I am delighted to welcome Lynne Barrett-Lee to the blog today to talk about her favourite animal books. Lynne is the author of the wonderful animal tale ‘Able Seacat Simon’ a story inspired by real life events. When an orphaned kitten is discovered in the Hong Kong docks in 1948 by a British Sailor, he has no idea of the journey that awaits him. Smuggled onto HMS Amethyst and named ‘Simon’ by his new friends, the little cat quickly gets used to life on the seas and appoints himself chief rat-catcher. When tragedy strike, Seacat Simon keeps spirits up – but it’s a long and dangerous journey back to England for the heroic kitten and his crewmates. An endearing, heart warming tale which will make you smile and cry in equal measures.
My Favourite Animal Books – Lynne Barrett-Lee
Bambi; a life in the woods – Felix Saltern
Without question, this is my favourite animal book ever. I borrowed it from the library, just before my 8th birthday, feeling that familiar cocktail of excitement and trepidation – it was such a very big book and the writing was so small. It was not the book-of-the-film – I hadn’t even seen the film at this point because there were no DVDs then – rather, it was the novel on which Walt Disney based his famous movie, and, like almost all books, there was so much more to it. I remember sitting in bed reading it on the morning of my birthday, tears streaming unchecked down my face.
To this day, seeing a deer – particularly if it’s a stag, heavily antlered – I am taken straight back to Bambi’s beautiful, dangerous, unforgettable world.
Black Beauty – Anna Sewell
Another book that swept me away. I don’t remember how old I was when I read Black Beauty, only that I felt I’d entered into a very different world; one where cruelty and danger lurked around every corner. Which was absolutely as Anna Sewell intended, of course. And why her book help pave the way for social change.
Black Beauty was the first book I re-read after agreeing to write Able Seacat Simon, because I knew Black Beauty’s narrative voice would give me something to go on. He was exactly as I remembered him, too; dignified, gentle and always, always kind. And like Simon, he suffered, and bore his suffering stoically.
I particularly love the footnote to the edition – that it was ‘translated from the original equine’. A lovely touch. A lovely book.
Comet in Moominland – Tove Jannson
You’re right. Strictly speaking, a Moomintroll isn’t a real animal, any more than is a Snork Maiden or a Hemulen. Any more than yellow pears grow on blue trees. But as anyone with an ounce of imagination will tell you, just because you haven’t seen something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, and the animals of Moominvalley were very real to me when I was six. And also very precious. I still have my copy to this day, held together mostly by sticky tape and tenderness. The front page declares it to be on ‘special loan only’ from ‘Lynne’s Lending Library’. That’s how much I loved it. I still do.
The Hundred and One Dalmations – Dodie Smith
We were always a doggy family and we also lived in London, so there was never any question that I’d love this book. I fell in love with all the characters – the sweet Dearlys, the two Nannies, brave Pongo and graceful Missis, but poor, plucky Perdita (who’d lost her Prince, and her puppies, to the evil Cruella) was my favourite. Selfless, strong and brave, she was a great role model for a little girl. I’ve had a soft spot for liver-spotted dalmations ever since.
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – C S Lewis
Perhaps not normally one you’d think of when considering books about animals, but, for me, Aslan the lion was and always will be the beating heart of this magical story. Such courage. Such wisdom. Such strength. I remember it being introduced to it by one of my teachers, read to us in instalments, for a few beautiful minutes at the end of each school day. But I was much too impatient to know what was going to happen next, so I borrowed it from the library and gobbled the rest up in a day. And yes, I did take a peek at the back of my wardrobe.
When I trained as a teacher myself, it was the first book I chose to read to my own pupils. It was a privilege to share it with a new generation.
You can join in with the rest of the blog tour for some more fantastic guest posts.