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Animals of CanLit

A recommended reading list by the author of the new novel Pebble & Dove.

Book Cover Pebble and Dove

Amy Jones' latest novel Pebble & Dove is one of our awesome summer reading picks this month, and up for giveaway until the end of Julydon't miss your chance to win!

And make sure you check out all the other giveaways we've got going on right now.


If you’ve ever had a conversation with me in person or follow me on social media, you know that I love animals. In fact, my obsession with a certain aquatic mammal is so widely known that anytime anything manatee-related comes across anyone’s timeline, they send it to me (hey, my brand is tight, what can I say). When it comes to reading, I am very much drawn to books featuring animal characters—and, since I tend to want to write the kind of books I like to read, I wrote one myself, Pebble & Dove, featuring a grumpy but loveable manatee living in an abandoned aquarium in Florida. While I was writing Pebble & Dove and creating my own animal character, I was very much inspired by the long tradition of animal characters in CanLit. Here are some of my favourites.


Book Cover the White Bone

The White Bone, by Barbara Gowdy

You can’t write a list of books called #AnimalsOfCanLit and not include The White Bone, but I’ll admit that I read this book once when I was young and it devastated me so deeply that I can’t even look at the cover anymore, and I fear I have blocked most of it out. YMMV.


Book Cover Fifteen Dogs

Fifteen Dogs, by Andre Alexis

Another giant in the Canadian Animal Lit canon (#CanimalLit?), Fifteen Dogs might be the first Giller Prize winner to be told from the perspective of an animal (don’t fact check me on that!). And while, in less accomplished hands, the premise might have leaned towards the twee, Alexis makes it smart and insightful.


Book Cover Why Birds Sing

Why Birds Sing, by Nina Berkhout

This book—featuring a charming but bratty parrot named Tulip, who is the pet of one of the main characters—was one of my favourites of 2020, and features an ending that completely dismantled my heart and then put it back together again.


Book Cover Come Thou Tortoise

Come, Thou Tortoise, by Jessica Grant

This was the first book I read that made me feel like I could also write a book about a very charming animal. There is so much to love about Come, Thou Tortoise, and Audrey and Winnifred (the tortoise!) are one of my favourite on-page duos.


Book Cover Hares of Crawley Hall

Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall, by Suzette Mayr

I was going to say, “I was into Suzette Mayr before it was cool,” but I think it has always been cool to be into Suzette Mayr. Her novel Monoceros had a bigger impact on me as a writer than probably any other book, but I also really loved the fantastical, satirical Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall, which features some supernatural-ish hares that infest the protagonist’s world.


Book Cover Bunny

Bunny, by Mona Awad

Speaking of supernatural rabbits… TikTok is obsessed with this weird, dark, subversive, funny, gorgeous book, and so am I, bunny.


Book Cover Crow Winter

Crow Winter, by Karen McBride

While the “tricky little crow” in Crow Winter is more than just a crow, to me he is one of the most unforgettable animal characters in recent Canadian literature, and this book is one of the most honest and moving portrayals of the complexity of grief I have read in a long time.


Book Cover DEcline of the Animal Kingdom

Decline of the Animal Kingdom, by Laura Clarke

A recent visit to the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada led me to this poetry collection by Laura Clarke to read her poems about mules, but the entire collection is filled with animals, juxtaposing the urban landscape with the natural one in compelling, sometimes absurd, and always breathtaking ways. (And if you have the chance to go to the Donkey Sanctuary, do it! It’s a beautiful experience.)


Book Cover Kamila Knows Best

Kamila Knows Best, by Farah Heron

What is better than a Farah Heron rom-com? A Farah Heron rom-com with dogs! In this loose retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma, the climactic scene takes place at a rescue shelter’s “puppy prom,” which is just as cute and chaotic as you might imagine it to be.


Book Cover Bunny and Shark

Bunny and Shark, by Alisha Piercy

For a few years straight I told everyone I knew about this weird, cool, beautiful book about a woman named Bunny, an ex-Playboy model whose husband pushes over a cliff into the ocean, and who is saved from a shark attack by a pod of dolphins.


Book Cover Her Body Among Animals

Her Body Among Animals, by Paola Ferrante (Coming this fall!)

This forthcoming collection from emerging CanLit star Paola Ferrante is so gorgeous, trying to put it into words is almost impossible. It’s also populated with animals, real, mythical, and metaphorical. Truly, I cannot recommend this collection highly enough.


Book Cover Pebble and Dove

Learn more about Pebble & Dove:

In the tradition of Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!, a once-famous but now-abandoned aquarium-in-a-ship in Florida is the captivating backdrop for a novel of family secrets and dysfunction, and the ways in which it can sometimes take an animal to remind us how to be human.

This is the story of a family falling apart, only to be brought back together again by an unlikely champion—a 1,000-pound aquatic mammal named Pebble.

Lauren’s life is a mess. She has a storage unit full of candles she can’t sell, a growing mountain of debt, and a teenage daughter, Dove, who barely speaks to her. Then her husband sends her a text that changes everything. Eager to escape her problems, she drives herself and Dove south to her late mother’s rundown trailer in Florida. While keeping her eccentric new neighbours at Swaying Palms at bay, Lauren begins to untangle the truth about her estranged mother. How did world-famous portrait photographer Imogen Starr end up at Swaying Palms?And what happened to her fortune and her photographs?

Meanwhile, Dove has secrets of her own. A mysterious photograph leads her to discover the abandoned Flamingo Key Aquarium and Tackle, where she meets Pebble, the world’s oldest manatee in captivity. It is Pebble, a former star attraction, and her devoted caretaker, Ray, who will hold the key to helping Lauren and Dove come to terms with Imogen’s unexpected legacy.

Darkly funny and sharply observed, Pebble & Dove is a moving novel about the complicated relationship between mothers and daughters, and learning how to choose between what’s worth saving and what needs to be let go.


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