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).

Recommended Reading

Mr. Toad is the kindhearted, but spoiled resident of Toad Hall. He is bored and constantly obsesses over different crazes, like houseboating and caravaning, but it is only when he encounters a motorcar that he really gets into trouble. Toad will need all the help he can get from his friends—Mole, Rat, and Mr. Badger—if he is ever goi...

The Duncton Chronicles by William Horwood
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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

Watership Down by Richard Adams
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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

Animal Farm by George Orwell
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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

The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling
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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

Charlotte's Web by EB White
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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

The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips by Michael Morpurgo
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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

Just When Stories by Edited by Tamara Gray
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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

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
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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

Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus
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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

The Thing Beneath the Bed by Patrick Rothfuss
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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

Into the Wild by Erin Hunter
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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

Fluke by James Herbert
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He was a stringy mongrel, wandering the streets of the city, driven by a ravenous hunger and hunting a quarry he could not define. But he was something more. Somewhere in the depths of his consciousness was a memory clawing its way to the surface, tormenting him. The memory of what he had once been—a man.

"This is simply a very well told story, accessible to all aged 12 and up. James Herbert expertly captures what a dog's life might be like through and you - as the reader - really find yourself at ground level, revelling in the extra sensory overload that Fluke feels."

Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones
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A powerful being fights for his life within the body of a humble, earthbound puppy. Sirius, immortal Lord of the Dog Star and infamous for his quick temper, cannot believe it when he is falsely accused of murder and banished to Earth. There he is reborn into the body of a puppy and learns that he has the life-span of that creature to recover the missing murder weapon. If he fails, he will die. He is adopted by Kathleen, who has no idea that her beloved Leo is anything more than an abandonded stray. She is a loving owner, but an unwanted guest in a family who mostly resent her presence. Sirius soon learns that he has enemies amongst the humans as well as amongst the unearthly beings who sentenced him. How on earth can he clear his name without his special powers?

"Dogsbody, though showing some of the lack of resolution of a book written comparatively early in Wynne Jones career, is nevertheless an amazing story. Few books I've encountered have managed to blend the heavenly and earthly quite so spectacularly."

Southcrop Forest by Lorne Rothman
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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

Ellie and the Cat by Malorie Blackman
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Ellie is the rudest, most spoilt child her grandma has ever met and it's time that she learnt a lesson! So with a little bit of magic and some help from Jolly the cat, Grandma's going to make sure that Ellie changes her ways. Can Ellie work hard to prove that she can be good? Or is she destined to spend the rest of her days trapped in the body of a mean old cat? Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 8+.

"It’s all well and good grandma turning Ellie into a cat but grandma soon knows she has made a mistake in losing her temper; the switch bodies spell has a time limit - if Ellie doesn't find the ring in a day, she will stay a cat forever! Ellie doesn't take to her life as a cat but what she does find is Jolly isn't very well thought of by the other creatures in and around grandma’s house. Ellie the Cat is no ordinary novel about a cat, it’s about friendship and understanding and had a nice twist in the tale."

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Recommended reads by sub-genre

Select a sub-genre below to see which books we highly recommend.

High fantasy books
High fantasy

Fantasy set in an alternative, fictional world
Epic fantasy books
Epic fantasy

Fantasy with epic characters, themes, and plot
Heroic / Sword and Sorcery fantasy books
Heroic / Sword and Sorcery

Fantasy with heroic adventures
Contemporary / Urban fantasy books
Urban fantasy

Fantasy narrative with an urban setting
Historical fiction / Alternate history books
Historical fantasy / fiction

Historical fiction with fantasy elements
Parallel worlds.
Parallel universe

Fantasy set in parallel worlds
Science fantasy / Speculative fiction books
Science / Speculative

Draws elements from both science fiction and fantasy
Children's fantasy books
Children's Fantasy

Fantasy for ages up to 12
Young adult fantasy books
Young Adult

Fantasy for ages 12+
Adult fantasy books
Adult Fantasy

Fantasy for ages 18+
Dystopian fiction
Dystopian / Post-Apocalyptic

Fiction set in dark, nightmarish worlds
Image derived from Mark Lawrence's Emperor of Thorns book cover
Monarchy / Empire

Fantasy books with empires at their core
Gothic fiction books
Gothic Fiction

Fiction with elements of fear, horror, death, gloom and romance
Vampire fiction
Vampire Fiction

Fiction with vampiric characters
Werewolf fiction
Werewolf Fiction

Fiction with werewolf characters
Steampunk books
Steampunk

Fiction with steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology
Dragon fiction
Dragon Fiction

Fiction with the legendary, scaled, fire-breathing creatures
Fantasy books featuring dragons
Wizards / Magicians

Fantasy with wizards, witches, magicians, sorceresses...
Lore, Legend and Mythology
Lore, Legend and Mythology

Inspired by ancient folklore and mythology
Fantasy books featuring dragons
Military Fantasy

Fantasy books focusing on mailtary life
Praetorian cover image
Roman historical fiction

Explore the ancient Roman Empire
An image of Darth Bane, taken from the cover of a Star Wars book
Star Wars

Books exploring the galaxy of the ever-popular franchise
An image taken from the front cover of The Wind in the Willows
Animal fantasy books

Fantasy with sentient animals
An image taken from the front cover of Giant Thief.
The Thief / Assassin

Fantasy books starring the thief or the assassin
An image taken from the front of hush, hush.
Supernatural

Fiction exploring beyond the laws of nature
An image portraying manga art.
Manga

Japanese comic books and graphic novels
House of Small Shadows
Horror

Liked to be scared? These books will do that...
An image portraying comic fantasy.
Comic Fantasy

For the reader who loves to laugh
An image of J. R. R. Tolkien
Inspired by Tolkien

Love Lord of the Rings? Now try these...
The Time Traveller's Almanac
Anthologies

The best science fiction and fantasy anthlogies