Animals that talk

John Tenniel's illustration of the Cheshire Cat, disappearing into the tree he is sat in

Go deeper: Talking animals in children's books

Article by:
Piers Torday

Have you ever had tea with a tiger, or sat next to a talking toad on a train? Have you ever wondered why animals are so popular in children’s stories? Explore animal characters from Aesop’s fables to War Horse.

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Illustrations of homemade theatres, dragons, books, ships and treasure maps from the Once upon an Adventure activity pack

Printable activity pack: Once upon an adventure

Print out our brand new activity pack and embark on an adventure with Little Red Riding Hood, the cheeky Wolf and your own wild imagination!

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Front cover of The Hare and The Tortoise

Themed book list: Talking animals

Explore animal characters in children’s literature from Aesop’s Fables to Wind in the Willows, War Horse, Winnie-the-Pooh, The Tiger Who Came to Tea and Varjak Paw.

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The tiger who came to tea. Illustration. The tiger is standing in a kitchen, a young girl hugs his neck

Create a talking animal

Find ideas and inspiration to create animal characters for your very own stories.

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Axel Scheffler: The evolution of the Gruffalo

How do you go from a bright idea in your head, to a picture book in your hands? In this video, Axel Scheffler reveals how he transformed a few descriptors – purple prickles, poisonous wart and knobbly knees – into the Gruffalo we know and love.

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a lady in a artists studio working on a picture

Viviane Schwarz: How to develop a character

What do you think an angry shape would look like? How would your angry shape turn into a character in a story? In this video, writer and illustrator Viviane Schwarz shows us some unusual techniques for coming up with your characters.

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Image of 'A Rabbit Tale', a miniature book made by Jacqueline Wilson

A Rabbit Tale by Jacqueline Wilson

Jacqueline Wilson introduces us to Radish, the toy rabbit who lives on her desk.

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Image of Axel Scheffler in his garden with a miniature book and two toy squirrels

Axel Scheffler: Miniature books

In this brand new book by Axel Scheffler – specially made for the British Library – Fipsy the squirrel finds out how to make home-schooling fun. Axel also shows us his own tiny version of The Snail and the Whale and a copy of The Gruffalo, made for his daughter’s dolls house.

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Story teller Sandra Agard, wearing purple, faces the camera in order to begin telling a story

The Naughty Dog

Join storyteller Sandra Agard for a retelling of a classic Aesop fable featuring a talking dog. Our storytelling videos are designed for you to enjoy as a family or with friends. So get ready to cozy up together and be transported by Sandra’s wonderful stories.

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Further themes

All activities

Get creative with activities for children of all ages. Invent your own superhero, make a pop-up book and much more.

Animals that talk

From fantastical medieval beasts to Winnie the Pooh and Varjak Paw, meet the wonderful creatures that bring children’s books to life.

Behaving and misbehaving

From strict behaviour manuals to rebellious rule-breakers, explore the morals and mischief at the heart of children’s books.

Big and small

From books that fit in the palm of your hand to Roald Dahl’s Big Friendly Giant, find out how children’s writing plays with ideas of size and scale.

Changing the world

From campaigns against slavery to climate change resistance, discover the power of children’s books to fight for a better world.

Fairy tales and folktales

From Red Riding Hood to Hua Mulan, from Anancy to Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, read ancient stories and playful new tales from around the world.

Fear

Face your fears by exploring the most spine-tingling stories, from dark and enchanting fairy tales to Coraline and Haunted House.

Food

From Alice in Wonderland’s bottles to baby bear’s perfect porridge, discover the temptations of food in children’s books.

Home and belonging

How do children’s books explore questions of home, family and belonging? Delve into books by Jacqueline Wilson, Errol Lloyd and many more.

Interviews

Learn the secrets of writers and artists from Jacqueline Wilson to Zanib Mian, with these exclusive interviews and tips for budding authors.

Journeys

Set off on magical journeys or real voyages of migration, from Gulliver’s Travels and Treasure Island to Sarah Garland’s Azzi in Between.

Go deeper

Explore our themes in more detail and find more fascinating facts in these illustrated articles by scholars and children’s authors.

Magic and fantasy

Free your imagination with tales of mystery and magic, from medieval phoenixes to Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights.

Non-fiction

Find out how children’s books use funny jokes, strange secrets and pictures to give you information about people, places, science and history.

Poetry, nursery rhymes and wordplay

From rude and ridiculous rhymes to inspiring verses and poems, explore centuries of nonsense, poetry and wordplay for children.

Pop-up and moveable books

From the earliest noisy books to brilliant modern pop-ups, find out how pages spring to life at the pull of a flap or tab.

School stories and reading tools

From 2,000-year-old homework to the latest classroom antics, discover books full of brainboxes, weird teachers and troublemakers.