Animal Stories

There aren't too many kids who don't like animals, which makes stories about them a great way to communicate truths about human nature to young readers. All kinds of animal stories have been written, and a lot of them are just about animals doing animal-y things, but some of the best aren't really about animals at all.

The Wind in the Willows, for instance—sure, Ratty and Mole have whiskers, and Badger is as grumpy as any badger whose hole does not include a well-stocked library, but they're essentially human characters with human emotions and human ambitions who grow the way humans ought. Even Mr. Toad is no more animal than Oliver Twist or Laura Ingalls.

Okay, you might say, but that's not really an animal story, then. What about Black Beauty? or Bambi? They're written from the perspective of real animals who don't talk (at least, not to people) or wear clothes or eat buttered toast; how can they be about human nature?

In the case of Black Beauty, the horse narrator has a surprisingly firm grasp of human emotion, and understands the behavior of her owners to an extent many homo sapiens would not. As for Bambi, while he acts like a real deer, he's also sentient and able to have relationships with his fellow forest animals that closely resemble those enjoyed by members of the human race.

Another kind of animal story is really about people, and simply uses animals as the hook, or as a foil for the humans in the story. The Black Stallion or Billy and Blaze books, for instance, are more about the boy heroes than the horses, though the bond between animal and rider is also explored. Jim Kjelgaard's dog stories are similar, chronicling the adventures of boys with their beloved dogs.

As with any genre, animal stories should be read primarily to be enjoyed. It is only then that the deep wisdom found in the best of them can speak to us as readers, can open up our minds and hearts to see more than just furry or scaly creatures do things they may or may not do in the real world. Besides, who's to say there isn't a talking monkey or cat somewhere in the real world? As far as books are part of the real world, there are plenty such animals, and plenty of opportunities to meet and be changed by them.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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All Creatures Great and Small
James Herriot Series Book 1
by James Herriot
from St. Martin's Press
Realistic Fiction for 7th-Adult
in Animal Stories (Location: FIC-ANI)
$14.44
All Things Bright and Beautiful
by James Herriot
from St. Martin's Press
for 8th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
$5.00 (2 in stock)
All Things Wise and Wonderful
by James Herriot
from St. Martin's Press
for 8th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
$5.00 (2 in stock)
All Things Wise and Wonderful
James Herriot Series Book 3
by James Herriot
from St. Martin's Press
Realistic Fiction for 7th-Adult
in Animal Stories (Location: FIC-ANI)
$14.44
Book of the Dun Cow
by Walter Wangerin Jr.
from HarperCollins
for 8th grade-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
$14.44
Born Free
by Joy Adamson
Anniversary from Pantheon Books
for 10th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
Complete Tales of Uncle Remus
by Joel Chandler Harris
from Houghton Mifflin
Animal Fantasy for 7th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
Complete Tales of Uncle Remus
by Joel Chandler Harris
from Dial Press
Animal Fantasy for 7th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
$40.00
Every Living Thing
by James Herriot
from St. Martin's Press
for 7th-Adult
in Animal Stories (Location: FIC-ANI)
$13.59
Good Comrades
by Felix Salten
from Grosset & Dunlap
for 6th-Adult
in Animal Stories (Location: FIC-ANI)
$10.00 (1 in stock)
Harvey
by Mary Chase
from CreateSpace
for 8th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
$7.99
Harvey
by Mary Chase
from Dramatists Play Service
for 8th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
James Herriot's Dog Stories
by James Herriot
1st edition from St. Martin's Press
for 7th-Adult
in Animal Stories (Location: FIC-ANI)
$12.00 (1 in stock)
James Herriot's Yorkshire Revisited
from Michael Joseph
for 7th-Adult
in Great Britain / England (Location: HISREG-BRIT)
$7.00 (1 in stock)
Lord God Made Them All
by James Herriot
from St. Martin's Press
for 7th-Adult
in Animal Stories (Location: FIC-ANI)
$14.44
Seabiscuit
by Laura Hillenbrand
from Ballantine Books
Non-fiction for 9th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
$6.79 $4.00 (1 in stock)
Second Book of the Dun Cow
by Walter Wangerin
from Diversion Publications
for 9th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
$11.89
Tarzan of the Apes
by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Centennial Edition from Signet Classics
for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
$5.09
Watership Down
by Richard Adams
from Charles Scribner's Sons
Animal Fiction for 7th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
$16.14 $10.00 (2 in stock)
Watership Down
by Richard Adams
Reissue from Atheneum
for 10th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
$25.49
Watership Down
by Richard Adams
from Harper Perennial
Animal Fiction for 7th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
$5.00 (1 in stock)
White Fang
Dover Thrift Editions
by Jack London
from Dover Publications
Action/Adventure for 10th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
$4.25 $3.00 (2 in stock)
Yearling
by Marjorie Rawlings
from Simon Pulse
Realistic Animal Stories for 6th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
$8.49 $3.00 (1 in stock)
Yearling
by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
from Charles Scribner's Sons
Realistic Animal Stories for 6th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
$12.75
Yearling
by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings & N. C. Wyeth
from Charles Scribner's Sons
for 9th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
$18.00 (1 in stock)
Yearling
by Marjorie Rawlings
from International Collectors Library
Realistic Animal Stories for 6th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
Yearling
by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings & N. C. Wyeth
from Charles Scribner's Sons
for 9th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
$25.49