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Books with personified animals

In May, we’re taking a break from humans by reading books where animals have been brought to life and given a voice. There are so many incredible books and genres that have personified animal characters, from children’s classics to contemporary cultural fiction.

I’ve pulled together a mix of books I’ve loved and those that are high on my TBR pile to help you out on what to read for this month’s challenge.

Spotlight recommendation

Every month, I share my top recommendation. For May it is:

The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa (translated by Philip Gabriel)

Genre: Cultural (Japan) contemporary fiction

Full disclosure – I’m really not that into cats. I don’t dislike cats, I’m just not a cat person. With that in mind, you’re probably wondering why my spotlight pick revolves so much around cats. Well, actually one in particular – Nana. Let me tell you, Nana is not like other cats; he is witty, dry, and sarky, (which is exactly how I imagine cats would be if they could speak)😼 and makes for a fabulous narrator (especially if you listen to the audiobook, which I highly recommend).

Quick overview
In The Travelling Cat Chronicles, Nana and his beloved human, Satoru, are taking a road trip through Japan to visit Satoru’s old friends. Nana doesn’t understand the purpose of the journey and is confused why people are so interested in him. This is a super short summary as I don’t want to give anything away but quick tip – keep the tissues at bay.

Hayley’s highlights

Here are some other books/authors that include personified animals in their stories:

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Genre: Classic children’s fiction

Watership Down might be labelled as a children’s book but contains so many applicable themes for all ages. Join Hazel, Fiver, and the rest of the rabbits as they embark on an epic journey to a promised land. Along the way, explore themes of leadership, friendship, courage, and bravery that will stay with you for a very long time.

*Audiobook recommendation*

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Genre: Children’s middle-grade

The One and Only Ivan is based on a real-life gorilla (although the story is fictionalised) who lives behind a glass wall in a mall. In his fairly contented life, he enjoys watching TV, being around his friends, and most of all, painting. All is fine until baby elephant, Ruby, arrives. With Ruby comes change, and Ivan is determined to make it a change for the better.

Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton

Genre: Dystopia/fantasy fiction

Hollow Kingdom is a genre-bending apocalyptic novel about how a domesticated pet crow (who is also a bit of a coward) tries to save humans from becoming extinct.

Tomorrow by Damian Dibben

Genre: Historical fiction fantasy

Tomorrow is narrated by an immortal dog who is on the hunt for his lost master. Spanning centuries, the dog’s journey sees him visit a number of European cities in different eras, including the London Frost fair, King Charles’ court, the wars of the Spanish succession, Versailles, Amsterdam, and 19th Century Venice.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Genre: Classic children’s fiction

A story that continues to travel through the decades (this was first published in 1908!), The Wind in the Willows is a true children’s classic that is a joy to rediscover as an adult. Follow the four main characters (Mole, Mr. Toad, Badger, and Ratty) and their (mis)adventures in the England countryside.

*Audiobook recommendation*

Animal Farm George Orwell

Genre: Classic dystopia/science fiction

Animal Farm is an anti-utopian novel that follows a group of livestock who, led by two pigs, start a rebellion against their farmer to create a free and equal society for the farm animals. Under the new name ‘Animal Farm,’ all those on four legs are empowered, however, when the rebellion turn corrupt, the animals find themselves under the dictatorship of a pig named Napoleon.

The Bees by Laline Paull

Genre: Dystopia/fantasy fiction

The Bees is an imaginative tale that follows sanitation bee, Flora, who is born into the lowest class to accept, obey, and serve the Queen. Her rare talents catapult Flora, first into feeding newborns, and then as a pollen forager. Before long, she finds herself in the Queen’s inner sanctum, where she uncovers forbidden secrets. With an instict to serve overshadowed by an overwhelming desire, Flora can’t help breaking the most sacred law of all…

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Genre: Fantasy YA

The Golden Compass (or Northern Lights) is the first in Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogies and introduces the reader to Lyra, a young girl who embarks on a quest to find her friend, Roger and other children who have been kidnapped and sentenced to a fate worse than death.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Genre: Classic children’s fiction

Black Beauty is an autobiographical novel told through the eyes of a horse. After spending his early life in a loving home, Black Beauty is then passed from owner to owner, and learns that not all humans are kind. This book teaches the reader to show tenderness and kindness towards animals, which in turn teaches us to treat humans the same way animals wish to be treated – with patience, love, and respect.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Genre: Classic children’s fiction

Charlotte’s Web is narrated by a barn spider who spins an intricate plan to save her new friend, Wilbur the pig, from imminent slaughter.

Happy reading! I’d love to hear your favourite anthropomorphic reads, especially if they’re not on the list so I can add them; drop them in the comments or send me a message via @BackpackingBookworm 🐛

2 responses to “Books with personified animals”

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