Animal Farm

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Animal Farm Book Poster Image
Classic satirical allegory about the abuse of power.
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 33 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational value

George Orwell's novel, about totalitarianism in general and Stalinism in particular, is one of the most famous satires in the English language. It comments on Soviet Russia specifically and human folly in general.

Positive messages

The main message of Animal Farm is pretty bleak, in essence, "Don't let this happen." Most of the animals mean well and want their farm to succeed, but none are a match for the treachery of their leaders.

Positive role models & representations

Many of the characters in Animal Farm care about their community, but few are intellectually equipped to see how they are being exploited until it is too late. For example, Boxer the horse is steadfast in his support of the farm and pushes himself to great acts of strength for the good of all. But even he is unprepared for his ultimate fate once he is no longer needed.

Violence

The animals rebel against their human master and chase him from the farm. When Farmer Jones returns with his neighbors, the animals attack the intruders and inflict various bites and cuts on them. Later, the pigs use their guard dogs to keep order on the farm. Some animals are executed for crimes for which they have supposedly confessed. The violence in the novel is not described in detail, but its emotional implications might be upsetting to some readers.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

Even though the use of alcohol is prohibited on the farm, the pigs eventually feel free to get drunk whenever the mood strikes them.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Animal Farm is a biting satire of totalitarianism, written in the wake of World War II and published amid the rise of Soviet Russia. Although it tells a fairly simple story of barnyard animals trying to manage themselves after rebelling against their masters, the novel demonstrates how easily good intentions can be subverted into tyranny.

User Reviews

Adult Written bythebookreviewer02 December 21, 2014

Appropriate for almost any age, but it will be spoiled if you don't get the message!

This is truly a masterpiece, and, if you choose to read it, you will know the basic gist of Soviet Russia and totalitarianism, both incredibly complex issues, i... Continue reading
Adult Written bydesireeg November 20, 2014

A perfect book.

It is obviously a book informing us about the events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and then on into the Stalin era in the Soviet Union. I think i... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bydaughterofhappiness April 12, 2012

Animal Farm ~ Review by DaughterofHappiness

You'll need a level of maturity to be able to understand this book if you are a kid. Otherwise, most won't be able to see the reason this book was wri... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byabbacus June 16, 2012

Really good!

I liked this book a lot. It's perfect for younger teens.

What's the story?

After years of oppression by Farmer Jones, the animals on his farm rise up and chase him away. They plan to run the farm themselves, for their own benefit. At first, the animals are able to work together and support each other. Gradually, however, the pigs begin making helpful suggestions about how the farm should be run. Before long, the pigs are at the top of the social ladder and the rest of the livestock are wondering what happened.

Is it any good?

The story and language are very simple, but Orwell is unnervingly precise in the way he depicts each step on the road from revolution to tyranny. ANIMAL FARM has been popular and highly acclaimed since its publication in 1945. In 2005, Time magazine chose it as one of the 100 best English-language novels, and the book ranks at 31 on the Modern Library List of Best 20th Century Novels. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what totalitarianism means, how it shaped the 20th century, and whether it still exists today.

  • As the pigs grow more powerful, they find a number of animals who seem willing to confess to the most horrendous crimes, even though they know they will be executed for their supposed crimes. Do criminal confessions always contain the complete truth? Why might a suspect confess to crime he or she did not commit?

  • Soon after they take over the farm, the animals agree to follow "The Seven Commandments." The rules seem fairly basic, but they are changed over the course of the novel. How do leaders today change the rules to achieve their own agendas?

  • One of the novel's most famous quotes is "All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others." What might that paradoxical statement mean?

  • Why do you think Animal Farm is often required reading in school?

Book details

For kids who love classics

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