Animals in Kids' and Young Adult Books for the Classroom for Preschool through Grade 9

An Annotated List of Some of Our Favorites

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Grades PreK - 2
The Mitten by Jan Brett. Picture Book. 32 pages.
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Jan Brett has put her own spin on the familiar folk theme of a shelter that stretches to accommodate each new occupant. Here, based on a Ukrainian tale, it's a boy, Nicki, who begs his grandmother, Baba, to knit him a pair of white mittens. A mole discovers the mitten lying on the snow and crawls inside, followed by a snowshoe rabbit, a hedgehog, an owl, a badger, a fox, a bear, and finally a mouse. Read More in our Featured Book Teachers Guide with discussion questions, extension activities, related books and links.

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Grades 3 - 6
Charlotte's Web by E. B. White. Illustrated by Garth Williams. Novel. 282 pages.
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This book that's brought tears and laughter to so many generations is a book that we tend to take for granted. No other book in the field has handled the inevitability of the cycle of life with more skill and wisdom. At the same time White pokes gentle fun at advertising and human nature while he celebrates the simplicities of farm life. One more beauty of the work is that it can be understood on so many levels. Children much younger than eight may be too young to deal with the death of a favorite character, but kids from that age up can usually handle it. Read More in our Featured Book Teachers Guide with discussion questions, extension activities, related books and links.

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Grades 1 - 4
And So They Build by Bert Kitchen. Nonfiction Picture Book. 32 pages.
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This book presents us with twelve animal home and nest builders. The illustrations of watercolor and gouache are very detailed and show the constructions within a natural landscape. The homes are fascinating: some are umbrella shaped; some tastefully decorated, some continually grow and others are self-heating or air conditioned. Read More.

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Grades PreK - 3
Owl At Home by Arnold Lobel. Easy Reader. 64 pages.
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Owl is more than confused; he's crazy, but his innocence is delightful. When the wind rattles the door, he lets it in to destroy his house. When he is upstairs, he wonders if he's downstairs and tries to be both. When he discovers strange bumps at the foot of his bed, he becomes furious, never realizing that they are his feet. The book is a so-called easy to read and has short, choppy sentences which we used to think made easier reading, but Lobel's talent for storytelling is so great, it overcomes the artificial boundaries he puts on it. Read More.

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Grades PreK - 2
Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes. Picture Book. 40 pages.
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The plot is simple. A kitten decides that the full moon is a saucer of milk just waiting for his use and tries every means possible to get it. The charcoal illustrations are shades of gray against a creamy white. Unlike the strokes in his mouse books, these are broad, decorating the page with curving lines. This book is also available in Spanish and Japanese. Read More.

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Grades 3 - 9
Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea by Sy Montgomery. Illustrated by Nic Bishop. Nonfiction Photo Essay. 80 pages.
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When the rare tree kangaroo is perched high in a tree it looks a little like a monkey and a little like a bear but it is actually a kind of kangaroo. This engrossing book follows scientist Lisa Dabek's adventures in Papau New Guinea tracking down the mysterious creature. Remarkable photographs and engaging writing. This is another brilliant book by the Montgomery/Bishop team. Read More.

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Grades 3 - 6
How to Speak Dog by Sarah Whitehead. Nonfiction. 96 pages.
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This is an engaging book full of photos of teens and preteens interacting with dogs: teaching them tricks, keeping them safe, and understanding their behavior. There's a variety of text presentations on each page including opening paragraphs, smaller print blocks of text, sidebars and captions. The author treats her audience like the curious engaged equals they are--never talking down to them. Read More.

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Grades 1 - 12
Ape by Martin Jenkins. Illustrated by Vicky White. Nonfiction. 45 pages.
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White's illustrations are a loving tribute to the four non-human species of great apes: chimpanzees, orangutans, bonobos and gorillas. On each spread a single individual is rendered in color with transparent washes over the drawing while the rest of the individuals and the background are left as rougher cross hatch drawings. The technique helps to create an arresting focus on each ape, especially their faces, which is furthered by White's attention to detail. Read More.

