Margaret Blount's encyclopedic knowledge of the ways of book-dwelling animals goes beyond the strictly defined bounds of juvenile literature and encompasses the animal-as-human-cipher in Aesop (of whose morals she disapproves), the satire of Animal Farm, and the religious allegory of C.S. Lewis, as well as any number of both famous and under-appreciated works for children. Certainly there are moments of charm and some surprising insights by a writer who successfully compares the imaginary, creepy beasts of The Princess and the Curdie with the horror film Freaks, explores the 18th century origins of the animal morality tale, draws extensive parallels between Stuart Little and Mowgli, and, finally, pins down the peculiar attraction of Paddington Brown -- that he is a bear who behaves as a naive ""adult foreigner"" rather than a child. But Blount's donnish sensibilities detract from what is essentially down-to-earth literary criticism; she attributes H.H. Munro's unpleasantness to ""unhappy childhood experience"" and seems to prefer the innocuous The Animal's Conference by Erich Kastner to Animal Farm. And the predominantly British emphasis and leisurely, circuitous prose will limit her audience to those with a special interest in that evolving species, the literary animal, who has increasingly established himself in a place of moral superiority to the human race.