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'Why the wild things are' is the first book to examine children's many connections to animals and to explore their developmental significance. What does it mean that children's earliest dreams are of animals? What is the unique gift that a puppy can give to a boy? Drawing on psychological research, history, and children's media, 'Why the wild things are' explores the growth of the human-animal connection. In chapters on children's emotional ties to their pets, the cognitive challenges of animal contacts, animal symbols as building blocks of the self, and pointless cruelty to animals, Melson shows how children's innate interest in animals is shaped by their families and their social worlds, and may in turn shape the kind of people they will become.