"If you write FOR a particular market or FOR a particular editor you will often miss the mark. But if you write because your fingers have danced across the keyboard, because a character has tapped you on the shoulder, because a story has settled in your heart, then even if you never sell it you have done the work you were meant to do. And sometime, dear readers, real magic happens." Jane Yolen

10/8/14

Anthropomorphic Animals


 This post is party of Patty Wysong's
A to Z meme. This week's letter is "A"
A to Z blog hop at Patterings.Winnie-The-Pooh
Arthur the Aardvark 

What do these characters have in common? At least two things:
  1. They are characters in children's stories
  2. They are anthropomorphic animals
In case you are unfamiliar with the word, anthropomorphism is the attribution of human characteristics or behavior to an animal or object. Many classic children's stories have animals that speak, and in other ways act like people.  It was actually pretty common for quite a few years.

But the thing is, some folks in the publishing industry are shying away from them. I've heard from more than a handful of folks that they can be a hard sell, depending on who you are talking to. I've seen writers' guidelines for at least a few magazines that specifically say "no talking animals." And I get it - it's unrealistic.

But there is certainly still a place for these kinds of stories - and they ARE being published. There are some sensitive subjects you can write about with animals as protagonists where it is much more difficult to do so with children as the characters(especially in the picture book market). And, of course, they're just plain fun.

I have been reading a picture book almost daily for the past six month - most of them published within the last half a dozen years, and I've come across quite a few super picture books with anthropomorphic animals. Here are just a few:

Chicks Run Wild by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken, by Kate DiCamillo

Punxsutawney Phyllis by Susanna Leonard Hill

Duck and Goose Go to the Beach by Tad Hills

I Want my Hat Back by Jon Klassen

And of course, there are plenty of children's stories where the animals don't talk (or don't exist, for that matter). But I have to say that I personally have a soft spot for those sweet people-like creatures. Probably half of the picture books I've worked on this year have anthropomorphic animals, and both of the ones I wrote for the FaithWriters Writing Challenge (many MANY moons ago!) did (if you wanna see them, you can click here and here).

So, all you ever wanted to know about anthropomorphic animals in children's books and were afraid to ask! (or something like that) Check out the links below for more "a" themed posts (NOT all about children's books - that I can promise you!) - and feel free to join in!

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ANTHROPOMORPHIC STORY/CHARACTER?
 
My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer. Psalm 45:1

16 comments:

  1. No talking animals? Someone needs to tell that to my dog! Hands down my favorite character (although I'm not a fan of the books) is Eeyore. Love that guy!

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    1. Tom - that doesn't surprise me even a LITTLE bit (either that your dog talks or that you love Eeyore). Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. I did not know that was what you called those characters! I don't understand publishers reasoning for not wanting them- that's a big part of childhood-look and the Saturday morning cartoons from the past! Felix the Cat, Bugs Bunny (my favorite)Tom and Jerry, etc. In books, I like the Dr,Seuss Characters in Green Eggs and Ham.

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    1. I love Bugs too, Barb! (So do my kids, I am thrilled to say!) - and Green Eggs and Ham is great. Apparently, there have been some studies (no idea if they are reputable or not - didn't have time to really look into them) that say that too many anthropomorphic characters can give young kids a false impression that animals talk - and other not very good grasps on reality. At least that's what I THINK I read.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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    2. I've always enjoyed talking animals too. Still like Beatrix Potter's
      books and classic Winnie ther Pooh! I just haven't read them in
      awhile, because I don't have little kids around any more. And
      what about Brian Jacques' Redwall books? My kids enjoyed those
      even as they got older.

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    3. Kathleen - see, that's the fun in writing children's books. I don't need an excuse to read them!!! :D Thanks for stopping by (and I'll have to look up Brian Jacques- not a familiar name to me).

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  3. Bring back the talking animals! I can't imagine a childhood without these fabulous stories. I love anything to do with Disney characters, but I think Minnie will always have a special place in my heart.

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    1. Agreed, J'nell! So much fun. Thanks for reading and commenting!!

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  4. Would the Velveteen Rabbit count? I love that one. =]

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    Replies
    1. The Velveteen Rabbit DEFINITELY counts. :) Thanks for stopping by, hon :)

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  5. Animals have a way of working their way into our hearts and memories. I can't imagine discouraging such a creative avenue. Great post ... and I learned a new word today! :)

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    Replies
    1. Exactly, Nancy! So glad you enjoyed the post, stopped by, AND learned something! (I learned to SPELL a new word this week - bet you can guess which one! LOL)

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  6. I think it's a great writing tool. Of course it could be misused but really, who doesn't love a talking animal? And I think there's a lot worse out there in story world to steer children off the reality path. My son just discovered Dr. Doolittle and loved it. And with that, I leave you with this old chestnut (I say old because I saw it last year :) )....http://www.littlethings.com/i-cant-believe-how-funny-this-is-i-am-in-tears-make-sure-your-sound-is-turned-on/?lPd9eFHfjTI1Y8tz.01

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    Replies
    1. Hehe. I used to LOVE Dr. Doolittle. Thanks for stopping by!

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  7. Okay, I'll try this again. I love talking animals! Good thing E. B. White never knew such advice. Or A.A. Milne! Besides, my three dogs and two cats talk all the time. Especially the female cat. Mostly she complains. :-) She's the original grumpy cat!

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    Replies
    1. Hehe - my cat is quite the talker as well - and my kids' guinea pigs even more so, I think!

      And I agree - LOVE talking animals. So fun! Thanks for stopping by!

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Thanks for stopping by. I would love to hear your thoughts - please share them!


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