Why are there so many animals in children’s literature?
Since the very beginning, animals have been part of the stories we tell—take Aesop’s Fables, Mother Goose’s Nursery Rhymes, and The Brother’s Grimm. In the 6th Century BC, a term was even developed to describe this human-like animal portrayal. Renee Runge at Kidpressroom explained Anthropomorphism as “the projection of human qualities onto non-humans.”
So why is this unrealistic projection acceptable? Why do our children jump at the chance to read about an adorable sloth, elephant, puppy, unicorn, . . . lizard, or bear? Why do parents love to have this myriad of animals teach valuable moral principles to their children? And why is there continually space in the market for more animal books—I mean, aren’t there enough already?
You’d think when Renee’s article states that “the number of children’s books about animals is frankly innumerable,” we’d have enough, that the creative possibilities would be tapped out, but kids still want more. Why?
Simple: children love animals!
Animals are cute, cuddly, fascinating, interesting, scary, intriguing, unexpected, and so much more! Add a speaking part, and it’s just too much to resist. Plus, we humans (the little and not-so-little ones) seek to find something in common with things outside ourselves. When we do find it, a connection is made in our brain. We relate in a way that allows us to receive messages in a more objective/less defensive way. It also allows the world and its challenges and solutions to be reframed at a simpler level of understanding. Thus, our children can learn something new more easily.
Any subject can be dealt with in animal form from the ABCs to opposites, from moral issues to rules, from political or religious views to simple etiquette. So whether our children are learning about how to go to bed (How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? By Jane Yolen) or how to build strong friendships and enjoy simple things (Winnie The Pooh by A.A. Milne), animals just say it better.
Here are some of our family-favorite animal books:
How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight by Jane Yolen
Piggies by Don & Audry Wood
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
All Sandra Boynton’s books
Skippyjon Jones books by Judy Schachner
Clifford the Big Red Dog books by Norman Bridwell
Curious George books by H.A. Rey
And here are some new animal books:
Pigs Dancing Jigs by Maxine Rose Schur (a fun and fanciful dance through the ABCs)
Adam the Ant by Julie Awerkamp & Holly Andreason (Adam saves the day when he uses his unusual talent)
Bucklebee Bunny by Lara Law (Bucklebee’s art is enjoyed and cherished by the whole community)
Bear’s Book of Emotions by Tyler Beckstrand (an excellent way to teach young children about emotions)
Skimmer & Birdy: Let’s Help Nell by Carrie Turley (Two elephant friends help Nell through a random act of kindness)
Anthropomorphism is a wonderful way to share valuable things with our children! And this literary device doesn’t stop at the animal kingdom. Have you ever seen a train, a backpack, or other inanimate objects exhibit human traits? Absolutely! But will have to wait for another blog.
Renee Runge, “Why Are There So Many Animals in Children’s Literature? (And What You Can Do With Them),” Kidpressroom, February 2, 2021, accessed April 26, 2021. https://www.kidpressroom.com/animals-in-childrens-literature/