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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Fife

ReadingMagic - What was your favorite animal book or story and why? - The Reading Magic Game Day 2

Somewhere or other we've got Tawny Scrawny Lion too...

I've mentioned I'm not good at "what's your favorite" type of thing because I tend to have a pile of favorites of whatever. It kind of becomes like identifying your favorite child. Thus, for this question, I'm answering with not 1, but 4 books:

The Poky Little Puppy

The Shy Little Kitten

The Tawny Scrawny Lion

and finally

Black Beauty

I identify how old I was by where I remember living at the time. The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Lowrey & illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren fits in with the earliest place I remember living. Rupert, Idaho. It was a magical house that I still have recurring dreams about inheriting some 38 to 40ish years ago. In my dreams the house always has some additional room/secret passage/ fireman pole that I'm pretty darn sure weren't actually in the house, but like I said... it was a magical house. Pretty sure I remember "Beej" (Becky Jo) reading it to me there. It might have been later, but that's the way my adult brain remembers it. I remembered very little about the plot other than Rice pudding and cute puppies until I became a parent & found the book again. The pictures flooded back with memories of adoring the little puppies & feeling sorry for the poor dog not getting dessert at the end of the book. As an adult... the moral and point of the story escapes me somehow. But the nostalgia is still there, especially with Tenggren's art.

For some reason, this image of the Poky Little Puppy sniffing a strawberry has always stuck with me.

The next two listed are also Tenggren's brilliant artwork. I'm honestly not sure If I read them as a kid or had them read to me, or if I just discovered them as an adult. Both of them are part of the Little Golden Books series, but I'm pretty sure my family didn't own them when I was young. But they make the list here because they both fit with my childhood adoration of animals that has carried with me through my whole life. The Shy Little Kitten by Cathleen Schurr is nothing more than a kitten being a kitten, with the final declaration of it being "the best day ever" where the cat falls in the water with a bullfrog.

Yes, that's a torn & taped page. That's what happens when babies read books.

Great picture. I could look at Tenngren's art all day & just remain positively delighted. The Tawny Scrawny Lion by Kathryn Jackson I think may have been read to me, but as an adult I adore the silliness & bravery of it. The bunny is willing to do something different than just shout at the lion. And the lion is willing to try something new in order to wait for what he thinks will be an even bigger meal. And Ultimately, they become friends who don't even think about the fact that the lion is a predator and the bunny is prey.

Poor... Fishy...

One thing I've always found a little funny about kids books & stories... Fish are probably the least anthropomorphized critters on the planet. Nobody feels sorry for the fish that are in the stew. I guess we just identify best with critters who breathe.

In Mentioning the anthropomorphizing animals... It brings me to book 4. I never read Black Beauty by Anna Sewell as a kid. I never developed a strong affinity for horses. I tended to be more on the little critters are adorable side of things. Though Elephants and tigers and such also captured my imagination... But becoming a dad & having a couple of girls (and a wife) who were smitten with horses, it was inevitable that I should read this book. It was probably only about 10 years ago when I read it. If you're unfamiliar with Black Beauty, it is possibly the first and still one of the best books advocating animal rights. After reading it, I understood better why my wife & daughters adored horses so. It's told from the perspective of the horse through the whole book as he is passed from owner to owner, some kind & gentle to their animals, others... not so much. Beyond just Black Beauty's personal perspective you get his reflections and interactions with other animals, many of whom are far less fortunate than he. I loved reading it to my children and the love of animals that it continued to instill in them and in me. It's probably one of the best books for reading to younger children to instill a sense of ethics & kindness to all creatures. If you haven't read it, I recommend it. I wish I had read it as a kid. Maybe if my parents had been animal lovers I might have been guided to it.

How about you? What animal books did you connect with as a kid? Have any affected how you treat animals?

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