by Slauenka Drakulic

Penguin Books, $14.00, 208 pages

You may imagine yourself as an active participant in this group of short stories by Slavenka Drakulic, a Croatian feminist writer and journalist most commonly recognized for her nonfiction works on communism. In this creative piece, you are a tourist traveling to Prague to rendezvous with a mouse who is your tour guide through a Museum of Communism or to an island in the Birini archipelago where you are put down by a wisecracking fashion conscious parrot named Koki. Several other animals await your listening ears: a cooking pig, dancing bear, or old dog, to name a few.

A kindly bed time story to read to your children at night this is not. It is a unique format for Americans to relate to and digest the idea, however flawed, that was communism in Eastern Europe in the 1980s and 1990s. Each animal shares their personal experiences during and after the rule of communism. As you are taken into the confidences of these animals you begin to understand life as it was lived differently than your own. These are not stories with beginnings, middles and ends, but rather character manifestos. At some point in each story the voice of the character becomes inseparable from the voice of the author. It is however worth reading for the information that is presented, and the animals are cute too.

Reviewed by Rachelle Barrett