Monday, October 13, 2014


My friend Kwame Alexander recently won the Newbery Award for his novel The Crossover. But the author/poet also wrote a 2011 picture book, Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band, which tells the story of a jazz-loving rooster who recruits his friends—pianist Duck Ellington, singer Bee Holiday, percussionist piggy Pepe Ernesto Cruz—in an attempt to win a barnyard talent show. There’s some stiff competition from the likes of Mules Davis and Ella Finchgerald, but the riffing rooster comes to realize the power of understanding that you can’t go it alone.

It’s another in a long literary line in which creatures of all sorts capture the imagination of readers, young and old. So we at the Why Not 100 have recruited Kwame Alexander. Since October 14 is generally regarded as Winnie the Pooh’s birthday, we’ve asked him to help us choose the 93 most iconic animal characters in literature.
First, some rules of the rankings: We’re covering books only. No comics. No short stories. No fairy tales. No films that later became books. So alas, we couldn’t include Snoopy or the Ugly Duckling or the Big Bad Wolf, as much we’d like to. And we’re limiting it to one animal per book. So, for instance, although we adore Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web, he wasn’t the title character after all. And while everyone loves Piglet and we particularly identify with Eeyore, could we really choose anyone but that title character?  For the same reason, you won’t find Toto or the Cheshire Cat on the list either. Also, one choice per book series. Thus a single Harry Potter character (it had to be Hedwig) and only one from the Chronicles of Narnia series (that one’s obvious, too).

No real animals. Sorry, Seabiscuit. And no fantastical animals either—no unicorns or dragons or half-humans like Beorn the man-bear from The Hobbit. That means Bram Stoker’s bat (Dracula) and Franz Kafka’s man-cockroach (The Metamorphosis) don’t make the cut. We did bend the rules slightly to allow a half-dog, half-clock— that would be Tock from The Phantom Tollbooth. Why? Well, we absolutely love that book.

The animals must be named in some way. Therefore, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s hound in The Hound of the Baskervilles is barking up the wrong tree. Same with John Steinbeck’s mice, in a manner of speaking, as well as Harper Lee’s mockingbird.

Although you’ll find plenty of beloved character’s from children’s tales, don’t assume that that all will be young readers’ icons (thank you, George Orwell) or even beloved at all (we’re thinking of a particular shark). You’ll find animal characters from the likes of everyone from Homer and Charles Dickens to Agatha Christie and Stephen King (yes, that rabid dog).

And you’ll probably think we missed some. There are MANY memorable animals that didn’t quite make the cut—from horses like Cadoc (Eragon) to rabbits like Edward Tulane (The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane) to dozens of deserving dogs in books by luminaries like J.M. Barrie, Thomas Pynchon, Paul Auster, Leo Tolstoy, George Eliot, and Jules Verne.

Still, we think you’ll appreciate the list. And we’ll start with the best of the best—the top 25, as ranked by Kwame Alexander:


1. The Cat in the Hat (The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss)

2. Winnie-the-Pooh (Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne)
3. Anansi the Spider (Anansi the Spider: An Ashanti Tale)
4. Moby Dick (Moby-Dick by Herman Melville)
5. The Very Hungry Caterpillar (The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle)
6. Piggie (Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willems)
7. Charlotte (Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White)
8. Curious George (Curious George series by Margret and Hans Augusto Rey)
9. Horton (Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss)
10. Jaws (Jaws by Peter Benchley)

11. Cowardly Lion (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum)
12. Br’er Rabbit (Uncle Remus by Joel Chandler Harris)
13. Algernon (Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes)
14. Buck (The Call of the Wild by Jack London)
15. Peter Rabbit (The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter)
16. White Rabbit (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll)
17. Richard Parker (Life of Pi by Yann Martel)
18. Clifford (Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell)
19. Olivia (Olivia series by Ian Falconer)
20. Stuart Little (Stuart Little by E.B. White)

21. Babar (The Story of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff)
22. Rainbow Fish (The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister)
23. Black Beauty (Black Beauty by Anna Sewell)
24. Rocinante (Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra)
25. Acoustic Rooster (Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band by Kwame Alexander…You had to know this was coming, folks!)


26. The Black Stallion (The Black Stallion by Walter Farley)
27. Pilgrim (The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans)
28. Gabilan (The Red Pony by John Steinbeck)
29. Gunpowder (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving)
30. The Piebald (National Velvet by Enid Bagnold)
31. Flicka (My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara)
32. Robert (Robert the Rose Horse by Joan Heilbroner)
33. Shadowfax (The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien)
34. Joey (War Horse by Michael Morpurgo)

35. Paddington Bear (A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond)
36. Brother Bear (The Berenstain Bears series by Stan, Jan and Mike Berenstain)
37. Gentle Ben (Gentle Ben by Walt Morey)
38. Ben (The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams by Charles E. Sellier, Jr.)
39. Old Ben (Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner)

40. Snowball (Animal Farm by George Orwell)
41. Babe (The Sheep-Pig by Dick King-Smith)
42. Lester (Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald)
43. Empress of Blandings (Blandings Castle series by P.G. Wodehouse)

44. Martin the Warrior (Redwall series by Brian Jacques)
45. Vera (Vera the Mouse series by Marjolein Bastin)

46. Velveteen Rabbit (The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams)
47. Peter Cottontail (The Adventures of Peter Cottontail by Thornton Burgess)

48. Jonathan Livingston Seagull (Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach)
49. Cap’n Flint the parrot (Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson)
50. Polynesia the parrot (The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting)
51. Hedwig the owl (Harry Potter series)
52. Captain Cook the penguin (Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater)
53. Mrs. Mallard (Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey)
54. Soren the owl (Guardians of Ga’hoole series by Kathryn Lasky)

55. Puss in Boots (Puss in Boots by Charles Perrault)
56. Socks (Socks by Beverly Cleary)
57. Midnight Louie (Midnight Louie series by Carole Nelson Douglas)
58. Good Fortune (The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth)
59. Cat (It’s Like This, Cat by Emily Cheney Neville)
60. Pete (Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin)
61. Old Deuteronomy (Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot)

62. Argos (The Odyssey by Homer)
63. Old Yeller (Old Yeller by Fred Gipson)
64. Pongo (The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith)
65. Beautiful Joe (Beautiful Joe by Margaret Marshall Saunders)
66. Tock (The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster)
67. Enzo (The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein)
68. Cujo (Cujo by Stephen King)
69. Poky (The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey)
70. Einstein (Watchers by Dean Koontz)
71. Bob (Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie)
72. Hank (Hank the Cowdog by John R. Erickson)
73. Luath (The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford)
74. Karenin (The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera)
75. Petula (Molly Moon series by Georgia Byng)
76. Flush (Flush by Virginia Woolf)
77. Bull’s-eye (Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens)
78. Squirrel (A Dog’s Life by Ann M. Martin)
79. Little Ann (Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls)
80. Walter (Walter the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle)

81. White Fang (White Fang by Jack London)
82. Carcharoth (The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien)

83. Mr. Fox (Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl)
84. Tod (The Fox and the Hound by Daniel P. Mannix)

85. Bambi (Bambi, A Life in the Woods by Felix Salten)
86. Aslan (The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis)
87. Frog and Toad (Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel)
88. Mr. Toad (The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame)
89. Zira the ape (Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle)
90. Kala the ape (Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs)
91. Baloo the bear (Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling)
92. Rikki-Tikki-Tavi the mongoose (Rikki-Tikki-Tavi by Rudyard Kipling)
93. Elmer the elephant (Elmer the Patchwork Elephant by David McKee)

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