Recommended animal fantasy books | Anthropomorphism in literature

Anthropomorphism in literature most commonly occurs when human characteristics are attributed to animals. As a literary device, anthropomorphism is strongly associated with art and storytelling with most cultures possessing a long-standing fable tradition with anthropomorphised animals as characters that can stand as commonly recognised types of human behaviour. Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865), Carlo Collodi's The Adventures of Pinocchio (1883) and The Jungle Book (1894) by Rudyard Kipling are good examples of 19th century literature that all employed anthropomorphic elements. Notable examples ofanimal fantasy books in more modern times include Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows (1908), A. A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh (1926), C. S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950), George Orwell's Animal Farm (1945), Richard Adams' Watership Down (1972) and William Horwood's Duncton Wood (1980).

View all anthropomorphism reviews

Recommended titles
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Since its first publication in 1908, generations of adults and children have cherished Kenneth Grahame's classic, The Wind in the Willows. For in this entrancing, lyrical world of gurgling rivers and whispering reeds live four of the wisest, wittiest, noblest, and most lovable creatures in all literature¬óRat, Mole, Badger, and Toad of Toad Hall. Like true adventurers, they glory in life's simplest pleasures and natural wonders. But it is Toad, cocky and irrepressible in his goggles and overcoat, whose passion for motorcars represents the free and fearless spirit in all of us; just as it's Toad's downfall that inspires the others to test Grahame's most precious theme¬óthe miracle of loyalty and friendship.

"One can argue over the merits of most books, and in arguing understand the point of view of one's opponent. One may even come to the conclusion that possibly he is right after all. One does not argue about The Wind in the Willows. The young man gives it to the girl with whom he is in love, and if she does not like it, asks her to return his letters. The older man tries it on his nephew, and alters his will accordingly. The book is a test of character. We can't criticise it, because it is criticising us. It is a Household Book; a book which everybody in the household loves, and quotes continually; a book which is read aloud to every guest and is regarded as the touchstone of his worth. But I must give you one word of warning. When you sit down to it, don't be so ridiculous as to suppose that you are sitting in judgement of my taste, or on the art of Kenneth Grahame. You are merely sitting in judgement on yourself. You may be worthy: I don't know. But it is you who are on trial." A.A. Milne

Recommended for ages: Child and up

The Duncton Chronicles by William Horwood

Duncton Wood is the moving love story of Bracken and Rebecca and the trials they must face and overcome to be as one. It is unfortunate that this work must be compared to Watership Down but that is the only book with which I can really compare it to in terms of story-line and excellence. This book is about moles and unlike anything you have ever read before. The animal kingdom is savage and survival of the fittest is a fact of life (or death). This is a book for adults and is at times as dark as it is uplifting. The book was first published in 1980 and has since become a best-selling novel. A story of courage, loyalty and the power of love... inspired by the shadows and light of England's most beautiful countryside.

"An absolute spell-binder, by Lord of the Rings out of Watership Down. I found it enchanting, compulsive reading... I am still haunted by its beauty." Magnus Magnusson

"Duncton Wood is a truly breathtaking and enchanting read that reminds us how savage yet full of love the animal kingdom truly is." Fantasy Book Review

Recommended for ages: Adult

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Fiver could sense danger. Something terrible was going to happen to the warren - he felt sure of it. So did his brother Hazel, for Fiver's sixth sense was never wrong. They had to leave immediately, and they had to persuade the other rabbits to join them. And so begins a long and perilous journey of a small band of rabbits in search of a safe home. Fiver's vision finally leads them to Watership Down, but here they face their most difficult challenge of all...

"From blood and the thump of fear to the pleasure of good feeding, the discovery of new surroundings or the texture of the day, we are immersed in the rabbits' world... one might, at the same time, be reading some gripping escape story, the rabbit characters are so totally credible" The Times Literary Supplement

Recommended for ages: Young adult and up

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm is set in a farmyard where the animals decide to seize the farmer's land and create a co-operative that reaps the benefits of their combined labours. However, some animals see a bigger share of the rewards than others, and the animals start to question their supposed utopia. Little by little, the rules begin to mysteriously change, and the pigs seem to gain power little by little, making the animals question what society they were striving for in the first place and whether their new-found freedom is as liberating as they might have hoped.

