlin Perkins...we watched Wild Kingdom every Sunday after dinner. He had such kind caring for all animals. Thank you for the great 'neon' expression of your photos.

  11. So enjoyed reading your review, such wonderful memories. Your art work is so striking.
    Jen x

  12. Great review, and it was wonderful to hear your personal stories. We're reaching a new generation of Wild Kingdom fans with an iphone app and web-series and we hope to create many memories as good as these!

    Wild Kingdom Team

  13. Beautiful review Teri... loved hearing your wonderful story too... and fabulous take on the artwork... loved what you created...

    Jenny ♥

  14. Your personal story relating to the book was really lovely and interesting to read. I can certainly see why you chose to have this book on your reading list. Great artwork to go along with your review too.

  15. What a lovely blog post - your affection for this man really comes across strongly - love your artwork too

  16. What a beautiful way to honour your personal relationship.


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