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Genres & Age Categories => Picture Books (PB) => Topic started by: Gatz on August 02, 2009, 03:38 PM

Title: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Gatz on August 02, 2009, 03:38 PM
I'm interested in getting a broad sense of how children feel about anthropomorphic animal stories (not interested in publishing houses policies--that's in another thread).

I've been talking lately with a lot of children and their parents. Without exception, every child seven or under I know likes talking animals, and all of their parents do, too. When I tell them that there are people at some of the book companies who don't like talking animals, they are perplexed, their only comment being, "Why?" What surprised me was that not only very young kids like the anthropo stories, the 5-7s do as well.


Best,
Gatz
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: annastan on August 02, 2009, 03:58 PM
In my experience an animal character is appealing when s/he is an animal for a reason and is true to his/her animal nature. While talking animals are usually cute and funny, the most successful ones are more than just thinly-veiled humans; their animal characteristics are what make them interesting and lovable. I'm thinking of Kevin Henkes's mice, for example, which are child-like but also mouse-like. This is also true of Peter Rabbit - his child-ness is what makes us root for him but his rabbit-ness is what makes him truly memorable. James Marshall's George and Martha are another perfect example of characters who are adored not only because they act like humans, but also because they sometimes don't act like humans. I hope this makes sense!

Anna

Just wanted to add: I was thinking about my George and Martha example and I realized that while those characters certainly don't always act like humans, they don't really act like hippos either. So that's an example that's a little separate from the other two, but I think they still work as characters because of the genuine friendship between them and because of the acknowledgment in the books that they are not actually human (like in the story with the hot air balloon when the text says that George wanted to be "the first of his species to fly").
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Joni on August 02, 2009, 05:34 PM
When I tell them that there are people at some of the book companies who don't like talking animals, they are perplexed, their only comment being, "Why?"

I think talking animals are like rhyming picture books -- it's not truly that they don't like them, it's that they see way, way, too many crappy ones, so it's easier just to say, "don't send this."

I'd point to Bonny Becker's award-winning and best-selling Bear series (as in, A Visitor for Bear) -- which has at least 2 more coming -- as proof.


Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Lill on August 02, 2009, 05:50 PM
I agree with Joni, wholeheartedly.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: annastan on August 02, 2009, 06:10 PM
I also agree with Joni. And I remembered that there are some words of wisdom about anthropomorphic animals and rhyming pb's in Olga Litowinsky's It's a Bunny-Eat-Bunny World.

Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Gatz on August 02, 2009, 08:27 PM
These are interesting ideas, especially the observation that in great animal stories the animals are not just disguised humans.

I’m wondering whether there isn’t another reason why kids might like anthro animal books. If you take a story and tell it with a human main character, then take the same story and tell it with an animal MC, the animal story will (other things being equal) be more appealing to a child because it will seem less lesson-y or message-y, somehow. This is just a conjecture. Does it have any validity?
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: jeanne k on August 02, 2009, 09:46 PM
This is a bit long and rambling, but bear with me if you care to.

I was just thinking about this topic, but in terms of videos instead of books. My children have discovered the Backyardigans. We are very picky when it comes to the shows our kids watch and at first glance, I wasn't a fan of the type of animation, but I have to admit, the show is growing on me.

Anyway, I was wondering why the characters are animals and not humans, and all I could come up with is the creators thought it would be cuter that way.

Now, tonight, I was reading a book to my daughters and the characters were animals (think Frog and Toad, but not nearly as good) and again, I found myself wondering why the characters were animals and not humans. They didn't have any "animally" characteristics. Yet, my kids really like the story. One thing that struck me was that having animals as the main characters allows authors and publishers to have adult characters (characters that live by themselves and do more adult things...like cook and clean and make decisions for themselves) while sidestepping the whole "kids don't like books with adult main characters" thing.

So, for example in "A Visitor for Bear" (which I love), a child couldn't live alone, making breakfast and tea and a cozy fire. A grumpy adult human might not interest a child, but a grumpy adult bear does.

That may explain one of the functions of the talking animal in children's lit.

Which, of course, is not the case with the Backyardigans. But I have to say, Pablo the Penguin IS pretty cute and I'm always in favor of a talking, singing hippo. Maybe it's because of my fond childhood memories of Henrietta from the New Zoo Review. I guess kids like talking animals.
 :eeyore
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Gatz on August 02, 2009, 11:07 PM

Now, tonight, I was reading a book to my daughters and the characters were animals (think Frog and Toad, but not nearly as good) and again, I found myself wondering why the characters were animals and not humans. They didn't have any "animally" characteristics. Yet, my kids really like the story. One thing that struck me was that having animals as the main characters allows authors and publishers to have adult characters (characters that live by themselves and do more adult things...like cook and clean and make decisions for themselves) while sidestepping the whole "kids don't like books with adult main characters" thing.


