Why are Children's Picture Books filled with Animals?



Children everywhere always love children's picture books with kids as the stars or main characters. But even more enticing are books with animals as the main characters. There is nothing more fun for a child than a stunt or an absurdity created by an animal… something rib-tickling is even better.

Through the history of children's literature, animals have taken a strong place, adding their own abilities to any story and making that story even more amusing, absurd, or delightful.

As a child, my favorite book was Dr. Seuss's Horton Hatches the Egg, a hilarious account of an elephant, Horton, who is tricked into sitting on a bird's egg while the floozy of a mother, Mayzie, takes a long vacation to Palm Beach, Florida. The visual image Seuss created of that big, bulbous elephant squatting on a tiny nest in a sagging tree could make any child smile.

According to the biographers of Theodor Geisel, alias Dr. Seuss, this particular book was born in 1940, the very same year I was born. Perhaps that's why I loved it so much and even today it remains my favorite Dr. Seuss book.

Another well-known author Judith Kerr created another classic in children's literature - The Tiger Who Came to Tea. In this book the author juxtaposes imaginary and real, using humans and animals.

Mo Willem placed a pigeon in charge of a school bus in Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. This is another delightful tale mixing people and animals to create the fun.

Walt Disney took using animals as central characters in books and films to new heights.

Here are some other examples: Phyllis Krasilovsky and Peter Spier's classicThe Cow Who Fell in the Canal, Polly Dunbar's Where's Trumpty; the endless series of the Berenstain Bears created by Stan and Jan Berenstain. There are thousands more, of course.

Why are children so accepting of talking and thinking and conniving animals in their stories? Why do they seem to prefer them?

I'm sure there are studies on such things. It's enough for me to accept that this is so and write my own stories with animals in mind, knowing that the kids who read them will love them even more than if they were filled with just plain people!