I’m a big animal lover and I happen to read a lot of books that feature animals, so I thought why not do an animal themed Top 10 this month 🙂 Sooooo first I present my Top 10 books about animals and then the Top 10 animal characters.
1. Watership Down by Richard Adams
Lovers of my previous Top 10’s will know that I’m quite fond of the rabbit epic, Watership Down, but it had to be in this list because, basically, it’s awesome 🙂 It may have been the first book with an entirely non-human character base that I loved as a kid, but made me feel grown-up. It’s an excellent story with a wealth of details about the rabbit’s social structure – Adams even created a rabbit language, political and social hierarchies and other clever little tidbits that make the story really rich and believable. Even if you don’t really like books about animals, I would recommend it.
2. Redwall series by Brian Jacques
Another book (or series of books) that showed me animal stories didn’t need to be boring! I read a fair few of these when I was in primary school (tho I can’t remember which ones exactly) and I thought it was so cool that someone wrote a series of books about mice and other woodland creatures that battle with tiny swords and protect little castles! One day I hope to read the series again from the start, especially because it’s still going with the 22nd book being released earlier this year 🙂
3. Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C O’Brien
I think I was given this book for a present when I was a kid, and I still own the original (and very well-read) copy. It’s another book about rats and mice but very different to the Redwall series. instead of mice with swords the story revolves around a field mouse called Mrs Frisby and her family who have fallen on hard times since their father was killed by the farm’s cat. When her son Timothy falls ill and their home is threatened by impending plowing, Mrs Frisby seeks the council of a wise owl who on hearing the name of her late husband refers her to the Rats of NIMH. The rats are former lab rats from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) which are highly intelligent due to the testing they underwent there. The book is a classic of children’s literature and received the Newbery Medal in 1972. Robert C O’Brien’s daughter Jane Leslie Conly (O’Brien’s actual name was Robert Leslie Conly) also wrote two sequels after her father’s death: Rasco and the Rats of NIMH and R-T, Margaret and the Rats of NIMH which I don’t think I have read and there was two animated films made based on the books.
4. Guardians of Ga’Hoole series by Kathryn Lasky
So far I have only read the first of this series – The Capture – but even from the first book I was attracted to the detail Kathryn Lasky went into when describing owl culture and behaviour. The book showed some real research into the anatomy and day-to-day life of various owl species, while telling an exciting and emotional story that acknowledges kids intelligence by using real scientific names of species and not shying away from harsh realities – after all, owls aren’t really cute and fluffy, especially in the world of these books! I look forward to reading more of the series (there is 15 in total!) and in fact the second book – The Journey – is on one of my “to read” piles just waiting to be picked up 🙂
5. Promise of the Wolves by Dorothy Hearst
This was a book that I ordered off my bookclub a few years ago for a few reasons: 1. I had to buy at least one book each month; 2. It was cheap; and 3. The cover was cool and the blurb sounded pretty interesting. The story follows Kaala, a young wolf who barely makes a place for herself in the Swift River Pack as she is a “mix-blood” and is almost killed at birth for this reason. Kaala and her litter mates are given a chance at life when their mother is banished instead, but they are constantly trying to prove their place in the pack. On top of all this, one day Kaala saves a drowning human child when the number one wolf law is to stay away from humans. From then on Kaala’s curiosity over humans grows as does an inexplicable bond to the girl she saved and she has to evaluate the reasons behind the promise of the wolves: Never consort with humans. Never kill a human unprovoked. Never allow a mixed-blood wolf to live. The book is set in Northern America at the time of the earliest native Americans and is a very interesting look at how the human-canine bond may have formed. The series (the second book of the Wolf Chronicles – Secret of the Wolves – apparently comes out this month and the third – Spirit of the Wolves – is due early 2012) were meticulously researched over many years and it certainly shows. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.
6. Aspect of Crow series by Jeri Smith-Ready
I only started this series in 2009 and it has become one of my favourite fantasy trilogies. While the characters are all human, animals play an integral part as each person has an animal aspect that gives them certain abilities. The first book – Eyes of Crow – starts with the main character, Khia, coming up to the time when a Spirit will choose her and already there has been signs that she will be Crow, namely the fact that she can tell if someone or something near death will die or not. The books weave such a rich mythology based on the Spirit animals paired with spirituality similar to that of the native Americans, which makes the plot and characters much fuller and more believable. If you’re a lover of quality fantasy, I’d definitely recommend you give them a go 🙂 As I said before the first book is Eyes of Crow followed by Voice of Crow and ending with The Reawakened.
7. Immortals Quartet by Tamora Pierce
This is a great little young adult fantasy series that follows Daine (full name Veralidaine Sarrasri) a young orphan who finds out she has Wild Magic enabling her to speak with animals as well as other abilities that are developed throughout the books such as healing animals, inhabiting animal’s bodies and shape-shifting. The first book – Wild Magic – was given to me by one of my mum’s friends when I was in my teens and I loved it so much that I went looking for the second book – Wolf Speaker – at my local library and soon after also borrowed the third book – Emperor Mage – and the last in the series – The Realm of the Gods. Tamora Pierce is one of those fantasy writers that churns out series’ like a machine so there is actually a few other series’ she has written that are set in the same universe as the Immortals quartet – the Song of the Lioness quartet; the Protector of the Small quartet; the Daughter of the Lioness duo; and the Provost’s Dog trilogy but I have yet to read them.
8. Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
Many people wouldn’t consider these classics of absurdist children’s literature to be books about animals but there are so many great animal characters in them (namely the White Rabbit; the Cheshire Cat; the March Hare; Dormouse; Dodo; the Caterpillar etc etc) that they had to be mentioned. I’ve been a huge Alice fan since I was a child and still can’t go past a remake or reimagining (The Looking Glass Wars series by Frank Beddor and the mini-series Alice are particularly good). I even had an Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass themed party for my 22nd where me and my friend made jam tarts, hedgehog balls and other themed nibbles; and we played pin the tail on the mock-turtle and a special version of pass the parcel 🙂
9. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
This book is the first chapter-based book I remember being read when I was little. All my picture books and collections of nursery rhymes had been on constant rotation by the time I was about 3 or 4 so mum decided to try reading a little bit of Wind in the Willows to me on nights when I didn’t really feel like a particular story. I was so enthralled by the antics of Rat, Mole, Badger and Toad of Toad Hall that soon it was the only book requested at bedtime. When I was a bit older I also loved the puppet-based tv show. Badger was my favourite ^-^
10. The complete works of Beatrix Potter
In my opinion Beatrix Potter was the Queen of children’s stories about animals. She has created classic characters like Peter Rabbit, Tom Kitten and Jemima Puddleduck that are still known of today, which is pretty impressive considering she wrote her stories more than a hundred years ago and she’s been deceased for almost 70 years. Since I was really young I’ve owned The Complete Adventures of Tom Kitten and his Friends; The Tale of Peter Rabbit; The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle (one of my personal faves) and a few in the miniature collection, and I still treasure them. I also was very fond of the tv series.
Keep your eyes peeled over the next day or two for my other Top 10 – the Top 10 Animal Characters 🙂