My Magnificent Seven Animals in Children’s Books
1. The Whereabouts Wolf in The Black North by Nigel McDowell. One of my favourite heroines, Oona, is given a Whereabouts Wolf to carry her away from danger: ‘a creature flecked with filth and reeking of the wild’. A Whereabouts Wolf has no eyes – Oona must simply whisper where she wants to go and the wolf will take her there. So when Oona says ‘take us to the middle of nowhere,’ that’s exactly what the Whereabouts Wolf does. I want one…
2. Aslan in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. One of my favourite childhood memories is watching the BBC adaption of this brilliant book around the fire with my siblings at Christmas. The opening theme tune conjures all the magic of my childhood and I fell asleep every night after listening to it imagining I was riding through Narnia on Aslan’s back. I liked the way Aslan was kind and loyal – that he never let the Pevensie children down – but that he was unpredictable and wild as well, as Mr Beaver said: ‘He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion’. And that’s kind of how I imagine magic to be.
3. Iorek Brynison in Northern Lights by Philip Pullman. This was a tricky one. Whilst Lyra’s daemon, Pantalaimon, remains one of my all-time favourite characters, there is something about this ‘outcast bear’ who rises up to be a mighty ice warrior, willing to protect Lyra against the slightest harm. And nothing beats the wonder of imagining Lyra riding Iorek across the Arctic ice plains.
4. Wolf in Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver. Torak’s bond with Wolf is one of the most well-drawn, touching and believable child-animal bonds in children’s literature. Wolf begins as a reticent, playful cub but as he takes up his place as Torak’s best-friend and ally, he becomes a brave, loyal and fierce wolf. And the closing chapter of this book shows the wolf-boy bond in a heartbreakingly beautiful way.
5. The White Pigeon in The Last Wild by Piers Torday. This little bird is basically ME in pigeon form – a misdirected ball of enthusiasm, often saying exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time. His malapropisms are laugh-out-loud funny and hopelessly confused lines like ‘Here is your gift – some old sheep’ and ‘Not a bad-looking fat bird yourself’ cement this little chap as a truly memorable character. And it’s comforting to find someone else (even if this someone is a fictional pigeon) whose words tumble out all wrong – because I stutter and mix up words quite a lot, especially when I’m nervous.
6. Saracen in Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge. Without doubt the most amusing goose in children’s books. Owned by the feisty Mosca Mye (‘I want my chirfugging goose back!’), Saracen makes a star appearance at the beast fight disguised as King Prael’s Star-crested eagle. Brilliantly funny.
7. Snow Leopard in The Snow Leopard by Jackie Morris. In a world where we move at 100mph through almost everything we do (yesterday I was moving so fast I ran full pelt into a glass door), the Snow Leopard draws you away to a half-forgotten world of peace and silence. The illustrations of this big cat are mesmerisingly beautiful and snow leopards remain one of my all-time favourite animals.
It was so hard to pick just seven animals for this blog post. I mean, I could have gone on for ages about Joe (from The Diddakoi), Hazel (from Watership Down), Eeyore (from Winnie the Pooh), Charles Scallybones (from A Boy Called Hope), Havoc (from The Burning Shadow) Tarka The Otter, The Ugly Duckling and, ummmmm, one more animal I’m very fond of: Gryff, the wildcat in my debut, The Dreamsnatcher. He is fearless, loyal and patient and although he is by nature a solitary animal full of secrets, he forms an extraordinary bond with Moll, a twelve-year-old gypsy girl. And that’s kind of cool.
Super huge thanks to Abi for writing this for The Book Zone. The Dreamsnatcher is due to be published on 26th February, and it's flippin' brilliant.