Review: Animal Land, an Allegorical Fable by Leland James

Animal Land, An Allegorical FableAnimal Land, An Allegorical Fable by Leland James
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This fully illustrated allegorical take on WWII aims to introduce major components of the war to children in the form of a free verse narrative poem divided into stanzas of shape poetry. Thankfully, the seriousness of war is not reduced to cloying couplets. The shapes of the stanzas are arbitrary and add nothing to the poetry, but the alliteration is chewed to good effect, appropriate for a story completely “peopled” with animals.

Comparisons have been made to Aesop’s Fables (possibly) and Animal Farm (not at all), but these miss the mark. Unlike Animal Farm and Watership Down using animals to portray forms of governments, this story merely replaces people with animals for a heavily stripped-down, simplified version of WWII. Unlike The Complete Maus which showed the horrors of the war albeit with animals, this tale does not hit anything from the war except with the broadest of strokes. The occupations of mainland Europe are off-page and largely undescribed [with the exception of misleadingly mentioning enslaving the citizens of occupied countries].

The allegorical version of the Holocaust is boiled down to an irrational hatred and caging of songbirds. Zero atrocities are shown or described. The Russian front is reduced to a single winter siege. The Americans [Eagles] sweep in and end the war quickly, while the British hold out. It’s all too simplified, or misleading to be of educational value. This is a war without rationing nor air raids that accidentally implies the Japanese were in the European campaign for the first half of the story.

The strength of this story is in getting its point across about leaders and leadership. Winston Churchill [a badger], Franklin Roosevelt [an eagle] and Adolph Hitler [a mutant crocodile with a dog’s head] all are described, [and wonderfully drawn by illustrator Anne Zimanski]. The case is made for action over capitulation and being pro-active rather than reactive. It also snipes at decisions by committee and potentially the role of the UN, in general. The hawkish propaganda is clear when inactive leaders are depicted as sleeping possums.

I received my copy of the book when the author contacted me directly through The Book Review Directory, a blog.
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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4 responses to “Review: Animal Land, an Allegorical Fable by Leland James

    • Everyday, my goal is to make progress in whatever novel or NF book I’m reading. If I’m not finishing that book on that day, I will also read a short story [or graphic novel] and post a review. I have many anthologies that I’m working through. [Currently, Ghost Summer Collection by Tananarive Due and a Monster Fantasy Anthology ed. by Langan.] This graphic narrative poem was a quick read despite the 125 pg. I also read a Due short story yesterday–the review will post tomorrow. So, I won’t read one today. I’ll just make progress on long books. Having just finished Weir’s The Martian last week, I’ve yet to crack a new one. But a debut novel is on my shelf waiting and I have a science NF book I’m slogging through. This Spring when I was given advance copies of 4 anthologies all coming out this summer, I started reading and posting twice a day to stay ahead of the game. I’ve dropped back to one.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wow- I admire your tenacity. I used to get through a book a day, usually, when reading teen fiction, but now I’m taking A-levels I’ll only go through maybe a couple hundred pages. Currently on Sense & Sensibility. Must say, people like you are very encouraging. It’s good to know that other bookworms actually exist.

        Liked by 1 person

        • And I’m not studying right now. I work full time. And, I tutor. I sing in 2 groups. And I write. Unfortunately, my writing takes the backseat since I’m answerable only to me. Most importantly, I enjoy all of these things.

          Liked by 1 person

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