Best kids' books about animals?
July 3, 2006 8:14 AM   Subscribe

What are the best children's books about animals?

Children's book week is coming up soon in Holland and the theme is animals. I work in an English language bookstore and I need to order some nice (read: attractive/fun/eye-catching/interesting/excellent/sellable)books on this theme. I've come up with a few but they're mostly books for the under 5's, like The Poky Little Puppy and Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?

The restrictions:

- Must be in print in the US or UK
- Preferably from a major publisher.
- Preferably recent or still popular
- Can be fiction or non-fiction
- Any age (0 - 16)
- Preferably about animals generally rather than one particular sort.
- And not too expensive (around or under USD 15 or GBP 10). If the book is really great though, this isn't as important.
posted by pootler to Writing & Language (31 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Make Way For Ducklings is a classic.

Also, Charlotte's Web for the older kids.
posted by mds35 at 8:25 AM on July 3, 2006

The Redwall series, by Brian Jacques. As it says on the site, "The stories are written for young people aged nine to fifteen, but many 'not-so-young' people also enjoy them."
posted by Gator at 8:25 AM on July 3, 2006

Best answer: Animalia
posted by argybarg at 8:28 AM on July 3, 2006

Also, the tales of Olga da Polga by Michael Bond, whom many of us know better as the creator of Paddington Bear. Olga is a guinea pig, bit of a drama queen as I recall, with a tendency to tell extravagant stories.
posted by Gator at 8:33 AM on July 3, 2006

where the red fern grows-wilson rawls
rascal-sterling north
all creatures great and small-james herriot (not so kid oriented, but mine loved me reading it to him for years)
posted by lester at 8:36 AM on July 3, 2006

I would have to second "Charlotte's Web," by E.B. White. It was a longtime favorite book of mine as a child. I grow nostalgic as I type.
posted by orangeshoe at 8:43 AM on July 3, 2006

Best answer: The Wind in the Willows is a classic. Watership Down is another (might be better for the older kids). Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, too.

Heh, I was thinking about that Elephant/sneeze story too. "On our knees, if you please, and that's hard on bees knees!"
posted by Gator at 8:49 AM on July 3, 2006

My Father's Dragon was always a favorite of mine
posted by cyphill at 8:53 AM on July 3, 2006

A couple more from me: The Cricket in Times Square and its sequels (which all feature Garth Williams' wonderful illustrations), and Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Books are great books from animals' POV, though humans are also featured.
posted by Gator at 9:08 AM on July 3, 2006

Best answer: Wild About Books by Judy Sierra is a fairly new (2004) and really colorful, eye-catching picture book about a librarian who accidentally drives her bookmobile into the zoo. The animals there become obsessed with reading and writing. Books AND animals -- you can't go wrong.
posted by nevers at 9:13 AM on July 3, 2006

Everyone Poops
posted by freq at 9:14 AM on July 3, 2006

noah's arch, watership down try ebaying
posted by baker dave at 9:14 AM on July 3, 2006

Albert Payson Terhune wrote a bunch of books about dogs, the one I loved at age 10 or so was "Lad, A Dog". Jack London's classics, "The Call of the Wild" and "White Fang" are also must-reads.
posted by dbmcd at 9:19 AM on July 3, 2006

"To Market, To Market" is a funny rhyming play on the nursery rhyme which ends with the protagonist's house being overrun by the animals she has bought.

Animals Should Definitely NOT Wear Clothing details the reasons why not.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl is another favorite.
posted by Biblio at 9:30 AM on July 3, 2006

Recent nominees for the Hackmatack Awards (a children's choice book award based in Atlantic Canada, for elementary-school-aged children):

Silverwing won the award in 2000 and Firewing was nominated a few years later. The trilogy is still in print. Kenneth Oppel writes fiction from the point of view of a bat, without very much anthropomorphism.

Hero by Martha Attema (Orca, 2003, ISBN 155143251X): During the last winter of World War II, Izaak must change his name to Jan and leave his mother and his hiding place in Amsterdam to travel with Els, a bike courier, to live on a farm in the northern part of the Netherlands. Although the people are kind to him, he is miserable until he makes friends with a beautiful black horse, Hero, a Frisian stallion wanted by the Germans. When the Germans come for the horse, only Izaak can think of a way to save him.

