This week we have a list featuring animals – magical animals, to be precise. If you just want a taster, try a short story from the collection Unnatural Creatures curated by our fave Neil Gaiman. If you know what you’re in for, try the dark tale The Knife of Never Letting Go (Manchee the dog is the comic relief here) or perhaps an interpretation of the Grimm brothers fable The Goose Girl. Whatever you choose, expect a talking dog. Or bear. An animal will probably be able to talk.
Down the Mysterly River / Bill Willingham ; illustrations by Mark Buckingham.
“Max ‘the Wolf’ is a top notch Boy Scout, so it is a little odd that he suddenly finds himself, with no recollection of his immediate past, lost in an unfamiliar wood. Even odder still, he encounters a badger named Banderbrock, a black bear named Walden, and McTavish the Monster (who might also be an old barn cat) – all of whom talk – and who are as clueless as Max. Before long, Max and his friends are on the run from a relentless group of hunters and their deadly hounds. Armed with powerful blue swords and known as the Blue Cutters, these hunters capture and change the very essence of their prey. For what purpose, Max can’t guess. But unless he can solve the mystery of the strange forested world he’s landed in, Max may find himself and his friends changed beyond recognition, lost in a lost world…” (Goodreads)
Unnatural creatures / stories selected by Neil Gaiman with Maria Dahvana Headley ; illustrated by Briony Morrow-Cribbs.
The 16 short stories in this anthology contain accounts of delightfully fantastical creatures, ranging from the familiar (werewolves, mermaids, griffins, and unicorns) to the chillingly mysterious (an ever-expanding, flesh-eating blob; a strange bird that spurs unpredictable changes to its surroundings; and even Death herself). Classic science fiction and fantasy authors Anthony Boucher, Frank R. Stockton, Peter S. Beagle, E. Nesbit, and Diana Wynne Jones are represented, as are contemporary authors such as Nnedi Okorafor, E. Lily Yu, and Gaiman himself. Who would a griffin eat? What does a phoenix taste like? What happens when you question an invisible dragon? Why are there always too many coat hangers? All of these questions, and more, are answered here.” (School Library Journal)
Also available as an Overdrive eBook!
The princess and the hound / Mette Ivie Harrison.
“He is a prince, heir to a kingdom threatened on all sides, possessor of the animal magic, which is forbidden by death in the land he’ll rule.She is a princess from a rival kingdom, the daughter her father never wanted, isolated from true human friendship but inseparable from her hound.Though they think they have little in common, each possesses a secret that must be hidden at all costs. Proud, stubborn, bound to marry for the good of their kingdoms, this prince and princess will steal “your” heart, but will they fall in love?” (Syndetics summary)
Darkwood / M.E. Breen.
“Darkness falls so quickly in Howland that the people there have no word for evening. One minute the sky is light, the next minute it is black. But darkness comes in other forms, too, and for thirteen-year-old Annie, the misery she endures in her Uncle’s household makes the black of night seem almost soothing. When Annie escapes, her route takes her first to a dangerous mine where a precious stone is being stolen by an enemy of the king, and later to the king’s own halls, where a figure from Annie’s past makes a startling appearance.” (Goodreads)
The twyning / Terence Blacker.
“Thirteen-year-old Peter, who lives in a garbage dump with his younger friend Caz, scratches out a living catching rats for the local “sportsmen” and their dogs. He also works for Dr. Ross-Gibbon, a monomaniacal scientist who wants to wipe out all of the rats in London. Efren, an impulsive young rat living in the Kingdom of elderly King Tzuriel, is restless and has trouble following orders. When Peter captures the dying King for the doctor’s experiments, Efren reports this to his superiors, leading to outrage in the kingdom; matters worsen quickly after the doctor puts his deadly plan into action.” (Publisher Weekly)
The knife of never letting go / Patrick Ness.
“Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee — whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not — stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden — a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives. But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?” (Goodreads)
We also have the Bolinda eAudiobook & Overdrive eBook versions.
Winter falls / Nicole Maggi.
“Alessia Jacobs is a typical sixteen-year-old, dying to get out of her small Maine town. Things look up when a new family comes to town. But as she begins to fall for the hot, mysterious son, Jonah, her life turns upside down.Weird visions of transforming into an otherworldly falcon are just the beginning. Soon she learns she’s part of the Benandanti, an ancient cult of warriors with the unique power to separate their souls from their bodies and take on the forms of magnificent animals. Suddenly forced to weigh choices a sixteen-year-old should never have to make, Alessia witnesses two worlds colliding with devastating consequences.” (Syndetics summary)
The goose girl / Shannon Hale.
“Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, spends the first years of her life under her aunt’s guidance learning to communicate with animals. As she grows up Ani develops the skills of animal speech, but is never comfortable speaking with people, so when her silver-tongued lady-in-waiting leads a mutiny during Ani’s journey to be married in a foreign land, Ani is helpless and cannot persuade anyone to assist her. Becoming a goose girl for the king, Ani eventually uses her own special, nearly magical powers to find her way to her true destiny.” (Syndetics summary)
Also available as an audiobook on CD and Overdrive ebook.
Pom Poko [videorecording] / a film by Isao Takahata.
A community of magical shapeshifting raccoons desperately struggle to prevent their forest home from being destroyed by urban development.
Many Studio Ghibli movies contain magical animals of some find, including Nausica’a, Porco Rosso and Princess Mononoke. Because who doesn’t love a good Ghibli film? (Hint: they are all good.)
Tender morsels / Margo Lanagan.
“Liga’s life is filled with dark hearts and foul deeds. So she chooses a protective path of natural magic to find a safe other-worldly place for herself and her two daughters. But when magicked bears and mischief men break the borders of their refuge the girls must face the truth, and engage with the appeal and risk of the real raw world.” (Syndetics summary)
Also available as an Overdrive ebook.