Friday, February 20, 2009

Books for animal lovers

Lesley-Anne loves animals (she wants to be a vet when she grows up) so naturally, she's partial to books and movies about animals. I've put together some recommendations of what I feel are some terrific reads for kids who are animal lovers.

First, some wonderful classics:

1) Charlotte's Web by EB White

Who can forget the enigmatic Charlotte and her magical web-spinning abilities that saved her friend Wilbur, the pig? The movie starring the prodigious Dakota Fanning is delightful - one of the rare movies that I feel do justice to a book. But still, do encourage your child to read the book first.

2) Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Told in the first person by a horse, the story traces Black Beauty's life and his experiences with hardship and human cruelty (and kindness) to horses. The story was written based on Sewell's own concern for animal welfare and was published to rave reviews back in 1877 as the first book to portray the world from a horse's point of view.

3) Animal Farm by George Orwell

One of the great literary classics. The characters are animals but really, it's a social commentary about Stalinism. Probably more suitable for older kids but the message is so powerful that I'm sure most kids would be moved to tears over the treatment of Boxer the loyal donkey and indignant over Napolean the boar's corruption and ruthlessness.

4) 101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith

Also made into a movie which wasn't very good, in my opinion. The book has so much more character. In this book, animals are the main characters and humans are the "pets". The story is about two dalmatians, Pongo and Missis who set off to rescue their puppies after they were stolen by the malevolent Cruella de Vil (one of the most memorable villains ever!) Smith wrote a sequel to the book, The Starlight Barking, which is lesser known but kids might enjoy reading about how the dalmatians ended up saving the human race.

5) Watership Down by Richard Adams

Two different people mentioned this to me within the space of two days as one of the books that made a real impression on them growing up. It is about a group of rabbits who escape their warren which was being destroyed, to find a new home. The adventures, perils and social issues faced by the rabbits have been described as reflective of human struggles and the relationship between the individual and the state.

6) Lassie Come-Home by Eric Knight

This book launched a movie and popular tv series that made Lassie a household name in the 1960s. Boy's dog is sold, dog braves rough terrain and long distance to return home to boy. It's a simple, touching story of faith and loyalty. Lesley-Anne says most of her friends love this book.

7) The All Creatures Great and Small series by James Herriot

I'm an animal lover too, but I prefer to read books about humans with animals rather than animals as the main characters. If you're like me, you'll love this series about the world's most famous vet. The escapades of Herriot as he traverses the Yorkshire countryside to tend to his animal patients are told in a charming and humorous style. One of my all-time favourite series. It comprises four books: All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Things Wise and Wonderful, and The Lord God Made Them All.

The above are classic titles, but if you're looking for something more current, here are three I've come across that are pretty good.

8) A Dog's Life by Peter Mayle

Peter Mayle is more well known for his books on the French countryside, but this one is a real gem for dog lovers. Seen from the eyes of Boy, a canine of mysterious lineage (aka mutt), the book follows this dog's hilarious wanderings and thoughts, such as the temptation of white bedspreads and humans' strange obsession with personal hygiene. The drawings are so fun and true to Boy's character. Lesley-Anne loves this book.

9) The Promised One by David Alric

This one is entirely Lesley-Anne's recommendation. I chanced upon it by accident and it turned out to be one of the books she's most enamoured with. It's about Lucy, a girl who discovers that she is the Promised One - the one who can communicate with all animals and whose destiny is to save the planet. There's a list at the end of the book entitled Lucy's Lexicon, which contains the character's very creative names for different animals, eg. the jaguar is called junglefang.

10) The Lionboy series by Zizou Corder

This trilogy is about a young boy named Charlie who can talk Cat, after his blood was accidentally swapped with a leopard cub. His parents are kidnapped by evil pharmaceutical company which wants to stop their cure for asthma and allergies. Charlie tries to find his parents and fight the evil. On the way, he finds himself having to help six lions return to the wild. Very imaginative writing. The three books in the series are Lionboy, Lionboy: The Chase and Lionboy: The Truth.


Jo said...

Great list of suggested reads! Suddenly I have the urge to rush to the nearest library ! Not sure if my 7 year old can handle them at the moment but I shall certainly check them out myself !

Watership down : aww, I can still remember watching the cartoon version when I was a young'un and I cried and cried...very touching story. Don't think dd 1 can handle the "darker side" of the story. She recently read "The Tinderbox" by Hans C Anderson and told me she didn't like the storyline.

Peter Mayle : haven't read his books for a long time, in fact I've only read 2 of his books, A Year in Provence (in my university days) and "Where Do I Come From" (courtesy of my mom). This one sounds like a great read !

David Alric : first time I have come across this ... sounds like a must-read book !

monlim said...

Jo: Yay, always happy to share book lists! Most of these books would be a little difficult for a 7-yr-old - try Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox and Esiotrot. Of all I listed, Charlotte's Web and Lassie Come-Home would be the easiest I think. And yes, you must read the Peter Mayle book, it's absolutely hysterical!

