Groucho Marx famously said, “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” We’ve put together a list of classic books about animals that anyone would be happy to see sticking out of their stocking.
1 – Fantastic Mr Fox – Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl wrote a number of books that featured animals (tortoises in Esio Trot, the squirrels in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the mice in The Witches), but Fantastic Mr Fox is among the best. It tells the story of Mr Fox and his daring exploits, stealing food from three bungling farmers.
2 – The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
The classic book The Wind in the Willows has inspired countless films, TV series and stage adaptations. It has captured the imaginations of children and adults alike with its vibrant characters, all of whom are animals living along a river.
3 – The Velveteen Rabbit – Margery Williams
The Velveteen Rabbit tells the inspiring tale of a stuffed rabbit toy who dreams of being a real rabbit, but knows that his owner needs him. The story is in turns tragic and life-affirming, and is sure to move even the most stoic reader to tears (and is, incidentally, my personal favourite).
4 – Black Beauty – Anna Sewell
If you’ve ever seen the 1994 film adaptation of this definitive children’s novel you’ll already know what an emotional rollercoaster it is. Telling the story of a black horse from foalhood to his twilight years the reader follows Beauty as he makes new friends, faces hardship, loss and redemption.
5 – The House at Pooh Corner – A.A. Milne
A.A. Milne’s short stories about the residents of the Hundred Acre Wood have become well-beloved all over the world. As well as telling delightful accounts of the many adventures of a merry band of animals, it also teaches the reader the true meaning of friendship, love and loyalty. Quotes such as “Some people care too much, I think it’s called love.” will stick with you forever.
6 – Stuart Little – E. B. White
Stuart Little is a mouse born into a human family. The novel is an outsider tale about thriving despite your differences and has never fallen out of favour since its publication in the 1940s. Stuart races boats, fights off cats and has many adventures despite adversaries and challenges along the way.
7 – The Tale of Peter Rabbit – Beatrix Potter
The Tale of Peter Rabbit is the story which made Beatrix Potter’s name. Starting life as a character she would write about in letters to the children of family friends, Peter and his friends soon made waves in children’s fiction and have continued to be published to this day.
8 – The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling
Containing a number of short, moralistic stories, The Jungle Book tells tales about a boy called Mowgli who is raised by wolves in the Indian jungle. It uses animal behaviour to teach lessons about life, friendship and what is right and wrong. In fact, it came to be used as a motivational book by the Boy Scouts because of its allegorical material, and this is why the head of a scout pack is named ‘Akela’.