Croke, Vicki Constantine
Croke, Vicki Constantine
ADDRESSES: Home—Boston, MA. Office—Boston Globe, P.O. Box 55819, Boston, MA 02205-5819.
CAREER: Journalist and author. Cable News Network (CNN), former writer and producer; Boston Globe, Boston, MA, "Animal Beat" columnist; consultant to A&E Television.
(As Vicki Croke) Cats up Close, Abbeville Press (New York, NY), 1997.
(As Vicki Croke) The Modern Ark: The Story of Zoos: Past, Present, and Future, Scribner (New York, NY), 1997.
(As Vicki Croke) Dogs up Close, Abbeville Press (New York, NY), 1998.
(As Vicki Croke; with staff of the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine) Animal ER: Extraordinary Stories of Hope and Healing from One of the World's Leading Veterinary Hospitals, Dutton (New York, NY), 1999.
The Lady and the Panda: The True Adventures of the First American Explorer to Bring Back China's Most Exotic Animal, Random House (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributing writer, Living on Earth, National Public Radio. Contributor to periodicals, including Time, People, Washington Post, Popular Science, O, Gourmet, National Wildlife, Discover, International Wildlife, and Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
SIDELIGHTS: Vicki Constantine Croke is a columnist for the Boston Globe where her "Animal Beat" has been educating and entertaining readers since the mid-1990s. She is also the author of a number of books dealing with animal-related topics. In Croke's 1997 title, The Modern Ark: The Story of Zoos: Past, Present, and Future, the author traces the origins of zoos from their baroque beginnings to the modern zoo with enlarged cages and free-roaming areas. Modern zoos attempt to reduce the feel of animal prisons, though wild animals still have a difficult time adapting to such surroundings, while zookeepers take numerous factors of animal behavior into account in an attempt to match the artificial milieu of a zoo with the animal's natural habitat. For example, bears fed several times a day with food hidden in the enclosures are not as prone to pacing as those fed in a single large meal. Still, zoo life is so foreign to most animals that they either fail to breed in captivity or over-breed out of pure boredom. As a result of such over-breeding, some 4,000 various types of contraception have been attempted on 100,000 animals in zoos around the world, according to Croke, while untold numbers of animals have been euthanized to limit populations of zoo animals. A mission for future zoos, Croke points out in her book, is to create sanctuaries for endangered species. Reviewing her book in Sciences, Laurence A. Marschall found it a "provocative and illuminating report." A reviewer for the Economist deemed Croke "nothing if not thorough" in her detailed account of zoo life.
With Animal ER: Extraordinary Stories of Hope and Healing from One of the World's Leading Veterinary Hospitals Croke takes readers behind the scenes at the Tuft University School of Veterinary Medicine's Foster Hospital for Small Animals. This hospital is the "ultimate in high-tech treatment for animals and the last hope of pet owners," according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Croke includes real-life stories of an anaconda with eating problems and a zebra that must undergo eye surgery. The Publishers Weekly contributor praised Croke's prose style, which conveys the "emotional impact but little excessive sentimentality." Booklist contributor Nancy Bent also commented on the "taut text" in this "eminently readable" account. Similarly, School Library Journal contributor Claudia Moore found Animal ER to be a "fast-moving, readable, and entertaining book."
In The Lady and the Panda: The True Adventures of the First American Explorer to Bring Back China's Most Exotic Animal Croke follows the adventurous life of Manhattan socialite Ruth Harkness, who was the first to bring a live panda to the United States. Following her wealthy husband's death during an attempt to bring a giant panda back from China, Harkness set out herself to complete her late husband's mission. She began her expedition in 1936, attired in her dead husband's outfit re-tailored to fit her. Finding a baby giant panda in China, she nursed it herself with baby bottles, and managed to get it back safely to Chicago's Brookfield Zoo, where it—and Harkness—caused a sensation. After this high point, Harkness's life took a downward spin into alcoholism. She was found dead in her bath in 1947 under mysterious circumstances.
Reviewers largely praised this true tale of high adventure. A critic for Kirkus Reviews wrote: "Kudos are due for recovering the story of a larger-than-life woman and her tiny, famous panda bear." Similarly, a contributor for Publishers Weekly called The Lady and the Panda a "gripping book" and an "exciting tale." Library Journal contributor Edell Marie Schaefer also commended this "well-written, exhaustively researched and documented book," while a reviewer for People thought this "corking tale" literally "cries out for a film version starring Katherine Hepburn." Entertainment Weekly critic Thom Geier had similar thoughts, describing The Lady and the Panda as "a remarkably cinematic, real-life adventure with a memorable heroine at its center."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 1, 1999, Nancy Bent, review of Animal ER: Extraordinary Stories of Hope and Healing from One of the World's Leading Veterinary Hospitals, p. 331.
Economist, June 28, 1997, review of The Modern Ark: The Story of Zoos: Past, Present, and Future, p. 92.
Entertainment Weekly, July 8, 2005, Thom Geier, review of The Lady and the Panda: The True Adventures of the First American Explorer to Bring Back China's Most Exotic Animal, p. 73.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2005 review of The Lady and the Panda, p. 395.
Library Journal, October 15, 1999, Edell Marie Schaefer, review of Animal ER, p. 93; July 1, 2005, Edell Marie Schaefer, review of The Lady and the Panda, p. 116.
People, July 5, 2005, review of The Lady and the Panda, p. 49.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 10, 2005, Roger K. Miller, review of The Lady and the Panda.
Publishers Weekly, September 20, 1998, review of Animal ER, p. 58; May 2, 2005, review of The Lady and the Panda, p. 183.
School Library Journal, April, 2000, Claudia Moore, review of Animal ER, p. 161.
Sciences, July-August, 1997, Laurence A. Marschall, review of The Modern Ark, p. 43.
GoodNewsforPets.com, http://www.goodnewsforpets.com/ (September 12, 2005), Mordecai Siegal, review of The Lady and the Panda.
Vicki Constantine Croke Home Page, http://www.vickicroke.com (September 12, 2005).