5 Terrific Books Where Animals Are the Protagonist

Books about animals are wonderful, but what about books where they star as the main character? Read on for more.

Book Culture Fiction Opinions Recommendations
A crow with its beak open perched on a wooden post.

The protagonist makes or breaks a book, and that’s especially true for a protagonist who happens to be an animal. Since we have no real way of knowing what goes on inside their heads, using them as protagonists is both intriguing and a little risky. But, when done well, it makes the book stand out. Here are a few examples of novels that did just that.

1. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

'Black Beauty' by Anna Sewell book cover showing a black horse walking in a meadow.

This follows the horse Black Beauty as he is passed from owner to owner during the Victorian Era in London. He gains new experiences and meets new friends, who tell their own stories that all paint a picture of how animals were treated during this time period.

2. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo, Illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering

'The Tale of Despereaux' by Kate DiCamillo book cover showing a mouse with a sword running.

This is a story about the mouse Despereaux Tilling, who loves the princess named Pea, music, and stories. It’s also about a rat named Roscuro who dreams of living in a world of light rather than darkness. And it’s about Miggery Sow, a serving girl with a simple but impossible desire. This story takes them to a dangerous dungeon, a wonderful castle, and they stumble into each other along the way.

3. Redwall by Brian Jacques, Illustrated by Gary Chalk

'Redwall' by Brian Jacques and illustrated by Gary Chalk book cover with a mouse holding a sword and shield.

Gentle mice have gathered in Mossflower Wood to celebrate a year full of peace and plenty. Things are going well until a shadow falls across Redwall. The Cluny, a one-eyed rat, and his terrible horde are rumored to be coming to take over Redwall Abbey. The only hope for the poor mice is the lost sword of the legendary warrior Martin. Matthias, a young apprentice, must rise up and fight back.

4. Animal Farm by George Orwell

'Animal Farm' by George Orwell book cover with the back half of a pig against a black background.

Overworked, mistreated animals take over the farm from their abusive owner. They set out to create a paradise full of justice and equality. But the animals eventually devolve from this revolution to tyranny, which evolves into totalitarianism rivaling that of their owner.

5. Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton

'Hollow Kingdom' by Kira Jane Buxton book cover with a crow looming over a city.

S.T. is a domesticated crow who enjoys being with his owner, Big Jim, trading barbs with Seattle’s wild crows, and enjoying Cheetos, the finest food humans have. When Big Jim’s eyes fall out of his head one day S.T. realizes something’s wrong. His remedies, from beak-delivered beer to the slobery affection of Big Jim’s dog, Dennis, but nothing works. Eventually, he has to leave with Dennis and go into a world where he discovers that neighbors are eating one another. Humans are on the brink of extinction, and the only one who wants to save it is a crow who only knows about the world through TV. What could possibly go wrong?

While we can’t truly get into animals’ heads, it’s still interesting to get their perspective in books.

Click here for an article on great animal sidekicks in pop/book culture.

Check out Bookstr Team Recs on Bookstr’s Bookshop page.