Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Told By the Animals

There are actually a lot of books from animals’ points of view. I find the subject very interesting because first of all, I love animals, and also because stories told by other creatures can say a lot of different things than stories told by humans. We can’t really know if authors are portraying animal thoughts accurately or not, but it’s still fun to read about!

A lot of people have already heard of or read Erin Hunter’s awesome Warriors series, but I love the books so much that I had to include them! They begin with the story of Rusty, a housecat who ventures outside his fence one day and is taken into ThunderClan, one of the four cat Clans in the forest. Soon his name is changed to Firepaw and he’s a warrior apprentice. But evil cats are also among the Clans, and Firepaw must find a way to defeat them. Into the Wild begins Firepaw’s story, continuing with Fire and Ice, Forest of Secrets, Rising Storm, A Dangerous Path, and The Darkest Hour. There are also two sub-series (Warriors: The New Prophecy and Warriors: The Power of Three), going down the generations to include new adventures and new characters.

Another pretty well-known but wonderful series is Guardians of Ga’Hoole by Kathryn Lasky. These are not about domestic cats, however, but about almost magical owls and their kingdom, Tyto. The first books, The Capture, The Journey, The Rescue, The Siege, The Shattering, and The Burning center on Soren, a young barn owl who is shoved out of the nest by his cruel brother, Kludd, and taken away to St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls. Along with friends Gylfie, Twilight, and Digger, Soren escapes and sets off for the Great Ga’Hoole Tree, a legendary place where owls are warriors. Two books in the series, The Hatchling and The Outcast are about Soren’s nephew, Coryn, and then the series braches off into the Legends of Hoole for three books (boringest part of the series, I thought) before coming back to Coryn. The release date for the latest book, Exile, is February 1st.

The Good Dog by Avi is very enjoyable. McKinley, an obedient malamute and the top dog of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, is curious when he hears that a wolf is roaming around his territory. It turns out that her name is Lupin and she’s searching for strong, brave dogs to join her pack, which is dying out. This gives McKinley a dilemma—be the good dog that he’s always been and enjoys being, or give in to “the call of the wild” and go with Lupin.

Meredith Ann Pierce’s Firebringer Trilogy has a different twist: these books are about unicorns, and also include griffins, wyverns, and pans. Beginning with Birth of the Firebringer, the protagonist is Aljan (meaning “Dark Moon), hot-headed son of the Prince of the unicorns. Jan is young and not yet a warrior, but when he begins receiving disturbing dreams that speak of a prophecy, he starts to wonder if there’s something special about him. He has to go on a grueling pilgrimage with the other unicorns to become a full warrior, so along with his friend Dagg and their mentor Tek, he goes forward to figure out his destiny. The trilogy continues with Dark Moon and The Son of Summer Stars, but I liked the first book the most.

The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread, by Kate DiCamillo. Well, this book is quite silly. Mice read, rats plan, and people have ears that look like cauliflower. The story is that little Despereaux Tilling, a mouse, is outcast by his family, who live in the basement of a castle. So he goes upstairs and sees the princess, Pea who he promptly falls in love with. Then Miggery Sow comes into the scene and makes a deal with the evil rat, Roscuro, because she wants to be a beautiful princess like Pea. What did I tell you? Very silly. But I still had fun reading this book because it was something you could laugh at and read without really having to think. “Cute” is probably a good word to describe it. The movie adaptation (starring Matthew Broderick, Tracey Ullman, Dustin Hoffman and Emma Watson) is due December 19th, 2008.

Ink Mage got me to read The Grand Escape by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor when I was ten or eleven. The book is about two housecats, Marco and Polo, who are fascinated by the world they see outside the window of their house. So they plan their grand escape and are soon wandering the streets until, hungry, they stop at a restaurant’s dumpster for something to eat. There they meet Texas Jake, Carlotta, and Elvis, who are also part-time strays. The adventures continue in The Healing of Texas Jake, Carlotta’s Kittens, and Polo’s Mother.

The Silverwing Trilogy, by Kenneth Oppel, is very awesome. Shade, a young silverwing bat, is the smallest in his colony. During the winter migration to the tropics, Shade gets separated from the others and thinks he’ll die because he’s too small to make it on his own. However, he meets Marina, a brightwing bat, who decides to help him on his journey. But things don’t go as planned, and soon the two friends are fleeing for their lives as they get swept along on a daring quest full of predatory owls, rats, and evil vampire bats who are trying to take control of the bats’ world. There is also a Silverwing-based TV series, but it’s hard to find unless you want to buy it.

Exiled: Memoirs of a Camel by Kathleen Karr is certainly one-of-a-kind! The only story about a camel that I’ve ever read or heard of, this book is about Ali, who lives with his mother in Egypt in the 1800’s. Separated from his mother when he’s young, Ali is sold to the Camel Corps in the U.S. The sea crossing is treacherous and Ali has trouble with another camel who’s vying for his love interest, but soon the entire Camel Corps expedition is abandoned, and Ali has to escape to a real life in the desert-like landscape of Texas. The story ended strangely, but it was original and I felt affectionate for Ali and his friends.

M.I. McAllister’s Mistmantle Chronicles are of a different sort. The animals in her books (squirrels, otters, moles and hedgehogs) are more like humans because they cook, use weapons, and even wear clothing and spectacles! Nonetheless they’re fun books, and most animal lovers would probably enjoy them. So far there are only three volumes in the series: Urchin of the Riding Stars, Urchin and the Heartstone, and The Heir of Mistmantle. They follow the adventures of Urchin, an orphaned squirrel who fell from the sky on a night of “riding stars,” and discovers foul plots after he becomes a page in the castle.

I’d really like to read Asta Bowen’s Wolf: The Journey Home, which is about a wolf family who has to journey back to their hunting grounds after being mistakenly relocated by scientists. Unfortunately my library won’t purchase it.

Recently I read The Wild Road, by Gabriel King, and loved it. It’s hard to explain the actual plot, but it’s basically about a kitten, Tag, who has never known anything but a warm house and food out of a can. He grows bored with this life, however, and when the Majicou—a cat with magical powers—sees a “Great Cat” in him and wants him as an apprentice, Tag is a little bit excited at the prospect of an adventure. But things turn out harder than he ever imagined, and soon Tag is fighting for not only his own life, but for the life of every good animal in the world. The Golden Cat is the sequel.

Something you might not have heard of yet is Erin Hunter’s new series Seekers, which will center on bears. The first book, The Quest Begins, is being released on May 27th. I can’t wait!

Other YA “Animal Protagonist” Books:

Fire Bringer, by David Clement-Davies
Tailchaser’s Song, by Tad Williams
The Sight
Fell, by David Clement-Davies
The Dark Portal
The Crystal Prison
The Final Reckoning, by Robin Jarvis

For Younger Readers:

Swordbird, by Nancy Yi Fan
A Dog’s Life: The Autobiography of a Stray, by Ann M. Martin
The Wainscott Weasel, by Tor Seidler
Varjak Paw
The Outlaw Varjak Paw, by S.F. Said
Air Ferrets Aloft
Rescue Ferrets at Sea
Writer Ferrets: Chasing the Muse
Rancher Ferrets on the Range
The Last War: Detective Ferrets and the Case of the Golden Deed, by Richard Bach
Catwings Return
Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings
Jane on Her Own
Tales of the Catwings, by Ursula K. Le Guin
I, Jack
Jack and Rebel, the Police Dog, by Patricia Finney


  1. I remember reading The Grand Escape as a kid too.

  2. I love animals but I don't really like books told from their POV. Then again, the only ones I've really read was the first Warrior book and it just didn't click.

    One book I do remember loving was Runt by someone and it was about a pack of wolves told from one of the wolves POV.

    BTW, thanks for linking to my site :)

  3. and are so good, it's interesting read how some authors think in the animal world, or at least try to think like a animal.


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