The best books with animals that talk

Why am I passionate about this?

I have often spoken with the animals that I meet: from migrating ducks to street cats, woodchucks to chickadees. Mostly quietly—and always as if they not only could hear and understand, but also could reply. As our children grew, the replies became louder and more insistent. When our daughter was old enough to feel fearful of travel—particularly the crossing of open water in small boats—I began to tell her stories featuring these talking animals. Because the animals also were sometimes afraid, the stories helped to distract her from the perils of our own adventures and then, eventually, to enjoy them as well.


I wrote...

Book cover of The Coconut Crab

What is my book about?

A chapter book for advanced readers set in a chain of tropical islands, The Coconut Crab charts the intertwining friendships of a crab, a goat, a bird, and a gecko. Along the way, there are the usual challenges of our eat-or-be-eaten world. The perils of timidity, confusion, and self-doubt. The enticements of vanity and routine. The rewards of fearless generosity and genuine trust.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Peter W. Fong Why did I love this book?

Legend has it that the author first conceived the story while rowing on the River Thames. How a session at the oars could inspire such characters as the White Rabbit and the Cheshire Cat I have no idea.

Nevertheless, I have read this book aloud more times than I can count—from beginning to end, and also in odd increments, skipping about from chapter to chapter. And yet, the sentences always surprise me with their musicality and sense of fun.

Chapter 3, for example, contains this exchange: “Mine is a long and a sad tale!” said the Mouse, turning to Alice, and sighing. “It is a long tail, certainly,” said Alice, looking down with wonder at the Mouse’s tail; “but why do you call it sad?” 

By Lewis Carroll, John Tenniel (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Pook Press presents Lewis Carroll's world-famous novel "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" with original illustrations by John Tenniel. This classic story, first published in 1865, relays the tale of a girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit hole into a fantasy world. As the adventure unfolds, Alice explores many magical places and meets the most curious characters. The book was a huge commercial success on its initial publication and continues to delight readers today. Alice's journey is illustrated with gorgeous black and white drawings from John Tenniel. His Alice illustrations are instantly recognisable and are the most famous of this…


Book cover of The Wind in the Willows

Peter W. Fong Why did I love this book?

Mole, Rat, Toad, and Badger are some of my favorite people in books. They are resourceful and they are kind. And though they sometimes make mistakes, of course, they always try to be good to their friends.

You might learn something from their adventures, but it’s not a requirement. Early in Chapter 1, Rat (who is actually a water vole) offers these words to live by: “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing—absolute nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

By Kenneth Grahame,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked The Wind in the Willows as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

Spend a season on the river bank and take a walk on the wild side . . .

Spring is in the air and Mole has found a wonderful new world. There's boating with Ratty, a feast with Badger and high jinx on the open road with that reckless ruffian, Mr Toad of Toad Hall. The four become the firmest of friends, but after Toad's latest escapade, can they join together and beat the wretched weasels?

PLUS A behind-the-scenes journey, including author profile, a guide to who's who, activities and more.


Book cover of Rabbit Hill

Peter W. Fong Why did I love this book?

Although not nearly as well-known as Richard Adams’ Watership Down (an epic tale, with voyages and battles on the scale of Homer’s Odyssey), this book was published decades earlier and could be seen as a quiet precursor to that far more violent story.

The gardeners among you will immediately recognize both the fear and the excitement that the animals feel when contemplating unfamiliar humans. My wife and I, who have moved dozens of times in our long careers, often quote a line from Little Georgie: “New folks coming, oh my!”

By Robert Lawson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rabbit Hill as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

It has been a while since Folks lived in the Big House, and an even longer time has passed since there has been a garden at the House. All the animals of the Hill are very excited about the new Folks moving in, and they wonder how things are going to change. It’s only a matter of time before the animals of the Hill find out just who is moving in, and they may be a little bit surprised when they do.


Book cover of The Trumpet of the Swan

Peter W. Fong Why did I love this book?