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Grades 1 - 5
Akiak: A Tale from the Iditarod by Robert J. Blake. Picture Book. 32 pages.
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Within these 32 pages you get striking and informative illustrations, an exciting story, and hooks to math, geography, science and history. The text gives us a day-by-day account of a woman, Mick, and her dog team, but the star of the book is the lead dog, Akiak. At ten, this will be Akiak's last chance to win. This is a wonderful story. Share it with kids from first grade up after you've told them a bit about the Iditarod. Read More.

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Grades PreK - 9
The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse by Eric Carle. Picture Book. 32 pages.
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In his first book in four years Eric Carle honors one of the great artists who inspired his singular style. The title gives a hint as to the identity of the boy narrator of the story. However, the story itself is a simple, almost wordless, tale of a child painting--a blue horse, a red alligator, a pink rabbit, a yellow cow and more. Our narrator closes with, "I am a good artist." It is only after this that Carle includes a reproduction of "Blue Horse" by Franz Marc along with a short biography. Read More.

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Grades 5 - 9
Watership Down by Richard Adams. Illustrated by Aldo Galli. Novel. 496 pages.
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In this fantasy/allegory, a small group of rabbits leave their warren to journey to a safe place where they can establish a new warren. Along the way, they encounter many hardships from farm equipment, dogs, wild animals and from other rabbits. In the process, the essences of their characters are revealed. Through them we see ourselves.

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Grades PreK - 2
Good-Night, Owl! by Pat Hutchins. Picture Book. 32 pages.
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Owl is disturbed during the day by his animal neighbors but when night falls he gets his revenge. The animals are drawn quite expressively and the funny ending does not disappoint.

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Grades PreK - 3
Diary of a Spider by Doreen Cronin. Illustrated by Harry Bliss. Picture Book. 30 pages.
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This is the sequel to Diary of a Worm. Here we have a young spider at home and at school. On grandparents day his grandfather teaches the class the difference between spiders and insects, that spiders keep the insect population in check, and that "butterflies taste better with a little barbecue sauce." This is a great book for a unit on spiders or for getting kids to loosen up and laugh.

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Grades PreK - 3
Butterflies and Moths by Nic Bishop. Nonfiction. 48 pages.
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Beautiful close-up photography and accompanying fact-filled text makes this book attractive to browsers or kids who want more information. Bishop has previously done wonderful books on frogs and on spiders. His photographs are vibrant and crisp and his writing is full of intriguing information well presented.

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Grades PreK - 3
The Mitten by Jim Aylesworth. Illustrated by Barbara McClintock. Picture Book. 32 pages.
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Here we have a third captivating retelling of the Ukrainian folktale where we find yet another style of illustration. As endearing as the Jan Brett version but written twenty years later, these three interpretations are begging to be brought together in the classroom where young children can get one of their first experiences in comparative literature.

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Grades 6 - 9
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. Novel. 383 pages.
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Hale has taken the Brothers Grimm fairy tale and given it a novel length retelling in this first of the Books of Bayern trilogy. Ani is the crown princess but is an outsider in her own family. When she is young her aunt teaches her to converse with birds, especially the swans, but her mother is mortified by the unseemly behavior of her daughter and forbids Ani any contact with birds.

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Grades PreK - 3
One Gorilla by Anthony Browne. Picture Book. 32 pages.
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Like Martin Jenkins' Ape this book features full page portraits of the four species of great apes but also includes other primates such as lemurs and monkeys. The supersaturated colors and the way Browne portrays individual facial expressions grab our attention and emphasize these primates' humanity.

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Related Areas of Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Site

  • Subjects Index: A listing by subject of our Featured Subject Articles with classroom activities, recommended books and links as well as our Annotated Booklists.

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