Last week I posted a list of books about animals being animals. Now it’s time for animals being more or less human.
We have a strong tendency to ascribe human emotions, rationality and morals to animals, sometimes to the point where they really come across as little more than humans in animal suits. Often these are moral tales or fables, although occasionally an author is able to avoid that and simply write an entertaining tale. This list contains some of both.
- The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Although each chapter is in itself a moral tale, it never gets preachy or sentimental and it is at heart not a moral tale but a tale of friendship.
- Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. As a child I was enchanted by the tale of the The Cat That Walked by Himself, and later enjoyed reading the rest of these whimsical children’s tales.
- The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. Another Kipling book, this one for older children and adults.
- Animal Farm by George Orwell. Possibly the greatest and most stinging animal tale ever told, and it isn't really about animals at all.
- Aesop’s Tales by Aesop. They are fables, but (at least in the edition I have) are not preachy but attempt to teach by example.
- Watership Down by Richard Adams. A tale in which that unlikely animal, the common rabbit, gets the literary treatment with enjoyable results.
- Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. Written as a condemnation of the ill-treatment of horses, this is an often harrowing story about the life of a horse, told by the horse himself in his old age.
- The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett. Made intelligent and able to speak by magic, Maurice the con-cat and his rat companions travel around re-enacting the Pied Piper rat plague and making money off it, until one day they enter a town where they can’t play that game and have to fight to survive.
- The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss.Whimsical, fun and just a little bit creepy, he shows kids that it's all right to have some messy fun if you only clean up after yourself when you're done.
- Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot, specifically the edition illustrated by Edward Gorey. Whimsical and enjoyable verses about cats, some of whom are anthropomorphised and other who are not. I enjoyed the musical, but I love the book.