In the witty and compelling The Council of Animals by Nick McDonell (Twelve), humans are nearly extinct following an unspecified disaster ("The Calamity") of their own making. The animals, also sorely suffering in a changed world, gather to debate and vote on the next steps: to allow the humans to live, or to kill and eat them all. This council includes a grizzled, arthritic bulldog; a not-so-bright horse; an underfed grizzly bear; a religious crow; an aloof and possibly turncoat cat; and a bully of a baboon. The belated seventh council member is the source of some trepidation and mystery. When the humans (who mostly remain offscreen) appear doomed, a motley alliance must form, swelling the ranks of animal characters to encompass a trio of moles, a giant lizard that thinks it's a bat, a small but important scorpion and more. To save humanity, these intrepid creatures will travel and go on adventures together, learning interspecies trust and new animal facts, and finding hilarity and danger along the way.
This thought-provoking, captivating story contains both whimsy and life-or-death consequences, charmingly related with humor and sagacity by a narrator, "a humble historian (or animal contextographer)," who conceals their own identity until the very end. The Council of Animals has the feel of a fable, both a romp with sweetly goofy animal characters and a serious and clear-eyed story about the real world and its dangers. Ultimately, this is a tale about community and cooperation. Humans may have something to learn from the animals about communication and mutual responsibility. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia