The best books with talking animals

2 authors have picked their favorite books about talking animals and why they recommend each book.

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An Alien's Guide to World Domination

By Elizabeth Fountain,

Book cover of An Alien's Guide to World Domination

This book is unlike anything I have ever read before. I love that it is quirky and bizarre, yet meaningful and relatable at the same time. Elizabeth Fountain puts a piece of her soul into her characters, which is what makes this story memorable. Having grown up with schnauzers as pets, I especially love that she gives a schnauzer some of the best lines in the book. Talking dogs, vivid characters, aliens that resemble snot, and a world in peril – what more could you ask for?


Who am I?

As a kindergarten teacher and a mother of three boys, I live at the intersection of weird and wonderful, so I expect nothing less from my library. Indie authors offer unique points of view, aren’t afraid to break the rules, and are motivated by their passion for the craft of writing. I'm drawn to those writers who let the voices in their heads lead the way, creating characters you become invested in from page one. I love writing around my characters, because once I have them developed, the books tend to write themselves. Some of my best storylines are ones where my characters took over and led me in weird and wonderful directions.


I wrote...

Hitchhiker

By Audra Middleton,

Book cover of Hitchhiker

What is my book about?

Supernatural abilities haunt her. Brainiac students taunt her. The FBI "Freak Squad" wants her. Will she abandon her extra sensory talents in favor of freedom, or will she hone them to help catch crooks?

Former army brat, Ainsley Benton, may have finally found her place in this world, and it’s among the freaks. This small-town art teacher has the ability to see, hear, and feel what other people are experiencing, and now the FBI’s freak squad wants to use her “human bug” abilities to catch bad guys. Despite her fear of commitment, failure, and responsibility, Ainsley temporarily agrees to join this team of misfits and ends up risking her life to investigate a conspiracy that may only be one of her schizophrenic coworker’s paranoid delusions.

The Unicorn Sonata

By Peter S. Beagle,

Book cover of The Unicorn Sonata

Peter Beagle is best known for his fantasy novel, The Last Unicorn, but other than featuring unicorns, this book is unrelated. It’s a beautiful story about thirteen-year-old Josephina Rivera. Her parents don’t have time for her, so she hangs out at a music store, where she is drawn to the music played by a mysterious young boy. This soon leads her across a magical border into a land peopled by unicorns, fauns, and other magical creatures. But the story is about more than mythic animals; it’s a poignant, inspiring tale about life, sacrifice, and the love between a girl and her grandmother. Don’t expect a children’s book. Though kids might like it, one has to have lived a while to fully appreciate it. 


Who am I?

I’ve always loved fantasy novels, which is why I write them, though I tend more toward epic fantasy. My father had a great love of nature. It wasn’t unusual for him to stop in the middle of building a fence or walking across a pasture in order to examine a bug or watch a hawk in flight. He taught me the value of animals and the wonder of the world we live in. Because of it, I’m especially drawn to stories where the animals act and think like animals really might, so I can imagine their unique perspectives. Every species is unique, a miracle that they exist at all.


I wrote...

The Back of the Beyond

By James Stoddard,

Book cover of The Back of the Beyond

What is my book about?

The elves claim no one can cross the border and live...When Gray Darien's love, Lady Tana, is kidnapped, he leads warriors from different Earth eras to rescue her. They enter Animonea, a land the Elf-King fears so much he raised a wall to keep its denizens out. There, every animal, tree, insect, and bird possesses intelligence. Every object: swords, chairs, garments can speak. Which creatures can they trust? Which merciless predators intend to destroy them?

Gray is soon embroiled in a war against an invading army of mechanical soldiers intent on eradicating the source of Animonea’s sentience. Unless he and his companions can overcome the designs of men, wolves, rivers, and trees, Animonea will perish, and Gray and Tana with it.

