Top Ten Tuesday: My Favourite Animals in Literature

Ten characters we’d name our pets or children after? Hmm, no, I don’t think so. None of my three children are named after book characters and neither are my two cats. It’s just not something I would do, so I have tweaked the subject of this week’s Top Ten Tuesday meme (hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish).

I’m not crazy about books about close friendships between humans and their pets because the animals often meet sticky ends, or else there’s usually a heart-rending scene of some sort that leaves me in floods.

My favourite animals characters tend not to have much to do with the world of humans, but my No. 10 choice is from a non-fiction book.

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Puss in the Woods

Originally published in The Star in 2009

I LOVE cats, but even if you’re not partial to flesh-blood-and-fur felines, you may find it hard to resist the charms of Dayan.

He is the creation of Japanese author/illustrator Akiko Ikeda and is the main character in four books translated and published by Dark Horse (best known as a publisher of comics). If you look at Ikeda’s website (www.wachifield.com) it seems that there are more books, including picture books and novels, featuring the cat and his friends. However, they’re in Japanese. The four titles thus far available in English are a little larger than Ladybird books, with the same hard covers, and fully-illustrated with the most charming and interesting watercolours.

Dayan has grey and red-gold stripes, a white stomach and four white feet. He has huge slanted amber eyes – and in fact, Ikeda’s characters are all notable for their large lustrous eyes.

Dayan lives in Wachifield, an imaginary world dominated by woodland and streams, and populated by the usual forest creatures like rabbits, frogs, foxes, otters and squirrels. There is an alligator though – his rather incongruous presence isn’t explained, and that’s one of the things I like about the way Ikeda writes. She doesn’t overtell the story – there’s no exposition at all, and characters and events appear in the books without introduction, but as if Ikeda is telling stories of creatures the reader already knows well. If you want every detail provided for you, then you may not like Ikeda’s style, but I find it very fresh and light. The reader is free to be a co-creator with Ikeda – he may suppose and imagine whatever he wishes when contemplating the world of Wachifield.

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Book Review: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamilo

edward-tulaneFirst published in 2009 in The Star
THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE
By Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
Publisher: Candlewick Press, 208 pages
(ISBN: 0-763-62589-2)
EDWARD Tulane is a china rabbit, finely dressed, trimmed with real fur. He has jointed limbs, leather shoes and a gold pocket watch. He doesn’t sound very cuddly, but he is an exquisite object, specially made for a little girl named Abilene.
Abilene adores Edward and Edward … well, Edward thinks he is “an exceptional specimen”. The rabbit never ceases to “be amazed by his own fineness” and takes Abilene’s love totally for granted. Why wouldn’t she love such a beautiful toy?

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Book Review: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

graveyardFirst published on 12th Oct, 2008 in StarMag

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK
By Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell
Publisher: Bloomsbury, 289 pages

THIS BOOK opens with a murder – three murders, actually – and yet, I would call it a comforting book. A man, Jack, is sent to kill a family of four, including two children. The opening paragraph contains the description of a knife, its handle and blade wet with blood. But, yes, on the whole, a warm and fuzzy book.

The title doesn’t suggest a cozy story. Neither does the cover (a thin and ghostly woman astride a pale horse haunts the back).Read More »