Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on August 26, 2018
This is one of the first monographs on children's literature, and one of the best.
Margaret Blount surveys animals, as they appear in different ways, in children's (and at times, adult) books.
She also outlines a history of children's books.
The story starts with Aesop's Fables, in Ancient Greece, and Reynard the Fox, in the Middle Ages, and ranges onwards to Russell Hoban's "The Mouse and His Child".
Blount explores the books in which the central character is simply an animal, such as in Henry Williamson's "Tarka the Otter".
Other books retain the wildness of actual animals, with an added layer of human-like thought and communication, as in Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book" and "The Just-So Stories".
Sometimes the animals are important, within human stories, but more emblematic, as in Elizabeth Goudge's "The Little White Horse". That "little white horse" is not quite a horse, and the big loud dog is not quite a dog.
Similarly, Aslan the Lion is not quite a lion as we know lions, and C.S. Lewis's "Narnia" includes other talking animals, as well.
In Margery Williams' "The Velveteen Rabbit", the animal is actually a child's beloved stuffed toy who eventually becomes ...
In Williams' neglected "Poor Cecco", the animals are different, in other ways, and we never find out why clever and resourceful Cecco is considered to be "poor". (It is a very funny tale!)
Of course Blount considers Kenneth Graham's "The Wind in the Willows", with the memorable Ratty and Moley, Otter and Badger, and Toad, and the terrible weasels and stoats of the Wild Wood.
Blount also considers those special characters who are actually human, with animal heads and names, especially "Rupert Bear", created in 1920 by Mary Tourtel, and continued for decades by Alfred Bestall when Tourtell retired in 1935. (Strangely, Blount does not discuss Sheila Hodgett's "Toby Twirl", a similar heroic boy who has amazing adventures, and happens to have the head of a young pig.)
I could go on, listing the varieties of animal characters Blount considers, including Edith Nesbit's sand fairy or Psammead, and Margery Beresford's "Wombles".
Suffice to say, this delightful and informative book ought to be on the shelves of anyone who enjoys children's books, as a stimulus for futher reading, or for re-reading!
VERY highly recommended!!
John Gough -- Deakin University (retired) --
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