Animals in Picture Books
The Tale of Peter Rabbit Beatrix Potter
Winnie the Pooh A.A. Milne
Charlotte's Web E.B.White
Alice in Wonderland Lewis Carroll
The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame
The Wombles Elisabeth Beresford
All of these picture books have animals as characters.
Anthropomorphism is giving human characteristics to objects or animals. This is also recognised in children's writing as, 'Personification.' Beatrix Potter wrote and illustrated her first children's book featuring anthropomorphic characters in 1902. She went on to publish twenty popular children's books about her characters such as, Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny, Tom Kitten, and Jemima Puddle-Duck.
Contemporary children's authors still use animals in their stories to model human behaviour.
The advantage of writing animal characters is that an animal character can often do what a child character cannot. Children can identify with the emotions associated with the character and still hold a certain amount of detachment.
The late Richard Scarry once said he used animals to eliminate racial stereotypes, and also children relate better to talking animals in stories than to talking children.
Where do animals stand in today's publishing? Do publishers detest animals carrying out human traits? Do they prefer animals behaving as animals in their natural environment? My guess, is that it's a bit of both. It's a tricky task to write animals as characters but there are many authors today that do a marvellous job of it.
According to Harold Undown in his article, Getting Out of the Slush Pile, What's In and What' s (Often) Wrong,' addresses the use of talking animals: Editors are sick of Sammy Squirrel and Max Mosquito. The same goes for Claude the Cloud, Billy the Button or any other inanimate object. Follow this rule: if it doesn't talk in real life, don't have it talk in your story. However, in recognition of the fact that many popular children's books contain talking animals, the article explains further, Talking animals aren't completely taboo, it's just that most writers don't do them well. What's important is that animals have completely developed, unique personalities and characteristics. You need to create these characters as carefully as if you were creating a human character.
Animals in picture books have been hooking kids into reading for years and going by the following list of popular picture books, it's not about to disappear anytime soon.
What's your opinion about using animals in picture books?