No Small Thing by Natale Ghent (HarperCollins, 2004, ISBN 0006392784): When 12-year-old Nathaniel and his two sisters, Cid and Queenie, discover an ad for a free pony in the paper, they can hardly believe their luck. They can have it as long as they can afford to take care of it. Even when their mother lets them keep it, life is a struggle. Things have been hard for the family since their dad walked out four years ago. The pony gives them hope and a reason to stop bickering... until a fire destroys the barn...

Tree of Life: The Incredible Biodiversity of Life on Earth by Rochelle Strauss (Kids Can Press, 2004, ISBN 1553376692, Can$19.95): A family tree for all living things. If every known species on earth were a leaf on a tree, the tree would have 1,750,000 leaves. Humans count for just one leaf on this Tree of Life. This is an illustrated introduction to biodiversity and shows how living things are classified, or organized into five branches and how each species is important and related to all the rest.

Dog Days by Becky Citra (Orca Books, 2003, ISBN 1551432560, Can$7.95): Brady is a dreadful card player and he doesn't like dogs. His mother has moved him across the country to be near his grandfather who insists on playing (and winning) endless games of Crazy Eights and whose ornery, ancient dog makes Brady's life miserable. Abra, next door, is nice to him, but she dresses like a witch and she's a girl. The only way that Brady can see to make real friends in his new home is to enter the upcoming dog show, but how is he going to do that without a dog?

The Hatchling's Journey: A Blanding's Turtle Story by Kristin Bieber Domm (Nimbus Publishing, 2003, ISBN 155109438X, Can$8.95): In 1953 Nova Scotia zoologist Sherman Bleakney made a surprising discovery. He found a female Blanding's turtle living near Kejimkujik Lake. Until then, scientists did not know that the freshwater Blanding's turtles lived in Nova Scotia. This relict population is unique to Atlantic Canada and its east coast origins remain a mystery. In 1990, this small population of Blanding's turtles in southwestern Nova Scotia became a protected species and three years later was designated a threatened species. Set in Nova Scotia's Kejimkujik National Park, this remarkable story is about a young Mi'kmaw girl and her family's encounter with a Blanding's turtle hatchling. Richly illustrated by the award-winning artist Jeffery C. Domm, The Hatchling's Journey provides us with first-hand experience observing the turtle hatchlings emerging from their nests and their fascinating journey into the Kejimkujik woods for winter.

Animals and their Young: How Animals Produce and Care for Their Babies by Pamela Hickman (Kids Can Press, 2003, ISBN 1553370627, Can$6.95): A polar bear mother gives birth while hibernating, then goes back to sleep for another two months. A male seahorse carries a female's eggs in a pouch until they are ready to hatch. Whether by giving birth, protecting their young or teaching them survival skills, animals produce and care for their babies in some extraordinary ways. (There's a whole series of these non-fiction books by Pam Hickman, all beautifully illustrated.)
posted by joannemerriam at 9:30 AM on July 3, 2006

Good Dog, Carl

and I'll second Mr. Fantastic Fox.
posted by doctor_negative at 9:39 AM on July 3, 2006

From about the age of 1 all three of my children were fascinated by the book Herman the helper. I think it was because there was the chance for a lot of interaction when we were reading it (we always read it together adding sound effects as we went, search games in the illustrations and so on). There is very little prose but the illustrations are fantastic, interesting without being too busy. It is a fantastic book.
posted by bluesky43 at 9:57 AM on July 3, 2006

The Velveteen Rabbit.
posted by jeffmshaw at 10:00 AM on July 3, 2006

I love Bruno Munari's Zoo. Very little text, but not necessarily for the under-5's.
posted by hyperfascinated at 10:28 AM on July 3, 2006

I'm thirding Charlotte's Web, but there's also The Trumpet of the Swan by White. For the younger crowd there's The Story About Ping. And Zen Shorts is a really cute book involving a panda that I think works for all ages.
posted by moonshine at 11:28 AM on July 3, 2006

Susan Meddaugh's Martha books about the dog who is able to speak after she eats alphabet soup.