"Animal Farm by George Orwell was first published in 1945 and will be celebrating its seventieth birthday next year. It is still a keen area of debate whether it remains relevant for readers of this generation - I certainly believe it is, and the fact that it is still studied as part of the United Kingdom’s English Literature curriculum would add further credence to this opinion. I re-read the novella last night and found its themes and messages just as powerful, moving and relevant as they must have been seven decades ago." Floresiensis, Fantasy Book Review

Recommended for ages: Young adult and up

The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling

Mowgli, the man-cub who is brought up by wolves in the jungles of Central India, is one of the greatest literary myths ever created. As he embarks on a series of thrilling escapades, Mowgli encounters such unforgettable creatures as Bagheera, the graceful black panther, and Shere Khan, the tiger with the blazing eyes. Other animal stories range from the simple heroism found in 'Rikki-tikki-tavi' to the macabre comedy 'The Undertakers'. A rich and complex fable of human life, Kipling's enduring classic dazzles the imagination with its astonishing descriptive powers and lively sense of adventure.

"Kiplings' tales of Mowgli and his exciting life in the Indian jungle have been loved by children and adults alike ever since their publication in 1895. Mowgli the 'man-cub' must learn to fend for himself against terrible foes like Shere Khan the tiger, but he can always call upon his friends Baloo the Bear, Bagheera the Black Panther, and Kaa the Rock Python from whom he learns the Law of the jungle." NAXOS

Recommended for ages: Child and up

Charlotte’s Web by EB White

Fern Arable lives with her mother, father and brother on their small farm. When her father decides to ‘do away’ with the runt of the piglet litter Fern takes it upon herself to raise the small piglet herself and names him Wilbur. When Wilbur gets too big for the Arable’s land he goes to live with the Zuckerman’s, Fern’s Aunt and Uncle, in their barn where Fern can visit the pig she has grown to love. Although Fern visits as much as she can, she and Wilbur are not together as often. Wilbur starts to feel quite lonely in the big barn, that is until he meets Charlotte, a beautiful big grey spider who lives above Wilbur in the doorway of the barn. Wilbur and Charlotte soon become firm friends and when the old sheep tells of the plot the Zuckerman’s have to fatten Wilbur up for their Christmas dinner Charlotte hatches a plan to save Wilbur’s life that amazes and astounds the whole town!

"Unashamedly sentimental, this book leaves you with a warm fuzzy feeling." Fantasy Book Review

Recommended for ages: Child and up

The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips by Michael Morpurgo

It's 1943, and Lily Tregenze lives on a farm, in the idyllic seaside village of Slapton. Apart from her father being away, and the 'townie' evacuees at school, her life is scarcely touched by the war. Until one day, Lily and her family, along with 3,000 other villagers, are told to move out of their homes – lock, stock and barrel. Soon, the whole area is out of bounds, as the Allied forces practise their landings for D-day, preparing to invade France. But Tips, Lily's adored cat, has other ideas – barbed wire and keep-out signs mean nothing to her, nor does the danger of guns and bombs. Frantic to find her, Lily makes friends with two young American soldiers, who promise to help her. But will she ever see her cat again? Lily decides to cross the wire into the danger zone to look for Tips herself... Now, many years later, as Michael is reading his Grandma Lily's diary, he learns about The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips – and wonders how one adventurous cat could still affect their lives sixty years later.

"Written with incredible insight to children’s relationship with language, people and pets, this is a story with themes your child will be able to relate to even though it is set in a time that is before even their parents were born." Fantasy Book Review

Recommended for ages: Child and up

Just When Stories by Edited by Tamara Gray

100 years ago, Rudyard Kipling wrote the internationally acclaimed Just So Stories. When Kipling wrote his story of the rhinoceros with the itchy skin, rhino numbers stood at around 65,000. Today, fewer than 3,000 black rhinos survive. The same tragic story goes for too many other animals. Now a glittering array of international authors have gathered together to contribute exclusive and original new stories inspired by Kipling's original volume which focus on the animals which we need to protect today. The title Just When Stories asks the questions: when will the irrational and cruel destruction of wildlife stop? And when will we take action to make it stop? Estimated at between $6 and $20 billion a year by Interpol, the illegal wildlife trade has drastically reduced numerous wildlife populations and currently has some teetering on the brink of extinction. All profits from the sales of the book and associated media formats will be donated in full to WildAid and the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation. Full list of authors: William Boyd, Raffaella Barker, Anthony Doerr, Nirmal Ghosh, Romesh Gunesekera, Witi Ihimaera, Radhika Jha, Hanif Kureishi, Antonia Michaelis, Michael Morpurgo, Jin Pyn Lee, Lauren St John, Kate Thompson, Nury Vittachi, Polly Samson, Shaun Tan, Louisa Young and Angela Young.