This really makes sense to me. Thanks, Jeanne K.

Gatz
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Tammi on August 02, 2009, 11:49 PM
Jeanne...I was all set to comment, but you captured much of what I was planning to say. How'd you do that? :)

I have a pb coming out called Mr. Duck Means Business which features a duck who goes a little haywire when the other barnyard animals pay an unexpected visit to his otherwise peaceful pond. In a veryveryveryvery early draft, the story wasn't about an uppity duck at all. It was about an old lady who didn't want kids traipsing through her lawn on their way to the park. Miss Matlida Means Business received some nice rejection letters. But Mr. Duck Means Business, which has the same underlying story, ended up in a multiple bidding situation.

Anyway, by the time I got rid of Miss Matilda and replaced her with some water fowl, the story DEMANDED to feature either a duck or goose.

Soooo...with my pbs anyway...if some anthro stuff appears, those characters HAVE TO be those particular animals. A bonus:  their animal-ness allows for more flexibility. Animal characters can get away with doing stuff typical kid characters wouldn't be able to do.
 
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on August 03, 2009, 05:52 AM
As you've probably gathered from my threads, I tend to write mainly anthropomorphic stories for the most part, but recently strayed away because I thought most considered outdated these days.

The majority of my stories are 5 to 7 year olds and I found that if they can picture a character in a certain way/scene, it doesn't matter what it is.  Animal or otherwise.  I'll continue to write them.  Me and humans don't work well.  Adult animal characters seem to make great role models.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Gatz on August 03, 2009, 01:11 PM
Animal characters can get away with doing stuff typical kid characters wouldn't be able to do.
 

Tammi, this is a great point.

Thanks for sharing the info about Mr. Duck. It's startling and neat, the result of changing the MC from the old lady to the duck. I hope you have great success with the PB.

Gatz
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: AndyJ on August 03, 2009, 01:53 PM
Another benefit to think about is that animals are neutral from a ethnic standpoint, and sometimes even a gender standpoint. Taking it another step, a child may think that a toddler human character looks too young, but a childish animal is rarely "too young" looking for the reader.

Children like to relate to the characters, and will hunt for anything that they have in common, yet can quickly get discouraged by obvious differences. But they also inherently like animals, so you've removed any obvious racial, age, or gender blocker.

I think its wonderful (and important) to expose young children to as many cultures and nationalities as you can, but from an editor's financial standpoint, you're not excluding any group when you feature animals, and that's a good thing.

In another topic, read about how The Fraggles (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fraggle_Rock) came about, it's really fascinating how Jim Henson attempted to single handedly (I say that loosely, there was so much talent he worked with) teach children peace and tolerance with one television show.



Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Barbara Eveleth on August 04, 2009, 03:16 AM
Jim Henson was a friggin genius. An icon. And his work lives on.


I think anthropomorphism is okay (if done well) but I would not rely on it to be a hook.


And I KNOW there are editors who loathe it, probably because they see too much of it like yalve said.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on August 04, 2009, 03:33 AM
And there lies the problem for me.  Some of my stories are good, but I am so shy of submitting them because they are anthropomorphic that I veered away from writing them and started with other characters.  It doesn't work.  They are all stuck in a folder, dieing to get out.
I think I write well.  But how do you gage that?  I never read them after! (well, rarely anyway)
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Tammi on August 04, 2009, 07:18 AM
Simply write the best story you can. If it's irresistible, it will sell.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: AmyD on August 04, 2009, 07:44 AM
My kids (3, 5 and 7) love great stories and great characters. That is probably just stating the obvious, but I don't think it matters much to them whether the characters are animals or not. Right now, their favorite picture book is Muncha Muncha Muncha, where the main character is an adult, and the bunnies act like, well, bunnies.  I think that if the author had chosen to make the main character an animal, my kids would still love it because it is a great story.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Cynthia Kremsner on August 04, 2009, 07:47 AM
There is so much that makes sense here. Another thread addressed this and the gender/national orgin was mentioned there too.

For me, when writing for young children, sometimes I want to put my MC in humorous circumstances. If the MC were human, the conflict may be perceived as harsh, but putting a make-believe walking talking animal through it comes off as funny. Disney's "Fantasia" is an example . . . I'll always laugh at the ballerina hippos. But if those were large humans, well, it may have been on the cruel side.

