Friday, August 28, 2009

Writing about Animals

Okay. Time to weigh in on animals. I write about animals a lot. They are a large part of my life. I wake up to a small calico cat sitting on my shoulder. My daily rhythms revolve around feeding, watering, and caring for animals. I am very aware of the comfort and company they provide to humans. That's probably why animals tend to creep, crawl, jump, or gallop into my books, whether I intend for it to happen or not.

Here's a list of my favorite animals in order, and why:
1) Cats - they're soft.
2) Horses - they're magnificent.
3) Dogs - they're loyal.
4) Donkeys - those wonderful, long ears.
Now I admit - some people might be upset at this list. Some of you are dog people. You let your dogs sleep in the house, and your cats sleep outside. I'm just the opposite. My cats sleep in the house (so they don't get eaten by coyotes) and my dogs sleep in a warm doghouse outside (unless it's below 25 degrees). Actually, I'd like to let my horse sleep in the house, too, but he's too big. But the fact is, I love all animals (although I'm not too keen on snakes) but the easiest ones to write about are dogs and horses.

Why is this? I can think of lots of great dog books right off the top of my head: Shiloh, Old Yeller, Because of Winn-Dixie, The Call of the Wild. I can also name tons of horse books: The Black Stallion series, Misty of Chincoteague, Black Beauty, as well as lots of more recent ones. But I can't quickly bring to mind any great cat books, except for The Cat in the Hat, but that is a picture book. I'm thinking more of middle grade and young adult fiction.

So here's a question: why are there more books written about horses and dogs, than about cats?
And if cats are my favorite animals, why don't I write about them? Well actually, I do. I have a middle grade manuscript called WALKING THE DOG which features dogs (of course), but a cat figures prominently into the story also. And my newest WIP (work in progress) will probably feature rescuing a cat as part of the plot. (It is a work in progress, however, so anything might happen).

Here are a couple of things to think about:
1) Can you think of any good children's fiction that features cats?
2) Can you list your favorite animals in order, and why?


Joanna said...

For picture books there's a ton. My favorites are:

IF YOU GIVE A CAT A CUPCAKE (silly and fun)
Skippy Jon Jones (any of them)

For middle grade, there's the fairly large Warriors series by Erin Hunter--all cats!

And for YA, Tamora Pierce's epic fantasy, Tortall world has a pretty big main, cat-character

They're out there! And there's probably 20 more I couldn't think of just now.

Now--if you want a GREAT snake story (true story, blog entry) go to Kaki Warner's blog and scroll down to the second entry. Holy freaking moly--ew!

Joanna said...

PS - Kaki's a horse-lover too!

Joanna said...

Last comment, I swear!

Favorite animals:

1) Zebra (always has been since I did a report on them in elementary school)
2) Dogs (I have two and I love them!)
3) Pigs (because they're smart)
4) Sea Horses (because I can watch them all day--mesmerizing!--and because the male carries the babies--equal rights, woot!)

Linda Benson said...

Zebras?? Cool. Hey, they're equines. And Sea Horses - that's hilarious. Equal rights - yay!

Dee said...

I was going to say that "Thomasina" was one of my favorite cat stories as a child, until I remembered that it's actually a Disney movie and not a book. So I'll settle for listing my favorite animals:

1) Cats, definitely.
2) Dogs. Close second to cats.
3) Owls, mainly due to the fact that I have this weird nickname, "Whooie."
4) Tigers. Princess Jasmine had one.

Wow, two Disney movie references in one comment. Time to go before I make it three...

Linda Benson said...

After thinking about it a little bit, I did come up with some excellent fiction about cats. Not fantasy, but realistic middle grade and YA fiction featuring cats.

First, THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY, by Sheila Burnford - definitely one of my favorite books of all time, and way better than either of the movies it spawned - featured a lab, a bull terrier, and a siamese cat traveling across the wilds of Canada to find their owners. If you haven't read it, please do.

Second, J.T., by Jane Wagner, about an inner city kid who finds an injured alley cat. Great, touching short book that boys will relate to.

Third, ONE-EYED CAT, by Paula Fox, won a Newbery Honor award in 1985. I haven't read this one, but it's about a boy with a gun, and I'll bet it's good.

And Fourth, STRAY, by A.N. Wilson, an old tom-cat recounts his life-story and tries to make sense of it all.

So there you go, cat lovers. I believe that realistic books about cats can teach sensitivity and compassion toward all living creatures.

What do you think??