The Chronicles of Narnia

By C.S. Lewis, Pauline Baynes (illustrator),

Book cover of The Chronicles of Narnia

My first dive into the fantasy genre was through C.S. Lewis’ wardrobe, which transported me as a pre-teen into the magical realm of Narnia and all its denizens. What I learned from the series was that all things didn’t end up happily ever after in this genre. That there was dark magic that sometimes defeated the light and beloved characters could die! Even though I consider myself a sci-fi/horror writer, fantasy has been a subgenre to a lot of my stories, and these “Chronicles” were the books that spurred that interest.


Who am I?

Born in Natick, MA, I was raised on a healthy diet of sci-fi and horror from age five when I saw a double-feature of Star Wars and Logan’s Run! I soon discovered The Twilight Zone and Doctor Who and then Stephen King and Clive Barker. I moved to CA to attend USC and parlayed my obsessions into a successful three decades plus run in the Film industry as a Writer, Producer, Film Executive, Comic Book Creator, Author, and originally as a Special F/X Make-Up Artist. The five books I chose were seminal in inspiring me as a storyteller to explore the frayed edges of the human (and inhuman!) condition.


I wrote...

On The Set: The Hidden Rules of Movie Making Etiquette

By Paul J. Salamoff,

Book cover of On The Set: The Hidden Rules of Movie Making Etiquette

What is my book about?

Whether you are new to the industry, a seasoned pro or just interested in what the credits mean at the end of your favorite movie, this book is for you. Not only will you learn about the different jobs on a movie set, but for the first time, you’ll discover the hidden rules of movie set etiquette not taught in any film schools.

Featuring advice from over 90 working professionals including: James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy), Bryan Singer (X-Men), Wes Craven (Scream), Gale Anne Hurd (Aliens), Lin Shaye (Insidious), Doug Jones (The Shape of Water), Edward Neumeier (Robocop), Owen Roizman (The Exorcist), Patrick Tatopoulos (Independence Day), Greg Nicotero (The Walking Dead) and Kevin D. Ross (Stranger Things).

Bambi

By Felix Salten, Richard Cowdrey (illustrator),

Book cover of Bambi: A Life in the Woods

I remember the first time someone told me to read this book, and I replied, “Bambi? Really? No thank you.” I, of course, had only known the Disney-ized version of the story. I assumed it was a book for toddlers, with cute little bunny rabbits and birds singing in the trees. I was very wrong. It is a profound coming-of-age story dealing with family, love, parents, adulthood, loss, intolerance, death, betrayal, and the horrors which humans can inflict on both the environment and each other. It was banned and burned in Germany in 1936 as it was seen as a political allegory of the Nazi Party. A powerful book, and, unfortunately, still a very timely one. 


Who am I?

I've been the resident playwright at First Stage Children’s Theater in Milwaukee for over twenty years. I began my career by adapting classic titles for the stage: Little House Christmas, Treasure Island, Huck Finn, Through the Looking Glass, Tom Sawyer. As I researched previous adaptions of these novels, I discovered how so many of them were quite different from the author’s original intentions. I don’t feel these adaptations are 'bad,' by any means—in fact, I believe you have to break free of a novel to truly adapt it for a different medium—but often the 'adaptation' is the only part of the story that gets passed down to us. 


I wrote...

The Silenced

By James DeVita,

Book cover of The Silenced

What is my book about?

Marena struggles to remember what life was like before the Zero Tolerance Party installed listening devices in every home. Before they murdered her mother and put her father under house arrest. A time when difference was celebrated. When the new Minister of Education cracks down in her school, eliminating personal expression and independent thought, Marena decides she has to fight back.

The Silenced draws on the true story of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose, a movement that courageously resisted the Nazis. In an era when new technologies are accompanied by increasing surveillance, this is a powerfully relevant story of the enormous change that is possible when one person is courageous enough to speak the truth to power.