Marguerite Henry's horse books.

Mo Willems' pigeon books.
posted by brujita at 11:32 AM on July 3, 2006

Some favorites of ours were by Dick King Smith, including Harry's Mad and Three Terrible Trins. We also loved I, Houdini, by Lynne Reid Banks.
posted by jvilter at 2:25 PM on July 3, 2006

I can't believe nobody's mentioned the Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel. I loved those as a kid.
posted by calistasm at 2:30 PM on July 3, 2006

Best answer: I saw someone already mentioned Animalia, but Graeme Base has other books that depict other animals in an absolutely gorgeous fashion.

- The Water Hole : Not only does this one have a host of animals found in Africa, Graeme (as he usually does) took the time to hide a ton more within his illustrations, which makes for a very fun and involved hunt-and-seek-type game for everyone
- Jungle Drums: more African animals here, also with hidden animals as well
- The Sign of The Seahorse: obviously, underwater animals are the subject here, and of course, he does a fantastic job

All of these books (and all of his others) make for wonderful gifts and just all around good children's books to have on hand.
posted by mrhaydel at 3:01 PM on July 3, 2006

I just remembered the Hank the Cowdog series. There are a million of them, but just the first couple would be fun to add. Best read aloud in a Texas twang or better yet, listened to on audio tape. Also, the audio tapes of I, Houdini are read by Lynne Reid Banks herself and are delicious.
posted by jvilter at 3:36 PM on July 3, 2006

Let me second the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. Animals are the main characters, they're fun fantasy, they appeal to the age group you don't have anything for yet.

Ah. Hmm. Okay, a search at shows that the Redwall books are hard to get there. Is it safe to assume that hard to get from Amazon UK will equate with hard to get for you?
posted by booksherpa at 9:18 PM on July 3, 2006

What about The Wind in the Willows? (link is to an edition with Arthur Rackham illustrations)
posted by mdiskin at 5:29 AM on July 4, 2006

Response by poster: You are all fabulous! Thank you! I had a few of these on my list, and I'm glad you confirmed them. These are all really great suggestions and there are a load of things I hadn't thought of.

Booksherpa - we order in the US and in the UK so we can get Redwall. I always have a copy of each book in stock. and a lot of the other things you've all suggested are stock items too, which is great, coz I can still sell them after book week.

Any ideas for some non-fiction and some more modern novels for older readers? I'm thinking of things like Lion Boy by Zizou Corder, The Life Of Pi by Martel (not a kids book, but it's a crossover/adult/young adult title) What's the best kids reference book you've seen about animals?
posted by pootler at 5:42 AM on July 4, 2006

Best answer: Lion Boy got roundly panned by our kids deparment folks, but I haven't read it personally. Life of Pi is a fabulous choice. Unfortunately all the YA novels I can think of run towards SF/fantasy or chick lit for teens.

For reference, the DK Eyewitness series is great - colorful, thorough, lots of pictures. Good for 9-12ish. They run about US$16 each retail. Here's a short list with ISBN-13s:

Mammals 978-0-7566-0703-6
Jungle 978-0-7566-0694-7
Ocean 978-0-7566-0711-1
Seashore 978-0-7566-0721-0
Pond & River 978-0-7566-1085-2
Bird 978-0-7566-0658-9
Amphibian 978-0-7566-1380-8
Dinosaur 978-0-7566-0647-3

I love the idea of a country-wide themed Children's Book Week.
posted by booksherpa at 11:36 AM on July 4, 2006

Response by poster: Booksherpa - totally agree with your colleagues on Lion Boy. Utter crap. Don't know why people still buy it.

Got the DK's already (I am an ardent pusher of DK and Candlewick)

Thanks for all your input. I'm going to make an order out now and I've got some fabulous new books to introduce to customers!
posted by pootler at 2:20 AM on July 5, 2006

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