Snakes who want to become gymnasts, giraffes playing twister, a porcupine who wants to go to work in the balloon factory . . . those are some fun plays off traits and the imagery that comes to mind for illustrations is endless.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on August 04, 2009, 09:38 AM
Elephant ballet dancers, centipedes who become dance teachers, flying ostriches (although not in the conventional way).  I've a big folder of these guys gathering dust.  What do I do with them?  Should I just put them all in a retirement home?
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: jeanne k on August 04, 2009, 10:39 AM
Editors buy talking animal books all the time. If they didn't, books stores and libraries (and my house) wouldn't full of them.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on August 04, 2009, 12:20 PM
Hmm, true, but submitting them is the key.  I am simply a terrible sceptic and cynical.  I also talk too much and don't "do".  Which is why I think I'll get off the board and draft some letters for tomorrow.
"No talking animal stories" seem to slap me in the face everywhere I look. :writing3 :mad4 :paper
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Gatz on August 04, 2009, 12:46 PM
Thundering elephants,

I think you should start sending some of them out. Let us know if you have good news. We'll root for you.

Gatz
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: jeanne k on August 04, 2009, 01:21 PM
Send them out! What do you have to lose.

(Well, you could lose a bit of your mind waiting for responses, but that just part of being a writer, right?)
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on August 09, 2009, 08:39 AM
Won't lose my mind, I value what little of it I have.
I got a rejection yesterday, spent ages writing and when my computer gets better, I'll send out some more.

 :mad4 :bangcomputer  :writing:cappuccino
Thanks
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Jan Fields on August 17, 2009, 05:19 AM
I suspect one reason why children's like talking animal stories overall is because they are (mostly) only seeing the very best of them. If you deluged a child with every talking animal story in the average slush pile, the kids wouldn't like them either. Because most of them are dreadful. Publishers are selecting stories not just because they have talking animals or don't have talking animals but because they are lively books that grab kids.

I think editors don't hate talking animals (even the ones that say they do). I think it's a numbers thing. In your slush pile, you have say...300 picture books. So most of them are talking animals and they rhyme and they mostlly stink. Say two hundred. Now if you could get rid of those two hundred in one swish of the wand....it would have to be very tempting to do so. Sure, you stand the chance of losiing, say....five really good talking animal books...but you're going to get rid of 195 that were really awful. So you wave the wand and hope the five good ones will eventually get an agent and come back in a way you have time to read. Then you can tackle the one hundred manuscripts that are prose and not-talking-animals. You toss out the serial killers, the stories designed to make children take their medicine, etc etc...but at least there's a chance of clearing through the slush pile before the GREEN CHANNEL finds out how much paper you're hoarding in all those manuscripts.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on August 18, 2009, 05:47 AM
I've heard that anthropomorphic stories are "a chance" from the slush pile, but one thing, who gets the job of sifting through that lot anyway?  And who decides?  I've got a lot of "probably slush" but I can't decide which I dare to send out.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Wonky on August 23, 2009, 06:00 PM
I've heard that anthropomorphic stories are "a chance" from the slush pile, but one thing, who gets the job of sifting through that lot anyway?  And who decides?  I've got a lot of "probably slush" but I can't decide which I dare to send out.

Just send them out already! You've got absolutely nothing to lose.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Rena on September 02, 2009, 11:22 AM
Great thread!

My book, A New Job for Dilly is about a rat who goes searching for a job so he doesn't have to steal his favorite food. I guess that wouldn't be as interesting to a child if it was a human ...
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on September 14, 2009, 07:26 AM
Has anyone got experience of screeching cats?  I wrote an entire story based on my daft furry fiend, his screeching drives me potty.  I am considering becoming a complete plagiarist and changing my username to Thundercat in his honour.
Rena, if that story was about a human, you're right, it wouldn't be appealing.  I suppose in the same way that a child "attempting" to sing doesn't sound that interesting as opposed to cats.  My felines were screeching all through the story and I couldn't help looking at my cat.  He never shuts up.
I have 21 anthropomorphic stories and I really don't know where to send them.  "No talking animals" seems to slap in the face every time.  Any tips?
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Wonky on September 14, 2009, 07:42 AM
I have 21 anthropomorphic stories and I really don't know where to send them.  "No talking animals" seems to slap in the face every time.  Any tips?

This is my advice--Just send them out already! Worst that can happen is El-Rejecto City.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Rena on September 17, 2009, 10:30 AM
Has anyone got experience of screeching cats?  I wrote an entire story based on my daft furry fiend, his screeching drives me potty.  I am considering becoming a complete plagiarist and changing my username to Thundercat in his honour.
Rena, if that story was about a human, you're right, it wouldn't be appealing.  I suppose in the same way that a child "attempting" to sing doesn't sound that interesting as opposed to cats.  My felines were screeching all through the story and I couldn't help looking at my cat.  He never shuts up.
I have 21 anthropomorphic stories and I really don't know where to send them.  "No talking animals" seems to slap in the face every time.  Any tips?

