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Animals Who Shine

September is Animal Remembrance Month, and when I started this post it was going to be about lost literary pets. I started compiling my list and became sadder and sadder with each title. These were the animals I fell in love with while reading, who mattered more than some (or all) human characters in their books. Instead, I thought, I will write a post about our favorite animal characters, focusing on their lives, not their deaths.

Manchee from The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (2009 Best Books for Young Adults, 2011 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

“The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say. About anything.” With this opening line, Ness introduces the reader to Manchee, the talking dog who will work his way into their hearts. Machee mostly spends his time thinking about squirrels and poop, as I am sure most dogs do. I tried to read this book several times and Manchee always annoyed me until I listened the audiobook. Manchee is brought to life by Nick Podehl and you can’t help but love his blind loyalty and earnest love for Todd. If you had told me that Manchee would quickly become one of my favorite characters, I would have laughed in your face … now I can’t imagine the book without him.

Angus from Angus, Thong and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison (2001 Printz Honor, 2001 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 2003 Popular Paperback for Young Adults)

Angus is the lovable, destructive and feisty hero of this story … okay, maybe he isn’t exactly the “hero” but is one of my favorite characters in the series. As if Georgia Nicholson needs any help making an idiot of herself, Angus is always there to eat her lipstick, attack her friends, and terrorize the neighbors’ poodles. Part Scottish wildcat, Angus’s “Call of the Wild” episodes keep these books interesting!

Dove and Corr from The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (2012 Printz Award Honor, 2012 Odyssey Award Honor)

The first time the reader is introduced to Corr, he is trampling Sean’s father to death, which might not seem like we are off to a great start. But over the course of the book, the reader comes to respect Corr, under the guidance of a skilled rider. Dove has just as much gumption as her rider, holding her own among the large, frightening capaill uisce. By the end of the book you will care as much about the fates of Dove and Corr as their riders.

Cinnamon from Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (2001 Best Book for Young Adults, 2002 Amazing Audiobook for Young Adults, 2005 Popular Paperback for Young Adults)

Although Cinnamon tends to surprise people, especially when Stargirl brings him to school or when he unexpectedly pokes his nose out of her hair, he eventually wins them over. Stargirls closest friend and confidant, Cinnamon is always there for her. Of course, having a pet rat in high school makes me a bit biased but I love the unconventional choice of pet for Stargirl.

Honorable Mentions

  • Chainsaw from The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater: we don’t really get to know the little raven, but I have a feeling she is going to be a bigger character in the books to come.
  • Moggot from the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix: I didn’t feel like I could count him in this list as he is really a spirit in cat form…
  • Total from the Maximum Ride series by James Patterson: his snark is immediately endearing, but since he has been gifted with a super-accelerated brain, I didn’t feel it was fair to put him up against the un-augmented animals above.
  • Faithful from the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce: another case of a deity in animal form, unfair advantage!
  • Buttercup from The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins: I love Buttercup more for what she stands for than anything else. Is there anything more heartbreaking than Buttercup waiting for Prim?

— Kate McNair, currently reading Kill Switch by Chris Lynch