Westerly Sun Column | Books Narrated by Animals Not Just for Kids

March 25, 2024

Whether you’re a cat person, dog person, or hedgehog person, one thing is for certain — you’ve definitely enjoyed a book featuring an animal character at one point in your life! This was likely more common in your younger years, considering that the Cooperative Children’s Book Center found that up to 27% of children’s books featured animals as main characters (and considerably more as tertiary characters), but adults don’t have to feel too nostalgic for these times. There are plenty of fabulous books for us that not just feature animals, but are narrated by them!

Perhaps the first that come to mind will be the classics: “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach and “Animal Farm” by George Orwell are well-known fables about anthropomorphized animals — animals that have human characteristics and behavior. “Watership Down” by Richard Adams is another classic adventure novel that is told from the point of view of wild rabbits traveling the English countryside in search of a new home. In Japan, it’s common for students to have “I Am a Cat” by Natsume Soseki as assigned reading; the book is narrated by a domestic housecat with a holier-than-thou attitude who roams the neighborhood, commenting sardonically about the people around him. As cats tend to do.

I do have a particular fondness for the books that feature snarky narrators, especially if that narrator also happens to be a cat (if you’ve visited the CATalog wall on the second floor of the library, this is probably not a surprise to you)! Just recently, a copy of “The Fur Person” by May Sarton mysteriously showed up in our mailbox and immediately captured the hearts of all of us reference librarians. It’s a charming story about Tom Jones, a stray who decides it’s time to settle down and find a human “housekeeper.” If you like the sound of that (and how could you not?) you may also enjoy “The Silent Miaow: A Manual for Kittens, Strays, and Homeless Cats” by Paul Gallico. This one is actually a nonfiction manual (in the very loosest of terms) which is said to have been translated from the original feline to English, and “instructs stray kittens and homeless cats in how to obtain, captivate, and dominate the families of their choice.” Cute.

If you’re a fan of cozy mysteries, you’re probably already familiar with some of the ones written from the animal perspective, such as the Mrs. Murphy Mysteries series by Rita Mae Brown. For something a little bit different (and — shockingly — not about cats!) check out “Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story” by Leonie Swann. This is a clever, strange, and delightful murder mystery in which a flock of sheep must figure out who killed their shepherd. All of these (and more) are available through the Ocean State Libraries consortium!

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