My seven-year-old would love a story about a screeching cat. If it has cats in it, he wants to read it. Good luck with your stories.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on September 17, 2009, 01:01 PM
Thanks Rena.  31 of my handwritten babies are lieing in a folder next to me.  I am going to print off a few more tomorrow morning and scan through them on the train to see how bad they are.
As for my own cat, well, he has been perched on top of my wardrobe all day.  I think he is still there.  Heaven knows how I will get him down.
By the way, that story was called The Alleycat Quartet.  Too cheesy?
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: jlinsky on September 18, 2009, 12:05 PM
thunderingelephants -

Just a thought, since you're hesitant about sending them out -
Is it possible that in some of your stories, you could simply name the characters, and leave it up to an editor to decide if they should be children or dogs or armadillos...?

If the stories are to be illustrated, it might not be necessary to mention what the characters are - that will be apparent from the pictures. For instance, in stories like Bedtime for Frances, Toot and Puddle, and Owen, there's no mention in the text as to what sort of creatures they are. In fact, I  read one description that referred to Frances as a skunk, and I've always known her as a badger! I guess that's an example where it doesn't really matter.


On the other hand, I heard an editor give a talk and someone asked her if she considered talking animal stories. Her response: Of course! This is children's books!
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on September 20, 2009, 05:14 AM
jlinsky,
that is very possible, but some of the stories are based around the fact that the animal they are in a certain situation.  I could change if I need to.
Two things: is it true that elephants can't jump?  or that sheep should not be dipped after they have been sheared?  If that is true (especially the first) then my best work has been scuppered.  A fellow critique pointed that out and I am a little saddened. She said it wouldn't work.  But I thought fiction was meant to be surreal anyway. It has completely messed up the plot and I may have to write it again. :drumfingers
Sorry for grumbling.  I am probably tired and cranky.
Talk to you with hopefully one of these  :smile on my face. :grouphug2 :grouphug2
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Wonky on September 21, 2009, 05:32 PM
Would the story work if you used a different animal? For me personally, I think it's important to be as accurate to the real world as possible, even with fantasy stories. If the elephant can jump, there would have to be a reason for it...for example, if he ate a bunch of jumping beans.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: jlinsky on September 21, 2009, 07:11 PM
Two things: is it true that elephants can't jump?  or that sheep should not be dipped after they have been sheared?  If that is true (especially the first) then my best work has been scuppered. 

I think whether or not it's a problem depends on what type of story it is. Mice can't draw pictures, but that wasn't an obstacle in If You Give A Mouse a Cookie!

There's such a range of anthropomorphism, from stories where the characters keep animal traits but interact like humans, to stories with animals that live in houses and act as stand-ins for humans. Here's an article I found with tips on writing talking animal stories - maybe there's something here that applies to the questions you're having:

                                        http://www.institutechildrenslit.com/rx/wt02/tkganimals.shtml
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on September 22, 2009, 04:56 AM
Wonky,
I don't think it could work with another animal because I based it on the fact that elephants are large creatures and the entire plot emphasises that.  I have changed a lot of traits about my stories because of the genre it fits but this one is different.  As cliched as it sounds, the children liked the fact the character was an elephant and got into that situation because she had that obstacle to overcome.  Using another animal would not quite have the same effect.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Mauri on September 22, 2009, 05:10 AM
Who makes these rules anyway?
I think you should write the story exactly the way you want to and unleash yourself from market expectations, rules and analysis.  If the character draws us in- and it's a fun, engaging story- it will work.
Last time I checked spiders couldn't spell ...but Charlotte seemed to manage. :smile
Enjoy your stories! And good luck :hearts
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on September 22, 2009, 05:19 AM
I don't suppose centipedes can dance either.  Co-ordinating all those feet must be a nightmare.  That happened in another story of mine too.  Maybe it was because I am writing in a different genre and for a completely different age group.  Perhaps she just couldn't get it.

Thanks Mauri. :grouphug2
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Rena on September 22, 2009, 11:38 AM
Who makes these rules anyway?
I think you should write the story exactly the way you want to and unleash yourself from market expectations, rules and analysis.  If the character draws us in- and it's a fun, engaging story- it will work.
Last time I checked spiders couldn't spell ...but Charlotte seemed to manage. :smile
Enjoy your stories! And good luck :hearts

 :applause
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Wonky on September 22, 2009, 04:12 PM
Wonky,
I don't think it could work with another animal because I based it on the fact that elephants are large creatures and the entire plot emphasises that.  I have changed a lot of traits about my stories because of the genre it fits but this one is different.  As cliched as it sounds, the children liked the fact the character was an elephant and got into that situation because she had that obstacle to overcome.  Using another animal would not quite have the same effect.

