“Capyboppy” by Bill Peet. How many people who say they love this book have actually read it? カピバラ「capyboppy」の物語

Capyboppy

Capyboppy. Photo by Bill Peet

 

Bill Peet, aged (I’m guessing) about 17, persuades his parents to let him have a Capybara as a pet. Capyboppy arrives, and immediately settles in, acting for all the world as if he owns the place…easily the most important member of the family. He chews everything and terrorises the cats, but his captivating charms ensure he wins the hearts of the family. Bill’s mother is particularly captivated, she pampers him with showers in the morning and in the evening he sits on her lap and watches TV with the family. At weekends he plays with Bill’s friends in the swimming pool, the centre of attention.

 

Capyboppy Hates Being Banished to This Shed at Night. No Capybara Should Ever Sleep Alone at Night. In the wild they would be surrounded by their herd.

Capyboppy Hates Being Banished to This Shed at Night. No Capybara Should Ever Sleep Alone at Night. In the wild they would be surrounded by their herd.  Drawing by Bill Peet.

 

The only part of his daily ritual he doesn’t like is when he is dispatched on his own to the garage to spend the night alone. Capybaras are exceptionally social animals, and a capy in the wild would never sleep alone.

 

Capyboppy on Bill's Mother's Lap, Looking So Happy, Loving the Attention.   Drawing by Bill Peet

Capyboppy on Bill’s Mother’s Lap, Looking So Happy, Loving the Attention. Drawing by Bill Peet

 

When summer comes Bill goes away with some friends. The parents, finding that a wild animal can make a slightly unruly pet when its closest friend abandons it, decide to make an enclosure for Capyboppy in the garden where he can spend the summer. Banished from the house, and the socialising he needs, he becomes depressed.

 

"These Plants Are Tasty"  Drawing by Bill Peet

“These Plants Are Tasty” Drawing by Bill Peet

 

One day a young boy, a friend of the family, comes over to visit and goes out to feed Capyboppy some grass. In his confused and depressed state Capyboppy bites him. Bill’s younger brother gives Capyboppy a ferocious kick which sends him to the bottom of the swimming pool where he stays a considerable time. Eventually he surfaces and crawls to a patch of grass where he remains motionless.

The family ignore him despite the fact that he has suffered a serious wound as a result of the kick. No effort is made to check up on him or to take him to a vet, even when he has not moved at all for hours. Two days later the family belatedly wonder if he is still alive!

Although the boy who was bitten does not in any way hold Capyboppy responsible, the family decide they can no longer keep him and he is sent to a zoo. Despite the obvious signs that Capyboppy is being bullied by the hippos who share his enclosure, the family leave him there. The book ends at this point. Capyboppy is eventually attacked and killed by a guanaco. This all takes place in the 1960s.

 

Capyboppy Enjoying His Shower

Capyboppy Enjoying His Shower. Drawing by Bill Peet

 

Bill Peet went on to do artwork for Disney, and his talent as an artist can be seen in the many excellent drawings featuring Capyboppy, which completely capture his engaging personality and his exceptionally expressive capybara face.

 

Capyboppy enters his new home. The cats are terrified! Capyboppy completely ignores them.

Capyboppy enters his new home. The cats are terrified! Capyboppy completely ignores them. Drawing by Bill Peet

 

I enjoyed the first half of the book, but overall I found it deeply depressing and I am stunned that so many people claim to like it and recommend it for children.   Perhaps they only remember the first part of the book, the happy times for Capyboppy.    Otherwise they cannot possibly be true animal lovers.

 

Capyboppy loves swimming with Bill's friends. He is the centre of attention.

Capyboppy loves swimming with Bill’s friends. He is the centre of attention. Drawing by Bill Peet

 

The moral of the story: if you are going to have a pet and most especially if you are hoping to turn a wild animal into a house pet, do your homework. Make sure you understand its needs and be certain you will still find it enchanting when it grows out of its small, cute baby phase. Most of all, are you the sort of person who will act responsibly and always put your pet’s needs first, before your own needs and desires.

The Peets appear to have given little thought to Capyboppy’s emotional well being as he grew older and larger; ultimately abandoning him to his fate at the zoo in LA despite the warning signs that the hippos with whom he shared the enclosure would never provide him with the companionship he desperately needed.

 

"This Handbag Is Tasty"

“This Handbag Is Tasty”. Drawing by Bill Peet

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

13 thoughts on ““Capyboppy” by Bill Peet. How many people who say they love this book have actually read it? カピバラ「capyboppy」の物語

  1. This is, indeed, one of the most sad stories I’ve ever read. To be completely honest, I would call it a story of betrayal. I read this book a few years ago, and it still hurts when I think of Capyboppy.

    Like

    • I completely agree with you Alex. It is a completely heartbreaking story of betrayal.

      It makes me cry just thinking of Capyboppy when he was kicked and then left for 2 days suffering before anyone went to see how he was. When the family took him to the zoo and abandoned him there they don’t appear to have cared at all about his happiness.

      Like

  2. I had not read the book, but had heard the story, and that poor Capyboppy had a very sad end to his life. How anyone could treat an animal like that is beyond me. As for making money from the story, he should be ashamed of himself. He should donate the money to a rescue, or to research on individual animal welfare. I certainly won’t be buying the book.😦

    Like

  3. This makes me really sad. I hope that Capybaras can stay wild. If they must live in domestic settings they need a whole herd of Capybara companions.

    Like

  4. I am a zookeeper who cares for, among other animals, a herd of capybaras. I was both horrified and completely heartbroken when I read Capyboppy (recommended to me by a zoo guest, who clearly hadn’t read it or, as you suggest, didn’t remember anything beyond the first half of the book). How Bill Peet could publish this story of betrayal and promote it as a children’s book is absolutely beyond me!

    Like

  5. I Googled– apparently the Peet family today recognizes that Capyboppy’s story was a tragedy, though they don’t seem to recognize any responsibility for Capyboppy after he became a “problem”.

    http://www.billpeet.net/PAGES/capy.htm

    I came across this story because of a recent news story about abandoned pet capybaras posing a possible ecological threat in Florida. I looked up Bill Peet because my first reaction to seeing a picture of a capybara was “That’s a wump!”

    Like

    • Thank you very much for that information. I’m glad the Peet family realise how heartbreaking capyboppy’s life was, but as you say I don’t understand how they can not take responsibility for what they did to a poor sweet innocent capybara who never asked to come and live with them. And I’m afraid this tragedy is played out frequently when people get capybaras as pets and then realise that they cannot cope with a very large animal who needs to mark his or her territory with urine and faeces.

      I saw that news post about capybaras becoming an invasive species in Florida. My reaction was that a journalist was capitalising on the popularity of capybaras after they stole the show at the Rio Olympics after appearing on the golf course. The 3 herds of capybaras which I know of in Florida, including the herd near Gainesville which was owned by the Bacardi family, have all disappeared. I’m told that some of them are murdered by hunters. And of course there is no comparison with nutrias who do a lot of damage burrowing. Elizabeth Congdon, the professor who is quoted, did her thesis on capybara dispersal on a farm in Venezuela. I rather doubt she really believes they will become an invasive species, but if there is the slightest chance I would move to Florida in a flash!

      Thanks very much for the link. As you can probably tell I am passionate about capybaras!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s