E. B. White was such a fine writer that I could have picked three of his books for this list. (He is also the author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little.)

But The Trumpet of the Swan is set partly in Montana’s Red Rock Lakes—one of my favorite places in the world—and somehow manages the unexpected miracle of capturing a love for art, family, and the natural world in a single story.

By E. B. White, Fred Marcellino (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Trumpet of the Swan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

The delightful classic by E. B. White, author of Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little, about overcoming obstacles and the joy of music. 

Like the rest of his family, Louis is a trumpeter swan. But unlike his four brothers and sisters, Louis can't trumpet joyfully. In fact, he can't even make a sound. And since he can't trumpet his love, the beautiful swan Serena pays absolutely no attention to him.

Louis tries everything he can think of to win Serena's affection—he even goes to school to learn to read and write. But nothing seems to work. Then his father steals him…


Book cover of The Golden Compass

Peter W. Fong Why did I love this book?

The Golden Compass (also published as Northern Lights) is the first book in a trilogy of tales set in a world where every human is accompanied by a daemon—a sort of physical embodiment of your inner spirit.

Though not technically “animals,” daemons can take the form of animals. And, for some people, they can talk in the best possible way, like a perfect combination of coach, conscience, and companion. Pullman’s heart-wrenching story builds far more than an alternative world for his readers: there are multiple universes to explore and experience, along with a warrior race of armor-plated polar bears (who really are animals, and who also can talk).

By Philip Pullman,

Why should I read it?

28 authors picked The Golden Compass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

The first volume in Philip Pullman's groundbreaking
HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy, now a thrilling, critically
acclaimed BBC/HBO television series. First published
in 1995, and acclaimed as a modern masterpiece, this first
book in the series won the UK's top awards for children's literature.

"Without this child, we shall all
die."

Lyra Belacqua and her animal daemon live
half-wild and carefree among scholars of Jordan College, Oxford.

The destiny that awaits her will take her to the frozen lands
of the Arctic, where witch-clans reign and ice-bears fight.

Her extraordinary journey will have immeasurable consequences
far beyond her own world...



This…


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By Kirsten Weiss,

Book cover of Legacy of the Witch

Kirsten Weiss Author Of The Mysteries of Tarot: A Work of the Imagination

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

When I joined the Peace Corps in the early nineties, I wasn’t allowed to take much luggage. I decided to bring a Tarot deck, figuring I’d finally have time to learn it while parked in an Estonian forest. That Tarot deck opened up a world of Renaissance mysticism and magic, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Tarot cards and readings feature prominently in many of my cozy mystery novels, not the least of which are the Tea and Tarot mysteries. Now my imaginary Tarot reader from that series, Hyperion Night, has recently written his own Tarot guidebook, The Mysteries of Tarot.

Kirsten's book list on how to read Tarot

What is my book about?

Seeker: As societies grow increasingly fragmented, hopelessness, nihilism, division, and despair are on the rise. But there is another way—a way of mystery and magic, of wholeness and transformation. Do you dare take the first step? Our path is not for the faint-hearted, but for seekers of ancient truths...

Legacy of the Witch is a spellbinding, interactive tale of a woman’s midlife quest to understand the complexities of her own heart. A paranormal women’s fiction murder mystery for anyone who’s wondered if there might be more to their own life than meets the eye…

Legacy of the Witch

By Kirsten Weiss,

What is this book about?

Seeker: As societies grow increasingly fragmented, hopelessness, nihilism, division and despair are on the rise. But there is another way—a way of mystery and magic, of wholeness and transformation. Do you dare take the first step? Our path is not for the faint-hearted, but for seekers of ancient truths.

All April wants is to start over after her husband’s sudden death. She’s conjuring a new path—finally getting her degree and planning her new business in bucolic Pennsylvania Dutch country. Joining an online mystery school seems like harmless fun.

But when a murdered man leaves her a cryptic message, she catches…


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