first published 1996
I picked this up with some pretty low expectations. I imagined a crude revision of Orwell's book, this time with the farm animals trying anarchism instead of socialism. I was very wrong! I pretty much loved this right from the start, mostly for the subtle humour and quirky details. I was about halfway through when I realized that I couldn't remember what the original Animal Farm was like so I went back and reread that. I have to say that Jane Doe's book stacks up pretty favourably. It lacks some of the fine language and the narrative isn't as tight. However it's just as imaginative and of course, much more upbeat.
The central character is Snowball the "good" pig, who was chased off Orwell's farm by Napoleon's dogs. He heads into the forest where he encounters a bunch of eco-activist raccoons (it's slightly dubious that raccoons would be living next door to Orwell's very English farm, but no matter). Snowball changes his name to Pancho because it sounds tougher and he embarks on adventures that bring him to the circle A farm - another farm without humans. The animals are a bit smarter here and there are lots of funny characters. One of my favourite moments is when Pancho falls in love with a female pig, only for her to tell him that she prefers girls. To say too much more would be spoiling it. Corporations are presented as the ultimate evil which is probably going to put some right-wing folks off the story, but for most this is going to be a fun read, whatever their politics. The death and murder is pretty minimal too so it makes a good read for children. Check it out!