Lilian said...

Thanks for the list. Would Old Yeller fit in this list?

I remember catching on TV an animated Watership Down, it definitely left an impact, pretty scary. In London, Brian's class watched a Watership Down play. I think he felt disturbed. The book seems pretty heavy-going though.

Animal Farm, again, didn't read the book, watched the movie. Brian watched it in class this year too for the UOI "Who's got the power?" about governments but it was a different dvd from the one we had. Mine had Kelsey-Grammer's voice. Good movie. Again, may be too scary for really young ones.

Brian Jacques' books are all animal characters too, "Following in the grand tradition of Watership Down, Brian Jacques’ bestselling Redwall books star animals in medieval England who must protect their home against evil. Equal parts enchanting fantasy and morality tale, these adventure-filled books have captivated readers worldwide."

Asked why he writes about animals, "Because they are more identifiable to young readers, more sympathetic too. A dirty rat, a sly fox, a slippery snake, an heroic mouse, a homely mouse, a friendly badger ... these are all prevalent in the folk tales of Europe and they suit the medieval setting well. I study small animals, they interest and amuse me, and I like to imagine how they would talk and act."

monlim said...

Lilian: Old Yeller yes but sooooo sad lah, will send all the kids bawling!

Animal Farm and Watership Down are definitely for older kids but I wouldn't say they're not suitable or readable. My friends enjoyed Watership Down as kids and Lesley-Anne had to read Animal Farm for school last year. They're books that make you think about issues I guess.

I didn't know Brian Jacques books feature animal characters too, never read them. Sounds fascinating. Thanks for the rec, I must check them out!

elan said...

Mon: what a coincidence, my 2 sons want to be vets too.

Yes Brian Jacques books are all about small mammmals and they are quite addictive reading for my boys. The "Redwall" story lines are very medieval, lots of battles and fighting, very much a boys book. Although all the characters are animals, they do not really behave like animals, they are just people in animal form.So strictly speaking, the books are not really about animals. There are probably too many dead animals in it for true animal lovers!
My main beef with the books is that my son has taken to speaking with a medieval Scottish accent and (bad) grammar, emulating his favourite Redwall characters!

Alcovelet said...

Tks for the list! RK's into mouse stories, so Redwall is on the cards, when he's up to scratch that is!

I'd forgotten so many of these terrific books - yes - time to go a-shopping!

monlim said...

Elan: Sounds like Redwall won't appeal to L-A, it's too "boy" for her!

Ad: If RK likes mouse stories, try Stuart Little. It's by EB White, same author as Charlotte's Web. And I'm sure he must like Geronimo Stilton!

eunice said...

L-A is a girl after my own heart. I loved Chicken Soup for the Pets Soul(can't remember title as read it long time ago). I cried when I read it.It shows how animals are better at loving unconditionally than we humans.

Alcovelet said...

That's a great suggestion, Mon! I have a copy of Stuart Little at home as it is. Gonna dive into it soon!

Anonymous said...

Mon, I love books about animals too! Wonder if you have came across this book, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Willians, very touching story, it's one of my favourite!


monlim said...

Chris: I love the Velveteen Rabbit! I don't know why all the best animal stories have to be so sad... another one is Bambi.

Anonymous said...

I guess sad story touches our heart and thus they became the 'best animal stories'...LOL


Anonymous said...

Hi Monica
Upon your recommendations, I went to borrow The Promised One from the library for my P5 daughter, and she is hooked! She also finished Lion Boy recently, hoping to read the other two books in the series. Thanks, Monica!

My daughter is a big fan of Erin Hunter's Warriors Series. She reads the 3 series, each consisting of 6 books, over and over again. She is now eagerly waiting for Book 6 of the 3rd Series to hit the shelves. Warriors is about cats and lots of cat fights! Something like Brian Jacques’ Redwall books, I think.


monlim said...

LL: Great! Lesley-Anne would be delighted to know there's another convert... she's been telling all her friends about the book :)

Must check out Erin Hunter. Thanks for the rec!

Angie Maniam said...

Jumping in late on this. But check out also Rascal by Sterling North, Gentle Ben by Walt Morey, all the books by Thornton Burgess.

For something older and more literary, the books by Clara Dillingham Pierson titled Among the Pond People, Among the Meadow People, etc.

For something of an easier and funnier read, Mr Popper's Penguins.

For horse lovers, the books by Marguerite Henry titled Justin Morgan Had a Horse, King of the Wind, etc.

Also Old Yeller, Hurry Home Candy, Rabbit Hill, Cricket in Times Square and for the younger set, The James Herriot's Treasury for Children ... I reall should stop. Could go on for most of the night! Ha ha.

I am SO not a fan of Stuart Little. But we LOVED Trumpet of the Swan by the same author.

OH! And Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH! One of the very best! Stayed up till 3 one night to finish it. Couldn't put it down.

Okay ... really should stop.

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