I found this “quote of the day” on why children like animal stories:
Infants, like puppies, kittens, and other young animals, not only share a diminutive size and appealing ‘cuteness’ but are also alike in their innocence and dependency on larger creatures.
Uh, no. Unlike apparently every other goddamn adult on this freaking planet, I can actually remember my childhood and more important, what I thought and how I felt about things when I was a child. And I can tell you this: I didn’t like animal stories because animals were small and cute and innocent and “dependent on larger creatures.” Was Babar, King of the Elephants, small? Was he “dependent on larger creatures”? No, he was a fucking elephant who became king of all the other elephants, therefore everyone was dependent on him.
I’m going to tell you right now why kids like animal stories: because animals are powerful. They can do things kids can’t, like run fast, climb high trees, tear at things with their teeth, stomp through the jungle, roar across the veldt… and mess up nice, neat human lives with their anarchic spirits. Animals are also free. Animals don’t have to do what mummy and daddy say. Animals can live independently in the wild. Animals can have adventures. Even pets, once they get out of the house. And since they have claws and teeth and animal instincts, animals can take care of themselves. They are the very opposite of being “dependent on larger creatures.” And innocence and cuteness has nothing to do with it.
The quote above has nothing to do with what kids think and feel. I keep saying this, and sometimes I feel like I’m talking into a void: children don’t need to translate fictional characters into their own lives. They don’t have to read about people “just like them.” They don’t have to “recognize themselves” in a story. They don’t have to have a story featuring schools like their school, homes like their home, characters just like the people they know. This tendency towards making childrens’ stories all about stuff they can “identify with” (that is, characters and situations that mirror their own lives) is instead stunting their imagination and growth. I daresay that’s considered a good thing now. Imaginative children might imagine that they can live a different life than the one their parents want them to accept. Well we can’t have that, can we.
It’s all about power and control. Children want power over their own lives. Adults want to control them. This is fine for the physical environment (for example, you wouldn’t want to give a five-year-old the keys to the car), but when it spills over into the mental area it becomes problematic. You can overtly censor a child’s reading material, or you can do it by subterfuge, as we do now when we do things like misrepresent the reason children like a certain type of story. This is why I don’t support anti-censorship campaigns. Telling a kid they aren’t allowed to read something because you don’t think it’s appropriate is more honest than slyly guiding them towards “approved” literature that reinforces a certain way of thinking. But being honest with kids isn’t something adults care for all that much. That’s something else I remember from my childhood that everyone else seems to have forgotten.