Animal characters are a staple of children’s books. In fact, when I think of my Very Most Favorite characters in classic books, almost all of them are anthropomorphic. A quality that I love unique to animal characters is that they can be shown living grown-up, independent lives (sometimes it can be tricky to leave parents out of human children’s stories), and yet they can still have very child-like qualities. They are put in situations that are beyond their understanding, which brings a child-like point of view into that situation. Animal characters can be given the best and worst traits of both children and adults, but the innocence in them makes it all endearing to us.
Frog and Toad (Arnold Lobel):
“Frog,” said Toad, “let us eat one very last cookie, and then we will stop.”
Frog and Toad ate one very last cookie.
“We must stop eating!” cried Toad
as he ate another.
Winnie-the-Pooh and friends (A.A. Milne):
“Pooh,” said Piglet reproachfully, “haven’t you been listening to what Rabbit was saying?”
“I listened, but I had a small piece of fluff in my ear. Could you say it again, please, Rabbit?”
Rat and Mole (Kenneth Grahham):
“Well, well,’ said the Rat. “I suppose we ought to be moving. I wonder which of us had better pack the luncheon-basket?” He did not speak as if he was frightfully eager for the treat.
“Oh, please let me,” said the Mole. So, of course, the Rat let him.
Packing the basket was not quite such pleasant work as unpacking the basket. It never is.
It occurred to me, though, that these Very Most Favorite animal characters are all from chapter books. Picture books have a slightly more difficult task when it comes to character development, because of minimal text and page count, which means less space to flesh out personalities. I can understand why, once a strong picture book character is created, a series is bound to follow.
When trying to think of iconic anthropomorphic characters in picture books that I grew up with, I seem to be coming up blank. Now I’m on a mission to seek out those love-able animal characters from classic picture books. I’d love to hear from you:
What are YOUR Very Most Favorite animal characters from picture books?
I’ll compile a book list from the comments, seek out as many as I can find, and write a follow-up post about them in Part 2!