"Their are many good reasons why you should buy this book, not least that is an excellent read but also because all the proceeds will go to such a good and worthy cause. If you are wondering what to get your son/daughter, niece/nephew,  grandson/granddaughter for Christmas this year then this would make a perfect gift. Highly recommended." Floresiensis, Fantasy Book Review

Recommended for ages: Child and up

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

When poor James Henry Trotter loses his parents in a horrible rhinoceros accident, he is forced to live with his two wicked aunts, Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker. After three years he becomes "the saddest and loneliest boy you could find". Then one day, a wizened old man in a dark-green suit gives James a bag of magic crystals that promise to reverse his misery forever. When James accidentally spills the crystals on his aunts' withered peach tree, he sets the adventure in motion. From the old tree a single peach grows, and grows, and grows some more, until finally James climbs inside the giant fruit and rolls away from his despicable aunts to a whole new life…

"When Dahl made up James and the Giant Peach as a bedtime story for his daughters Olivia and Tessa, little could he have know that half a century later millions of parents would have read exactly the same story to their own children. A book that fully deserves the accolade of children’s classic." Floresiensis, Fantasy Book Review

Recommended for ages: Child and up

Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus

The rumours are true – Christopher Robin is back in the Hundred Acre Wood. From the excitement of Christopher Robin’s return to the curious business of learning to play cricket, Return to the Hundred Acre Wood allows readers to spend a few more treasured hours with the Best Bear in All the World.

"I think that David Benedictus has done a sterling job in taking on such a difficult task and has created a book that will be as much a companion of today’s generation as its predecessor was for those who are now parents and grandparents. Mark Burgess’s decorations, in the style of E.H. Shepard, are the ideal accompaniment to this charming and delightfully entertaining book. Highly recommended." Floresiensis, Fantasy Book Review

Recommended for ages: Child and up

The Thing Beneath the Bed by Patrick Rothfuss

This is not a book for children. It looks like a children's book. It has pictures. It has a saccharine-sweet title. The main characters are a little girl and her teddy bear. But all of that is just protective coloration. The truth is, this is a book for adults with a dark sense of humor and an appreciation of old-school faerie tales. There are three separate endings to the book. Depending on where you stop, you are left with an entirely different story. One ending is sweet, another is horrible. The last one is the true ending, the one with teeth in it. The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle is a dark twist on the classic children's picture-book. I think of it as Calvin and Hobbes meets Coraline, with some Edward Gorey mixed in. Simply said: This is not a book for children.

"Though possibly not strictly a fantasy book, Patrick Rothfuss’s The Adventures of the Princess and Mr Whiffle: The Thing Beneath the Bed is definitely worthy of comment here. Not only because Patrick Rothfuss is author of one of the better fantasy novels, but also because the book has … a … castle." Joshua S Hill, Fantasy Book Review

Recommended for ages: Adult

Into the Wild by Erin Hunter

FOUR CLANS, ONE DESTINY. Into the Wild is the first book in the popular Warrior Cars series. The four. Clans have shared the forest for generations but ThunderClan’s territory is in danger as the sinister and mysterious ShadowClan grows stronger each day. Enter Rusty, a domestic house cat who may turn out to be the greatest warrior of them all.

"Any young adult that loves reading and loves cats will love this book, a fast-paced adventure starring the feline Harry Potter." Floresiensis, Fantasy Book Review

Recommended for ages: Child and up

Southcrop Forest by Lorne Rothman

The trees of Southcrop have made a striking discovery-one that could change the world for all their kind. But they are trapped in a forest fragment and face destruction from human sprawl. They cannot spread their new-found gift across the land. Then Auja, a young oak, finds little Fur amongst her branches. Fur is a legendary creature not seen for a thousand years, a single intelligent being emerged from a colony of caterpillars. Fur is small and meek and slow, but can travel through the forest and talk with trees. Auja persuades the reluctant Fur to help. Fur embarks on a desperate quest to find the source of all tree power-the mysterious Riverside Farm. Here he must gather the trees' great treasure and carry it across Oak River to the forests of Deep Sky. Fur's long trek is fraught with peril as he races to reach Riverside Farm before it is destroyed. Ghoulish enemies hunt him while machines wreak their deadly havoc. Yet Fur's journey is one of enlightenment as he learns about the ecology of his world, the threat of the human species, and finally, the secret of his existence.

"A simple young teen book that is quite a well rounded story in itself, but to me seems like it could be a great stepping stone to the “World Out There” for the inquisitive young mind." George Roesch, Fantasy Book Review

Recommended for ages: Child and up

View all anthropomorphism reviews

Reviews by sub-genre

Click on the links below to access reviews, interviews, latest news and the greatest books of all time in your chosen sub-genre.