Hmm. Interesting. But hey, as others have pointed out, it's probably ok. Heck, maybe you can work "elephants can't jump" into the story, and it can be part of the obstacle your character has to overcome.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Sam Hranac on September 22, 2009, 04:38 PM
I've been talking lately with a lot of children and their parents. Without exception, every child seven or under I know likes talking animals, and all of their parents do, too. When I tell them that there are people at some of the book companies who don't like talking animals, they are perplexed, their only comment being, "Why?"
I am with the kids you talked to. I don't write them, but I have always loved anthropomorphic animal stories, from Peter Rabbit to Watership Down.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on September 27, 2009, 05:55 AM
Yes, but when it comes to publishing, we are not dealing with children, are we?  It's said over and over that they hate hearing the words "I've read this to children, and they loved it".  That's why I veered away from writing anthropomorphic stories.  People concentrate too much on realism.  Especially some in my critique group!
On a lighter note:  I love Wonky's idea that my elephant could eat those beans.  Kinda reminds of the BFG by Roald Dahl, in a peculiar way.  Just finished reading.  Maybe that's why.

Has anyone ever dealt with skunks?  I'd love to write a story with one. I meant to say about one. :stuckup  I had a crazy plot for a story pop into my head and now it wants to down on paper.  Sometimes these crazy notions are hazardous. :stars
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Wonky on September 27, 2009, 11:46 PM
Yes, but when it comes to publishing, we are not dealing with children, are we?  It's said over and over that they hate hearing the words "I've read this to children, and they loved it".  That's why I veered away from writing anthropomorphic stories.  People concentrate too much on realism.  Especially some in my critique group!
On a lighter note:  I love Wonky's idea that my elephant could eat those beans.  Kinda reminds of the BFG by Roald Dahl, in a peculiar way.  Just finished reading.  Maybe that's why.

Has anyone ever dealt with skunks?  I'd love to write a story with one. I meant to say about one. :stuckup  I had a crazy plot for a story pop into my head and now it wants to down on paper.  Sometimes these crazy notions are hazardous. :stars


Go ahead and use the bean idea.

As for skunks, hmm. Well when I was a kid our cat got sprayed by one. The vet recommended we get rid of the smell with vinegar...that made it smell even worse!

I do agree that there's too much emphasis on realism...though I think stories at the very least need a grounding in reality, or what you'll end up with is a phantasmagorical acid trip. Before I put something I'm unfamiliar with in a book, I always at the very least google around a bit to make sure I don't get it too far off the mark.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on October 01, 2009, 10:22 AM
Wonky,
I lugged my folder of long-hand stories in for a coffee today and decided to give them a little fresh air.  My elephant fell out and glared at me, so I decided to read it.  I found myself laughing at and now I can't decide whether it is funny or I am a twit.
Anyway, after reading it, I really love your suggestion of the jumping beans and will revise it accordingly.  Thank you. :love
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Wonky on October 01, 2009, 05:03 PM
Wonky,
I lugged my folder of long-hand stories in for a coffee today and decided to give them a little fresh air.  My elephant fell out and glared at me, so I decided to read it.  I found myself laughing at and now I can't decide whether it is funny or I am a twit.
Anyway, after reading it, I really love your suggestion of the jumping beans and will revise it accordingly.  Thank you. :love

Glad I could be of help! Good luck with it.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Donna J. Shepherd on October 03, 2009, 08:28 AM
I love what Tammi said,

Quote
..With my pbs anyway...if some anthro stuff appears, those characters HAVE TO be those particular animals. A bonus: their 'animal-ness' allows for more flexibility. Animal characters can get away with doing stuff typical kid characters wouldn't be able to do.

SO, to get the discussion back on track, let's discuss favorite anthropomorphic books the way Sam did earlier in this thread, why the MC has to be a particular animal, and what made the character appeal to children. For instance, I still remember the first time I read "Charlotte's Web." Charlotte had to be a spider for many reasons - living in the barn, a way to write the messages, and of course, the saddest element - the short life span. I think the appeal for me was the magical communication with animals.

Next?

Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on October 09, 2009, 10:24 AM
Daft situation today.  I met a little girl yesterday in my usual writing haunt who was very nosy and asked what I was doing.  I told her I was writing about an elephant and we got into a huge conversation about animals.  She then proceeded to attempt to draw me an elephant, but couldn't manage, so her mother obliged.  The girl then told me what she thinks elephants do and what my should wear.  Before she left, she presented me two pictures and told me get my elephant some dancing lessons.
It made my day. 
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on October 11, 2009, 05:31 AM
(1) talking animals usually live in a world different from our own,
(2) talking animals never talk to humans and rarely encounter them in the stories,
(3) talking animals do not have alliterative names,
(4) talking animals are never violent.
(5) talking animals retain their physical form and some animal characteristics.

