Q&A: Brooke Barker, author & illustrator of Sad Animal Facts

Did you know the illustrator who creates @SadAnimalFacts now lives in Pittsburgh? We chat with Brooke Barker about her favorite animal facts and places to visit in Pittsburgh.

by Stephanie Brea
May 21, 2019

Brooke Barker, the illustrator behind the popular Instagram account Sad Animal Facts, recently moved to Pittsburgh with her husband Boaz. The photo above is Brooke, Boaz and their new rescue pup, Kip. We’ve asked Brooke a few questions about the Sad Animal Facts books and her impressions of Pittsburgh thus far.

(Are you a fan of Sad Animal Facts? White Whale Bookstore in Bloomfield is hosting a free Sad Animal Facts event on Thursday, May 23 – scroll down for details.)

Q&A with Brooke Barker

How did Sad Animal Facts and the subsequent Sad Animal Babies books come about?

I’ve always loved animal facts, and my favorite ones are the sad ones. Knowing that giraffes only sleep two hours a night, and that roadrunners force themselves to cry, and that guppies have no eyelids makes me grateful to be a human and makes me relate to animals a little more. My friends and coworkers (and strangers at parties) never liked hearing sad animal facts, so I started putting them into books instead.


What’s your favorite or most surprising animal fact? What have you learned most recently?

My favorite animal fact is that crows never forget a face. They memorize the faces of their favorite humans, and they can even describe their least favorite humans to other crows, so that all the birds in one area can gang up on someone. It makes me want to be extra nice to crows.


This week I learned that sloths can die of starvation with a full stomach, because if their body temperature drops too low the bacteria in their stomach is unable to digest food.

You recently moved to Pittsburgh, after stints in Portland and the Netherlands. What made you choose to move here?

I was born in Pittsburgh and lived here a few months, which was long enough for the doctor who delivered me to implant a honing device that summoned me back. When Boaz and I were living in Amsterdam we visited Pittsburgh, and we loved the hills and parks and rivers and people so much that when our lease was up in Amsterdam we decided to make the move. The only thing I don’t like about Pittsburgh is how far away it is from the Netherlands. It’s been hard to convince our friends to visit.

What are some of the best places you have been to so far in Pittsburgh? What would be your favorite way to spend a sunny day? A rainy day?

My favorite sunny day activity is going on a quest for a Leona’s ice cream sandwich to eat outside. If all of the coffee shops are sold out, you can always find one at Kelly’s Bar and Lounge, and the bartenders always act like this is the first time anyone has walked into a bar and just bought an ice cream sandwich. I know it isn’t, because I’ve done it five times.

On a rainy day I love going to the library in Oakland.

I did a little digging through your archives, and after wanting a dog for a long time, you and your husband Boaz are finally dog owners! Congrats! What is Kip’s favorite local place to go on an adventure?

Kip loves walking in Schenley Park, because it is full of dogs to greet and smells to smell and small animals to try and chase. I like it too, even though I don’t notice the smells and have enough self-restraint to not chase the squirrels and rabbits.

Favorite bookstore in town?

I love White Whale bookstore. It’s my other favorite place to go on rainy days.

As a freelancer, you probably spend a lot of time in coffee shops. Any Pittsburgh ones stand out?

Arriviste has the perfect level of white noise for working, and I really like the coffee there. And they have Leona’s ice cream sandwiches.

Sad Animal Facts and Sad Animal Babies have been around for a bit now. What’s your next project?

Boaz and I wrote a book called Let’s Be Weird Together. It’s all about how weird every couple is, and how no two are weird in the same way. I’m finishing the illustrations this week, and I’m excited for it to be in bookstores at the end of the year.

May 23: Sad Animal Facts @ White Whale Bookstore

Brooke will be at White Whale Bookstore in Bloomfield on Thursday, May 23, 2019, to talk about her new book Sad Animal Babies. The event is free and open to all. More details here.


More Sad Animal Facts

For more information on her work visit SadAnimalFacts.com and follow Sad Animal Facts on Instagram and Facebook. You can also follow Brooke on Twitter @Brooke_Rene.

Stephanie has been organizing events since 1998, starting with a series of motorcycle rides through the Arizona desert to support her father’s business. She’s probably crossed your name off a presale ticket list or served you a beer somewhere around town. An undergrad degree in poetry means she has lots of unpractical knowledge about iambic pentameter, while a brief stint as a copy editor for Alternative Press taught her that twenty one pilots is stylized in all lowercase letters. Wanna throw a party in a vacant parking lot? She’s interested. At the onset of COVID-19, Stephanie took on the role...

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