St. Patrick's Gargoyle

By Katherine Kurtz,

Book cover of St. Patrick's Gargoyle

Wonderful, fast-paced urban fantasy set in Dublin, Ireland. Gargoyles are former avenging angels who now watch over churches – that hook was simply irresistible to me. When some artifacts go missing from his cathedral, it’s up to the gargoyle Padraig and an elderly Knight of Malta (whose modern-day steed is a Rolls Royce) to find the sinister culprit and set things aright. The charming descriptions of Dublin, along with the witty banter of the heroes and the interesting nuggets of Celtic lore made me wish Kurtz had written a whole series of Gargoyle books. Sadly, she did not. Trigger assurance: the religious aspects are carefully handled so as to enhance the atmosphere of the story, not to insult or preach. St. Patrick’s Gargoyle is 200 of the fastest pages I have ever read.


Who am I?

I’ve been reading/gaming and writing fantasy for over 40 years. My interest in the genre began with mythology, then spread into the now countless branches of the Tolkien tree. Along with the great quests and magic items, I was always enchanted by the non-human characters populating these magical worlds. Not just the elves, dwarves, and dragons, but the intelligent animals and mythological creatures like pegasi, minotaurs, treants, big cats, snakes, apes, eagles, gargoyles – the list is endless. Some were good, some misunderstood, and some were evil incarnate, but almost always, I found their stories the most intriguing. As a result, their stories will be a big part of my new series, The Tamm Chronicles.


I wrote...

Thunder Peak

By Trae Stratton,

Book cover of Thunder Peak

What is my book about?

Fourteen-year-old Casey Tamm lives under Thunder Peak with her adoptive father Jonas. Jonas has kept the mysteries of the mountain to himself, but when Casey discovers unicorns are real, he knows it's time to reveal those secrets. Secrets that will rattle Casey’s world and fill it with mythical creatures; hidden truths about her heritage that set the burden of getting the stranded unicorn back home upon her shoulders. Unbeknownst to the Tamms and their magical allies, the task also resurrects the merciless Nightblade. An ancient saber-toothed predator who arrived long ago with one dire purpose: to eliminate Casey. But who sent the diabolical creature? How was it defeated and what does it all have to do with her long, lost mother? There are some secrets even Jonas doesn’t know…

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld

By Patricia A. McKillip,

Book cover of The Forgotten Beasts of Eld

How should I describe the voice of Patricia McKillip? Her words are meticulously chosen to show an opulent and fantastical world. I have sometimes tried to imitate her, but I just can't keep it up for long.  

In this stand-alone novel, the witch Sybel lives alone on Eld Mountain. She has inherited or captured and tamed a handful of incredible, magical beasts. These are all the company she needs, until she is asked to care for a king's lost heir. Soon she is no longer able to remain aloof from the world. 

In subsequent readings, I've been struck by Sybel's frustration that people won't leave her out of their drama. They think she owes them her time and attention. Can't we all relate to that?


Who am I?

The books I recommend here have inspired me and shaped my work. You see, I have always been a writer, but for a long time I viewed it as just a hobby. I did a lot of fan writing (Pern, especially) that allowed me to follow my heart and just have fun writing. My current work questions some of the underlying assumptions in fantasy. Must every problem be solved at the point of a sword? Does magical power always corrupt? And is it truly possible for evildoers to be redeemed? I hope you'll visit my land of Skaythe and find it as magical as Estcarp, Earthsea, and Eld Mountain!


I wrote...

Minstrels of Skaythe: A Three Novella Collection

By Deby Fredericks, Tithi Luadthong (illustrator),

Book cover of Minstrels of Skaythe: A Three Novella Collection

What is my book about?

Mages vs. Amazons vs. Giant Badgers vs. Tyranny! 

Zathi's job is to capture renegade mages, but Keilos isn't like any other mage she's dealt with. Her drive to bring him in only leads them deeper into a cursed forest. Together, warrior and mage will face deadly beasts and grapple with decisions that compromise every principle. Until they stumble upon a place of ancient, forgotten magic. Zathi must choose—allow Keilos to claim it, or kill him once and for all.