Just looked at these points.  In almost every story I have written, at least one of these points has arisen.  I would be interested to know if any of you would have "issues" related to the points made above.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Wonky on October 12, 2009, 04:57 PM
(1) talking animals usually live in a world different from our own,
(2) talking animals never talk to humans and rarely encounter them in the stories,
(3) talking animals do not have alliterative names,
(4) talking animals are never violent.
(5) talking animals retain their physical form and some animal characteristics.

Just looked at these points.  In almost every story I have written, at least one of these points has arisen.  I would be interested to know if any of you would have "issues" related to the points made above.


Well, what's your take on these points? I think we can be safe to lump "talking toy" stories in with "talking animal" stories. For #1, think of Winnie the Pooh. #2, I guess that depends on the world you set up. I think the point is, you shouldn't just use animals as substiture humans. It's ok for Chirstopher Robin to talke to Pooh and Rabbit, but I think if you have a story in which your next door neighbor is a baboon, and he acts just like a normal human (with little or no animal characterestics) that's something of a strain to suspension of disbelief, since that character had might as well be a human. #3 I agree with 100%, names like Billy Baboon, Timmy Turtle, Olly Octopus, etc just sound plain lame to me. #4, don't agree. Not sure where this comes from. What about the Big Bad Wolf? #5, I agree here too. Like I said, if the characters are just substitute humans, why bother using animals at all?
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Aimee W. on October 12, 2009, 06:30 PM
(1) talking animals usually live in a world different from our own,
Yeah, Pooh and the gang live in the woods, and talk to Christopher Robin,

(2) talking animals never talk to humans and rarely encounter them in the stories,
Little Bear Finds a Friend...in Emily, a human.

(3) talking animals do not have alliterative names,
Now that's just Barry Bull.

(4) talking animals are never violent.
Never break a plate or something? I dunno, if they're in the age range as young kids, I'm sure there are tantrums involved.

(5) talking animals retain their physical form and some animal characteristics.
This is the only one that really makes sense to me. But I'm sure there are exceptions to every rule.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on October 13, 2009, 03:43 AM
All good points which has caused me to rethink my current story revision.  Originally, I had the animal talking to the human mc.  In the revised edition, there are still humans around, but they only communicate with the animals through their actions.  Now the dilemma is that I have to rethink the title because it doesn't fit the plot.

Never break a plate or something? I dunno, if they're in the age range as young kids, I'm sure there are tantrums involved.

I do agree with this point because if characters can't at least show some human characteristics then children would be able to identify with them.  That is surely why we all write.

If the characters are just substitute humans, why bother using animals at all?
To answer that, I use animals to allow them to use their natural behaviour to compliment my stories.  If I used humans it wouldn't work and the plot is lifeless.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on October 15, 2009, 01:25 PM
Wonky,
"If the elephant can jump, there would have to be a reason for it...for example, if he ate a bunch of jumping beans."
I am so glad you gave me this idea.  My elephant is delighted with herself.  So, thanks again.  
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Wonky on October 15, 2009, 04:54 PM
Wonky,
"If the elephant can jump, there would have to be a reason for it...for example, if he ate a bunch of jumping beans."
I am so glad you gave me this idea.  My elephant is delighted with herself.  So, thanks again.  

I'm glad it worked out. I like to add as many funny, crazy things to my stories as I can think of!
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on November 05, 2009, 07:25 AM
Well,
I finished writing that story, which ended up a lot longer than I thought it would, but I am not too concerned.
My next project is about a badger sett but I haven't completely finalised my plans.  However, this story is different.  No humans, no clothing and no clue what the conclusion will be.  I am interested though, anyone else written about them?
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: KenH on November 05, 2009, 09:00 AM
A bit late into the conversation, but there's one point that hasn't been made regarding why you might see the "No talking animals/no anthropomorphic animals" restriction.  While I do think it's true that some agents/editors have just had enough with seeing them in the slush pile (where the overall quality is, naturally, going to be poor) and would prefer to work with established writers on such projects, no one can deny that talking animals have been, are, and will always be one effective device (out of many) to tell a children's story.  Beyond that, it's been my impression trolling the backpages of publishing houses that animal stories don't fit the catalogues of certain book publishers.  It's a matter of choice: how they choose to present themselves, what niche they choose to occupy in the market.  Not every publisher can succeed at selling everything.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on November 24, 2009, 06:16 AM
No-one's dropped by here lately.  Has anyone ever written about badgers?  I can't remember a young badger is called.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: eecoburn on November 24, 2009, 06:42 AM
Some of my favorite picture books are about badgers -- the Frances books by Russell Hoban.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on November 25, 2009, 05:03 AM
Some of my favorite picture books are about badgers -- the Frances books by Russell Hoban.
That's a problem I have...but it's my insecurity as a anthropomorphic writer.  Almost every time I have an idea for a story, I find some-one has already written about that creature.  I have two stories in the pipeline.  One about badgers and the other with ants.  They've both been written about before.
Is there any animal out there that people haven't written about? :eh2
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Wonky on December 08, 2009, 03:27 PM
That's a problem I have...but it's my insecurity as a anthropomorphic writer.  Almost every time I have an idea for a story, I find some-one has already written about that creature.  I have two stories in the pipeline.  One about badgers and the other with ants.  They've both been written about before.
Is there any animal out there that people haven't written about? :eh2

