“Anthropomorphism aims to make an animal or objects behave and appear like they are human beings.” – Literarydevices.net
There are many reasons for using anthropomorphism specifically animal characters in children’s books. The most important reason is its wide appeal to children.
What child isn’t going to be fascinated by a talking zebra?
Animal characters appeal to children because they are easy to relate to and memorable. Some studies, however, suggest that children do not gain accurate understanding of the natural world by reading stories with human-like animals. I disagree.
What I value most from children’s books that portray animals as kids is their ability to help simplify and make sense of more complicated topics like, for instance, disability. There are many children’s books whose successful uses of animal characters make stressful situations like starting school and making friends much easier for children to deal with.
Here are a few picture books with awesome animal characters that have a disability or difference of some kind.
All My Stripes: A Story for Children with Autism by Shaina Rudolph, Danielle Royer, & Jennifer Zivoin (Illustrator)
Zane is a zebra with autism that worries his differences will make him stand out from his friends. Zane, with the help of his mom, learns that autism is just one of many qualities that make him special. There are many children who struggle in school because they feel different or misunderstood by their peers. This is a heartwarming story that teaches children to embrace not only who they are, but also to embrace the differences in the people around them. I recommend this book for parents and teachers as a way to start a conversation about autism.
Henny by Elizabeth Rose Stanton
Henny doesn’t look like any other chicken- instead of wings she has arms. Henny struggles with her unusual appearance because although she enjoys having arms she worries about fitting in. But when Henny helps Mr. Farmer with various chores around the farm, she realizes how much she enjoys being able to point, twiddle her thumbs and cross her arms. She begins to wonder about all the other things she might be able to do.This is a great message for any child with a disability or difference on turning their difference into a positive asset.
Baxter Turns Down his Buzz: A Story for little Kids about ADHD by James Foley & Shirley Ng-Benitez
Baxter is the fastest bunny in the forest. His mind buzzes and his body zooms. Sometimes he loses control of his buzz and his zoom just like when he bumped into the raccoons during the annual forest race. With help from his uncle Barnaby, Baxter learns how to slow down his thoughts, relax his body and be more aware of his surroundings. At the next forest race Baxter’s buzz is just right!
A great story for helping children with ADHD be more mindful of their surroundings and manage behavior.
Back to Front and Upside Down by Claire Alexander
Its Principal Slipper’s birthday and the class is busy writing birthday cards to celebrate the occasion. Stan, the puppy, has a big problem though! He can’t get the hang of writing. His letters come out funny. Stan is afraid to ask for help until a friend advises that nobody is good at everything. When Stan gathers the courage to ask Miss Catnip for help he discovers that he is not the only one having trouble. After “LOTS and LOTS of practice” Stan’s letters come out the right way and he is able to give Mr. Slippers a terrific birthday card. A cute story that addresses a common childhood fear of failure and encourages children that no one is perfect and its okay to ask for help when they need it.