Hiero's Journey

By Sterling E. Lanier,

Book cover of Hiero's Journey

Technically, though it has a fantasy feel, this is a post-apocalyptic science fiction story concerning Per Hiero Desteen, a sort of Knight’s Templar dedicated to recovering the knowledge lost after a nuclear holocaust. Hiero fights antilife telepaths and mutated monsters in a journey to discover a lost, ancient secret in time to save humanity from destruction. Fun stuff, but the charm of the book lies in his telepathic mount, Klootz, a bull morse (think of a giant moose), and Gorm, a telepathic bear who joins him on his mission. Long after you’ve forgotten the battles, the charm of the animals remains.


Who am I?

I’ve always loved fantasy novels, which is why I write them, though I tend more toward epic fantasy. My father had a great love of nature. It wasn’t unusual for him to stop in the middle of building a fence or walking across a pasture in order to examine a bug or watch a hawk in flight. He taught me the value of animals and the wonder of the world we live in. Because of it, I’m especially drawn to stories where the animals act and think like animals really might, so I can imagine their unique perspectives. Every species is unique, a miracle that they exist at all.


I wrote...

The Back of the Beyond

By James Stoddard,

Book cover of The Back of the Beyond

What is my book about?

The elves claim no one can cross the border and live...When Gray Darien's love, Lady Tana, is kidnapped, he leads warriors from different Earth eras to rescue her. They enter Animonea, a land the Elf-King fears so much he raised a wall to keep its denizens out. There, every animal, tree, insect, and bird possesses intelligence. Every object: swords, chairs, garments can speak. Which creatures can they trust? Which merciless predators intend to destroy them?

Gray is soon embroiled in a war against an invading army of mechanical soldiers intent on eradicating the source of Animonea’s sentience. Unless he and his companions can overcome the designs of men, wolves, rivers, and trees, Animonea will perish, and Gray and Tana with it.

The Last Unicorn

By Peter S. Beagle,

Book cover of The Last Unicorn

I loved this book so much, I pay homage to it in my own book, adopting the unicorn character, Amalthea, that Radia rides in the story.

Like Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Peter S. Beagle conjures a myth that seems to have originated from deep within our subconscious memories. But this is no plodding pseudo-history, no world-building treatise like so many fantasy writers strive to write these days. Thankfully, Beagle delivers fairy-tale storytelling in its purest form. The Last Unicorn brims with magic and adventure and heroics, but it’s also a kind of meta-fiction. Like The Princess Bride and The Neverending Story, the characters are aware of their fictional roles. Yet, The Last Unicorn is much more subtle in breaking the fourth wall. Powerfully moving and bitter-sweet, Beagle’s fable shows us why unicorns, and other mythic icons, resonate with us so profoundly.


Who am I?

Since before I could write my name, I’ve felt the need to put pen to paper. As a child, I needed a cassette tape recorder to get my fiction out there. I am pretty sure I have a small universe swelling like a tumor in my brain, and if I don’t disseminate the words that make up that world, it’ll grow and grow until it kills me. But I most want to move people with words; that’s where the magic of storytelling lies. I want my readers to come away from the page feeling like they’ve had a genuine experience the way only a great story can offer. 


I wrote...

The Princess of Aenya

By Nick Alimonos,

Book cover of The Princess of Aenya

What is my book about?

Radia was born with a power she does not understand, an empathic connection to Nature that may lead to the destruction of all she holds dear, her life and her people.

Tyrnael once served as the capital of Aenya, but the kingdom declines over the ages and its advanced technology is lost to the pages of myth. Centuries pass when Radia's father dies and she inherits the throne of the once-fabled city. Innocent to the cruelties of the world beyond her ivory tower, she is helpless when her adopted brother, Zaibos, seizes control in a violent coup. While the suffering of her people ravages her soul, her lone protector, Demacharon, forces her to flee, knowing the new king will destroy her if she remains. 