I don't see why you can't write a story about an animal that hasn't been written about before. People have written about humans tons of times, for example.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Jen on December 08, 2009, 04:45 PM
In my non-writing life, I do developmental psychology research, and one of my fellow grad students was interested in the question of why kids would like anthropomorphized animal characters so much- she had all of these interesting theories as to why, and then she set up an experiment to establish the effect and found... that if you control for all of the other variables (what the story is about, gender of the character, etc.), kids actually don't have any preference between human characters and animal ones.  This was with four and five year olds, but really, they just didn't care- and she tested large enough numbers to reveal statistically significant preferences on all kinds of other variables.  All of which I think says that it all depends on the EXECUTION of anthropomorphization, because the mere act itself doesn't actually seem to convey an advantage, if all other things are equal.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Abracabarbara on December 09, 2009, 07:02 AM
I agree with you Jen. I think one real problem tho is facial expressions and body language/gesture. Some animals do not lend themselves well to a healthy dose of real and varied expressions and gesture. I avoid them myself. When I see expressionless characters or weird ones  and poor gesture I don't feel anything.

Expression, emotion and reaction are the life blood of the character and give the character soul and heart in the visual form... whereas the finely selected words/dialogue/monologue give same in the oral/aural form. They should both provide that poetry to get the best response from the listener/viewer and reader.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on December 12, 2009, 04:44 AM
Don't know if this relevant.  While it has been said that some animals wouldn't necessarily have these facial expressions, I think it is the idealism of it.  You can't actually see them frowning, but their expression in their eyes could lead you to believe that they are smiling etc.  Possibly the belief is what intrigues us.



Must go.  Just caught my cat eating yoghurt.  And he's supposed to be on a diet! :fridge :cat :fury

By the way, would it be ridiculous base a plot on the perception that cats have nine lives?  I have been tinkering around a story that would be totally unrealistic.
Then again, so is anthropomorphism!
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Abracabarbara on December 12, 2009, 04:48 AM
Jan Brett did one about a cat named Comet.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on December 17, 2009, 06:45 AM
I really need to write at the moment and I have dried up completely.  Anthropomorphic stories are my best.  Any suggestions?
I have a cat tearing around the lounge at the moment and even he isn't giving me inspiration! :cat :drumfingers
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Wonky on December 17, 2009, 07:13 AM
In my non-writing life, I do developmental psychology research, and one of my fellow grad students was interested in the question of why kids would like anthropomorphized animal characters so much- she had all of these interesting theories as to why, and then she set up an experiment to establish the effect and found... that if you control for all of the other variables (what the story is about, gender of the character, etc.), kids actually don't have any preference between human characters and animal ones.  This was with four and five year olds, but really, they just didn't care- and she tested large enough numbers to reveal statistically significant preferences on all kinds of other variables.  All of which I think says that it all depends on the EXECUTION of anthropomorphization, because the mere act itself doesn't actually seem to convey an advantage, if all other things are equal.

Of course. This would hold true with writing for any age group, including adults.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Abracabarbara on December 17, 2009, 07:43 AM
For me (and this is just me), if my characters can be human then they will be. If they have to be animals then they will be.

Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on December 17, 2009, 12:40 PM
For me (and this is just me), if my characters can be human then they will be. If they have to be animals then they will be.


I think this can be said of all writers.  I simply feel easier writing with anthropomorphic characters.  I can bring their personalities out more.  Anyway, I came up with another plot today because I have been thinking a lot.  This time, I am just going to go ahead and write it. 
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Wonky on December 17, 2009, 04:01 PM
I think this can be said of all writers.  I simply feel easier writing with anthropomorphic characters.  I can bring their personalities out more.  Anyway, I came up with another plot today because I have been thinking a lot.  This time, I am just going to go ahead and write it. 

Great! Let us know how it goes.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on December 18, 2009, 05:33 AM
I know this is a crazy (yet again) question, but any idea what pigs eat? :hair
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Abracabarbara on December 18, 2009, 05:46 AM
They eat anything. They are omnivores. They do love to eat, and they are very intelligent and they get bored very easily. They also can sense when they are off to the slaughter house. Really.

I've researched them for a parody dummy I have on submission. The food part didn't enter into mine tho. (Well, not for them anyway.)

Nor the slaughter.

Kids love pig books. I know I did. But please research every pig story out there. Your story must be completely different.

