Smart critters in literature

Top 10 books about intelligent animals

From Watership Down to Animal Farm:  Author Karen Joy Fowler selects for The Guardian 10 novels filled with anthropomorphic frailties and fantasies

 Rabbits in the snow

‘Watership Down has the science-fiction pleasures of inventive world building as well as a struggle against invasive totalitarianism’. Photo: Juniors Bildarchiv GmbH/Alamy

Charotte's Web“Charlotte’s Web was first read to me by my mother,” Fowler writes. I can still remember the moment when, having caught the tremor in her voice, I looked up, saw her face, and realised with great shock that clever, generous Charlotte might die. It was the first book in which I experienced the death of a character; I don’t think I’d understood such a thing was even possible and I know I couldn’t have managed Little Women, much less the relentless Tess of the D’urbervilles, all those years later if Charlotte’s Web hadn’t toughened me up.

 Children’s books are filled with humans in animal guise….Perhaps as a result, it’s been easy for our culture to think of sympathy for our fellow creatures as a childish thing.

 Animal Farm

Animal Farm by George Orwell

 I am including this because it is a great and consequential book, though it really has little to do with non-humans and is full of pig slander.



Intelligent animal literary figures


Creative Routines

In the right-hands, it can be a finely calibrated mechanism for taking advantage of limited resources… a solid routine foster a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies…” Mason Currey, author of the inspiring book Daily Rituals


Created by RJ Andrews,

 Creative Routines


The Internet’s Most Delightful Dead Ends

When you reach a 404 error page on the Web, Will Oremus says in a Slate piece, it’s a sign that something has gone awry. But sometimes a wrong turn leads to an unexpectedly scenic dead end. In honor of April 4, here are some of our favorite 404 pages from around the Internet. 

 404 errors

AlderaanDaily News404 pages


Blast from the past

My Worldweavers series, originally published by HarperCollins and just reissued by Sky Warrior Books, has continued to get excellent reviews. But I’m particularly fond of the Kirkus review of the first book in the series, Gift of the Unmage.

Gift of the Unmage 1GIFT OF THE UNMAGE 2



Try to imagine Carlos Castaneda’s mythos meeting Orson Scott Card’s Tales of Alvin Maker(with the substitution of a depressed adolescent female protagonist), and you’ll have a feel for this fantasy stew.

Teenaged Thea, scion of a family of mages, shows no sign of mystical ability and is transported to a distant time and dimension for training by Native American avatars—a spiritual warrior and Grandmother Spider, the world’s weaver. Several subplots involving Thea’s family and the backgrounds of her friends at a school for the magically challenged supplement the complex main plot—which remains obscure until the last third of the book. Cardboard adult characters are predominately unhelpful; only the mythic characters (both human and animal) support the teenager emotionally and magically.

The plot is suspenseful and engrossing with likable teen characters having to save the world from a mysterious entity introduced by greedy aliens. The combination of suspense, magic and teen angst will appeal to young-adult fans of Isobel Bird’s Circle of Three series and Tamara Pierce’s Circle of Magic books.

BTW, the final (probably) book in the series, Dawn of Magic, will be published soon by Sky Warrior Books.


13 Things Found on the Internet

Internet browsing yields some ….. er, unusual things. Here are some found By MessyNessy.

 A photograph of real houses in Mexico, not a screen still from Sim City

MexicoPhotograph submitted to National Geographic by Oscar Ruiz for Your Shot

A Femme Fatale’s Ring Gun

Ring gunIn the early 1800s, personal protection guns were all the rage. Large enough to be worn on most any finger, the revolver had to be manually rotated through each cylinder. The 2mm guns were typically marked ‘Femme Fatal’, and sold in small oval shaped jewelry boxes.

Pan Am’s First Office, now a bar owned by the actress from Top Gun

Pan Am bar

Things found on the Internet


Quote of the Day

The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall; nations perish; civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead.” — Clarence Shepard Day


Alma Alexander

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