Coo

By Kaela Noel,

Book cover of Coo

Coo’s journey covers only a few city blocks but is long in emotional impact. At age 11, she enters the world of humans for the first time, having been raised by pigeons on a roof. A second, longer journey follows but to define it would spoil the surprise. The human-animal communication in the story will be considered fantastical by some, but others will believe it entirely possible that a child who has only known pigeons would speak their language. Coo touched my heart and gave me a new appreciation for these oft-maligned birds!


Who am I?

As a girl, I would roll around on the floor with my Labrador retriever, beg my parents for horseback-riding lessons, and dream of being a vet. A proficiency in language and lack of science skills led me to writing instead, but my intense love of animals never waned. I adore adventure stories featuring animal characters and human ones, and some form of communication between them. That’s why I wrote Shannon’s Odyssey which, like many Middle Grade novels, also explores family secrets and the all-important act of forgiveness. It’s not fantasy but contains mystical elements rooted in reality, because who doesn’t want to believe magic exists in our everyday lives?


I wrote...

Shannon's Odyssey

By S.M. Stevens,

Book cover of Shannon's Odyssey

What is my book about?

Shannon Simpson has a kind soul, sometimes questionable judgment, and courage to spare. When her parents are seriously hurt in a car accident, she treks a hundred miles through the forest seeking her long-lost grandmother, rather than stay with the mean, smelly Zielinskis. Finding Gran means navigating safely through the woods with only a compass, her wits, and a mysterious, possibly magical marra mamba stone to guide her. During her journey, Shannon faces bad weather, injuries, hunger, thirst, and wild critters–some nice and some not so nice. To her amazement, she realizes she can communicate with the animals. And she uncovers secrets about her family and herself. (Fun fact: My daughter illustrated the cover.)

The Jungle Book

By Rudyard Kipling,

Book cover of The Jungle Book

Before television, the only way for most people to “visit” exotic locales was through a novel like The Jungle Book. Its many grand themes will always keep it relevant, but for me, it’s through the unknowable interiors of India, the character animals that “live” there and the code they live by – the living breathing Law of the Jungle, by which The Jungle Book retains its “teleportative magic” in the digital age. Thrust in the middle is the “man-cub” Mowgli who is trying to discover for himself if he can or even should live by the law too. On one side the animals who think man and animal can coexist and try to mentor him to that end, and on the other a tiger, who fears that men will eventually destroy the jungle for all of them. Relevance plus teleportative magic equals Classic.


Who am I?

I’ve been reading/gaming and writing fantasy for over 40 years. My interest in the genre began with mythology, then spread into the now countless branches of the Tolkien tree. Along with the great quests and magic items, I was always enchanted by the non-human characters populating these magical worlds. Not just the elves, dwarves, and dragons, but the intelligent animals and mythological creatures like pegasi, minotaurs, treants, big cats, snakes, apes, eagles, gargoyles – the list is endless. Some were good, some misunderstood, and some were evil incarnate, but almost always, I found their stories the most intriguing. As a result, their stories will be a big part of my new series, The Tamm Chronicles.


I wrote...

Thunder Peak

By Trae Stratton,

Book cover of Thunder Peak

What is my book about?

Fourteen-year-old Casey Tamm lives under Thunder Peak with her adoptive father Jonas. Jonas has kept the mysteries of the mountain to himself, but when Casey discovers unicorns are real, he knows it's time to reveal those secrets. Secrets that will rattle Casey’s world and fill it with mythical creatures; hidden truths about her heritage that set the burden of getting the stranded unicorn back home upon her shoulders. Unbeknownst to the Tamms and their magical allies, the task also resurrects the merciless Nightblade. An ancient saber-toothed predator who arrived long ago with one dire purpose: to eliminate Casey. But who sent the diabolical creature? How was it defeated and what does it all have to do with her long, lost mother? There are some secrets even Jonas doesn’t know…

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