Oink, oink, oink, oink.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Mike Jung on December 18, 2009, 06:35 AM
I recently read FARM CITY by Novella Carpenter, who established an urban farm in an abandoned lot in Oakland - she writes about raising pigs, and about how they eat literally any kind of food, including stuff like pastries, roast chicken and fish guts.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on December 18, 2009, 09:26 AM
Thanks Guys.
I notice a horrible pattern developing because I have previously written two stories featuring pigs.  Both of those were completely bonkers and I think this one will be too.
I am pretty certain it has not been covered before either.  This one I am definitely just going to go ahead and write.

AE,
This story is just something to occupy my time.  I am writing about a rare pig who the key to a farmer's fortune but he doesn't realise it yet.  I went on the internet yesterday and researched out various pig breeds.  There are strange looking porkers out there.

Seriously,
Thanks for the feedback.  I really appreciate it.
Now, I am off to a WARM coffee shop to to write.  I can't possibly do it at home.  Too quiet and too cold.
Talk to you later.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on December 30, 2009, 04:01 AM
Hey,
Hope your Christmas was a good one.  Mine was so boring I actually got a lot of planning and plotting done.  I am actually starting to like my pig character too.  That's rare for me.
Just don't tell the chef.  I have heard piggies have to be cooked thoroughly before being consumed.
This  is my third pig character story and I notice a nasty pattern developing. :eh2 :bangbreak
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: joypainter on January 12, 2010, 08:52 PM
AgeOwns ( reply #11 on 8/3/09, 4:53 pm) said: " Children like to relate to the characters, and will hunt for anything that they have in common, yet can quickly get discouraged by obvious differences. But they also inherently like animals, so you've removed any obvious racial, age, or gender blocker."

I agree with that.  javascript:void(0);

PS  I tried to do the purple quote box and it didn't happen for me?!  I have not posted anything except an intro.  I am still learning. :cjavascript:void(0);razy




Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on March 26, 2010, 07:37 AM
Just read over a story of mine and really need to shorten it, there is a lot of revision to be done.  Just one predicament: it features a singing chicken. Is that a little too crazy?  My friend John works as a receptionist in a butcher's that sells mainly poultry and I got the idea from him because his music taste is wacky to say the least.
A bit like the story.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Rachel Hamby on March 26, 2010, 10:16 AM
thunderingelephants,

Your post cracks me up.  I didn't know buthcers had receptionists.  Tammi Sauer's Chicken Dance features a singing rooster, so I think a singing chicken would be okay.  As long as he keeps his head on throughout the book.   :dr

Good luck with your revisions!

 :chickendance
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Sam Hranac on March 26, 2010, 10:48 AM
I don't see violence in anthropomorphic animals to be a problem. Wind in the Willows had a room clearing brawl. Let alone other examples like Warriors and Redwall.
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on March 26, 2010, 12:03 PM
thunderingelephants,

Your post cracks me up.  I didn't know buthcers had receptionists.  Tammi Sauer's Chicken Dance features a singing rooster, so I think a singing chicken would be okay.  As long as he keeps his head on throughout the book.   :dr

Good luck with your revisions!

 :chickendance
Actually, useless piece of information: there is a trading market in Cork City where I live in Ireland called the Old English Market.  It is a place where basically there are a variety of different stalls selling all varieties of meats, fruits/vegetables, etc.  John works in a place called The Chicken Inn where he is in the office, taking orders. Particlarly busy at Easter and Christmas.  Including goose, pheasant, goose and partridge!  The name of our bowling team was born out of it: Turkey Tavern.  Particularly poignant considering three strikes in a row is called a Turkey.   Most of my characters aren't violent, just complete twits who
don't ]]]]
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: Rachel Hamby on March 26, 2010, 12:33 PM
It sounds like a wonderful place to shop, te.
I agree that violent animals have their place, Sam.  I was thinking PB, and a chicken singing for his life in a buther shop.  My brain just got away from me a bit.   :-X

As it often does. 

But I say yes to singing chickens in picture books.   :yup

     
Title: Re: Children and anthropomorphic animals
Post by: thunderingelephants on March 28, 2010, 07:00 AM
As usual, John inspired me to create another character in that story.  Jimmy Sage, a cockrel guitarist who eventually "flew the coup".  Yes, it does sound like chicken run, but there is a twist to it.  Yet another crazy story, possibly worthy of plagiarism because of Chicken Run.  I am not sure, but I enjoyed writing it and probably wouldn't submit.  I enjoyed writing it and creating some daft characters.  Pure and simple.  A bit like most of my stories.
I have been banned from speaking about this story at home and had to write elsewhere.  John said it reminded  him too much of work.  I can see why.  Must go.  I have a chicken maryland to munch on for lunch.  Henrietta and Jimmy would be completely disgusted, so I had better be quiet and go eat.