You’ll never truly know someone until you walk a mile in their shoes. Sound familiar? We often need to look at a situation with fresh eyes or from a different perspective in order to understand it better. In doing so, we may just catch a glimpse of ourselves from a whole new angle. Of course, the suggestion to “look with fresh eyes” is usually metaphorical. Fortunately for readers, that isn’t the case for the characters in these six novels — they’ve all been transformed into animals.

Through the eyes of birds, fish, cats, insects and a myriad of other creatures, these kids will learn about themselves, their environments and even their futures. From a classic origin story to the life-altering journeys of misbehaved youth, enjoy these transformative tales.

The Sword in the Stone
by T.H. White 

Young Art, known as the Wart, is an orphan boy of common birth. While wandering through the woods he stumbles upon the cottage of the wizard Merlyn who knows the future as a result of his living backward through time. Merlyn becomes the Wart’s tutor, but his odd lessons involve transforming the young lad into various animal forms. Throughout his education with the magician, he will become a fish, a hawk, an ant, an owl, a wild goose and a badger. During his encounters with other animals while transformed, the Wart learns about compassion, courage, the threat of absolute power and the danger of conformity. Each and every one of these lessons prepares the boy to step into his destiny, which Merlyn has already witnessed, as King Arthur.

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The Abandoned
by Paul Gallico 

Feeling lonely without his father, an Army general, and his mother, a busy socialite, young Peter relishes the thought of having someone besides his nanny to care for him. A cat might do, but his nanny would never hear of it. Perhaps it was loneliness that sent Peter chasing after that tabby on the streets of London, effectively changing his life in strange and mysterious ways. A speeding truck comes barreling around the corner just as he crosses the street to follow the striped kitten. When Peter awakens after the accident, he discovers he’s transformed into a cat himself. Now alone and navigating life on four legs, Peter realizes that the city isn’t any kinder to cats than it is to children. Luckily, an experienced stray named Jennie teaches him about life on the outside as they search for somewhere to call home.

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Beyond Dark Waters
by Des Birch

Nine-year-old Ben isn’t a bad kid, but, then again, he isn’t all that nice either. He’s willful and inconsiderate, has no respect for the property of others and torments his sister. So, it’s no surprise that when his mother sends him off to his grandfather’s house as a form of punishment for his poor behavior he isn’t sorry in the least … but all of that is about to change. After Ben falls out of a tree and loses consciousness, he comes to discover that he’s a Quinling, a creature chosen by nature to live as another creature for some time. Transforming into a bug, different fish and even two species of vegetation surrounding the river into which he fell, Ben’s shape-shifting odyssey forces him to reckon with the consequences of his many misdeeds. (Read our review here.)

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by Kate Thompson 

13-year-old Tess is a shapeshifter. She can transform into any animal that suits her, an ability she takes comfort in after her family moves to Dublin. Tess much prefers the company of animals and learning the secrets of their world to life in the city. Recently, however, she’s noticed a strange boy following her home, but soon, Kevin reveals that he shares her connection to the animal world and claims to need her help. Like Tess, Kevin can shapeshift, but he’s about to turn fifteen and lose this ability for good. In their search for answers about their strange gift, the two of them discover something dangerous and it’s up to them to stop it before the entire world falls to this chilling fate.

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Pond Scum
by Alan Silberberg 

Lonely ten-year-old Oliver enjoys watching TV and ripping wings off insects. After his parents’ divorce, his mother buys a new, rundown house and moves their family to the country. Eager to get back to his usual activities, Oliver climbs up onto the roof to install a television antenna, but in trying to avoid a sudden crow attack, he falls into the attic. Much to his surprise, he lands atop a mysterious gemstone that possesses the power to transform him into any animal he chooses. Life in the country just got a whole lot more interesting for Oliver. He befriends the insects, lizards and birds that live near the pond by the edge of his house, but jumping from the human world to the animal one poses new challenges, like facing that vicious, conniving crow that knocked him into the attic.

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Wild Children
by Richard Roberts 

There are consequences for children who misbehave. For these children in this tale, their misdeeds cost them their human form. Each one is cursed to live an extra-long life as an animal, marked by their crime, and many are forced to work as servants where they face mistreatment at the hands of humans. There’s Bray, a feisty donkey child; Jinx, a mischievous and self-serving cat child; Coo, a dove child nearing the end of her life; twins called Left and Right, who aren’t what they seem; and Elijah, a child determined to follow the rules. The story weaves through each of their five individual tales before culminating in a sixth, which is about a child who doesn’t seem wild in the least but cannot speak for herself. It’s a darkly beautiful narrative with a bittersweet ending.