This summer, I’ve developed a fascination with animal-themed youtube videos and spent way too many Saturday afternoons just clicking one after another. Yes, I know that much of the population with internet access has been doing this for years and I’m only catching up. One of my favorite themes in these videos are the interspecies relationships – the distressed, orphaned elephant befriending a sheep, the bear, tiger and lion who now live together after being rescued together from an abusive owner, a female tiger nursing piglets. For nonhumans, they offer great examples for humanity on compassion, acceptance, and friendship.
This reminded me of how so much of children’s literature is populated with interspecies friendships and family relationships and the values those relationships can teach us. Here a few that come to mind:
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White: I hate spiders, but I would make an exception for Charlotte, the spider who befriends Wilbur, a lonely pig, and works tirelessly to spare him from being slaughtered. Their friendship becomes one that spans generations and the story is currently a much beloved children’s classic.
Dog and Bear: Two Friends, Three Stories by Laura Vaccaro Seeger: The simple vignettes of the two friends – a stuffed bear and a dog- portray a friendship of understanding, cooperation, and silly moments.
Good News, Bad News by Jeff Mack: It’s a great story about two best friends, the optimistic Rabbit and the pessimistic Mouse, who are trying to have a picnic. Things go wrong to the point where even the optimistic Rabbit gets upset. Seeing his friend so upset, the Mouse decides to put aside his natural pessimism for a moment to cheer up his friend.
The Jungle Book -“Mowlgli’s Brothers” – by Rudyard Kipling: Feral child, Mowgli, is adopted by a mother wolf and a father wolf. The bear, Baloo, and the black panther, Bhageera, become his protectors, friends, and mentors as he learns to live in the jungle.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate: Ivan, a silverback gorilla, is resigned to his life in a glass enclosure in a mall that was part circus. He doesn’t think much about returning to the wild. He has TV, crayons, and his friends, Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. With the arrival of Ruby, a baby elephant, and wanting a better life for her, Ivan begins to pursue a life outside of captivity.
The Winnie the Pooh stories by A.A. Milne: A human, bear, tiger, 2 kangaroos, donkey, and piglet all hang out, have adventures together, and look out for each other. The stories of their friendships contributed to many touching quotes about friendship and life.
Xander’s Panda Party by Linda Sue Park: Xander decides to have a panda party. However, he realizes that he’s the only panda in the zoo and decides to to invite all the bears to his party. When that excludes the koala, he opens it up to all the mammals. Then to the birds (the rhino wants to bring his bird friend) and reptiles. In the end, the panda decides to invite everyone so no one would be excluded. Everyone has a great time and they all make new friends.
What are some of your favorite literary (or youtube!) interspecies friendships?