11 Books All Animal Lovers Read As Kids

When I was about five, my life plan involved having a horse instead of a car (in New York City, I might add), and owning several dozen cats, dogs, pigs, monkeys, parrots, and a falcon that would obey my every command. In reality, my apartment building didn't allow dogs (or falcons, probably), so my childhood pets were limited to a turtle, a cat, four rats, and the family of pigeons that took up residence on our terrace. Like most young pet-enthusiasts, I had to read about all the animals I couldn't have. And these are just a few of the books all animal lovers read as kids.

I don't know about other kids, but I pretty much devoured any book that promised characters with fur or feathers. I read books about horses. I read books about talking animals who wore clothes and plotted military campaigns. I read books where the dog dies tragically, but somehow also saves the family farm in the process (it seems like way too many books involved dogs saving a farm from being foreclosed on). Eventually I learned to stay away from any animal book that also had a hunting rifle on the cover, because that meant that Jim or Jody or Judd would end up having to shoot his beloved pet with that rifle.

So if you, too, were addicted to animal books of all kinds as a kid, chances are you came across some of these classics:

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1. Redwall by Brian Jacques

Redwall was either a fantasy series set in a world populated only by anthropomorphized animals, or a sci-fi series set in a future where intelligent badgers and mice have conquered the human race. Either way, it was an epic story about cuddly talking animals going on violent adventures and defending their abbey from the forces of evil.

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2. The Animal Ark Series by Lucy Daniels, Ben M. Baglio

I lived for those Animal Ark books when I was little. They were all about Mandy Hope, the do-gooder daughter of a veterinarian, who would have to rescue a different animal every book. The alliterative titles started to get a little tired after a while (Swan in the Swim, Giraffe in a Jam, and Kitty in the Candy Hearts, for example), but the stories were always adorable.

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3. Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

Ok, so there are a ton of kid and dog stories that could easily make this list. But Because of Winn-Dixie is one of the best books in the genre. It's the impossible-not-love story of Opal and a big, ugly, stray dog she calls Winn-Dixie. She's a lonely kid, but Winn-Dixie helps her deal with grief and make new friends. Also, nothing bad happens to the dog.

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4. The Saddle Club series by Bonnie Bryant

OK, I'm going to be honest here: I think that the Saddle Club books and the Baby-Sitter's Club books permanently merged in my brain, and all I can remember is the name "Caroline." Which is not the name of the main character in either series. But it was a series about horses, right? The girls road horses and ate sundaes and ate sundaes on horses and it was a blast, probably.

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5. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

E.B. White's Charlotte's Web and The Trumpet of the Swan are eternal classics for a reason (I don't know about Stuart Little, though... I'm still uncomfortable with the image of a human woman giving birth to a mouse). White's animal characters are just so beautifully written, and so deeply human. And Charlotte and Wilbur's friendship is one of the most touching relationships in all of children's literature.

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6. Animorphs by Katherine Applegate

Yes, the covers make us all feel a little queasy. But the Animorphs books were by far the best series out there about an alien giving a group of kids the power to turn into animals. They were also a little terrifying (and not just because those covers haunted your dreams). Didn't one kid get stuck as a hawk forever? Yikes.

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7. Watership Down by Richard Adams

Watership Down lured all us all in with the promise of talking rabbits, and then slapped us in the face with a complex novel about brutality and lapine social hierarchies. I'm not really sure if this was intended to be a kids book, but a lot of us read it as kids anyway. And it may not have been cute, but it was definitely profound.

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8. Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry

Marguerite Henry owns the kid's horse book game. She owns it. And Misty of Chincoteague made us all ache to capture our own wild pony. The first book in the series is actually more about Phantom, the bad ass wild mare, than it is about little Misty. But it's still one of the most classic taming-a-wild-horse books out there, and for good reason.

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9. Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe

If Watership Down is the elegant, Oscar-winning period piece of the kid's rabbit book genre, then Bunnicula is the midnight-showing, silly cult-favorite horror movie that everyone loves. Harold the dog and Chester the cat are convinced that their family's new rabbit is a vampire. Hijinks ensue.

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10. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien

As a former rat-owner, I like a book that redeems rodents. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is actually pretty frightening as far as kid's books go (at least, the animal testing stuff freaked me out). And it's pretty unusual, since the protagonist is a widow and mother trying to save her family, not a plucky young kid. But it's also a brilliant book about science, nature, and good-old fashioned saving your family from cats.

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11. The Warriors Series by Erin Hunter

The Warriors series was just about as epic as any series about feral cats could get. These cats didn't wear clothes, or use swords, but they had their own systems of governance, religion, and warfare. Rusty, a house cat, gets pulled into a hidden world of clan allegiances and cat-lore, only to learn that he's destined to become a mighty (cat) warrior.

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Images: Illumination Entertainment; Giphy (1)