Twenty Animal Books to Start the School Year

by Andy Plemmons, David C. Barrow Elementary School Library Media Specialist

 Photo: Andy Plemmons

Photo: Andy Plemmons

There are so many books that feature amazing animal stories. This list of 20 books features a variety of animals from domestic to wild. These books were selected to give readers an experience of a wide range of animals and their stories, from the difficult selection of a pet to the search for a lost pet to exploring the language of animals. Readers will find inspiring, humorous and heartwarming stories in the pages of these picture and chapter books.

Some Pets written by Angela DiTerlizzi and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel

This book celebrates animals of all shapes and sizes. In brief rhyming text, readers will see the behaviors and talents of a possible future pet.

The Pet Project: Cute and Cuddly Vicious Verses written by Lisa Wheeler and illustrated by Zachariah OHora

This book takes a different perspective on choosing a pet. A child of a scientist researches numerous pets in a series of poems that give some honest and humorous depictions of life with pets.

Gaston written by Kelly Dipucchio and illustrated by Christian Robinson

A bulldog raised by poodles and a poodle raised by bulldogs meet one day in the park. They must decide which family is where they really belong.

Ivan the Terrier by Peter Catalanotto

Ivan is a rambunctious terrier who is constantly interrupting storytime. Readers will laugh out loud at his antics.

Lucky and Squash written by Jeanne Birdsall and illustrated by Jane Dyer

Two dogs become great friends through a locked gate and decide on a plan to make their owners fall in love so they can be a family.

Kate and Pippin: An Unlikely Love Story written by Martin Springett and photographs by Isobel Springett

A fawn abandoned by her mother is brought to a farm where she is raised by a Great Dane who never had puppies.

Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey written by Doug Kuntz & Amy Shrodes and illustrated by Sue Cornelison

Kunkush and his family flee war-torn Iraq in search of a safe home. Along the journey, Kunkush is lost, and the family and rescuers go to great lengths to reunite the cat with his family.

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel

A cat walks through the world and is seen through the perspective of multiple animals.

Hero Cat written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Jo Ellen McAllister Stammen

A cat raises her kittens in an abandoned building. While searching for food, the building catches fire and the mother makes a dramatic rescue.

Some Cat written by Mary Casanova and illustrated by Ard Hoyt

Violet is a shelter cat who has trouble getting adopted. When she finally finds a home, her adjustment is made more difficult by the family dogs. What will it take for them to finally all get along?

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis

How do you speak bug? Carson Ellis invites readers to learn a new language through her invented words and detailed illustrations. Each read of this book will bring new understanding.

Melvin and the Boy by Lauren Castillo

Melvin finds a turtle at the park and brings him home. However, the turtle only seems happy at bath time. Melvin wrestles with his decision to take an animal from the wild.

Shy by Deborah Freedman

Shy is an animal who lives in the gutter of the book. Can other animals help him feel brave enough to step out where the reader can see him?

Wolfie the Bunny written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Zachariah OHora

A bunny family finds an abandoned wolf disguised as a bunny on their doorstep. The family takes him in, but the daughter bunny is fearful of being eaten. This is a humorous tale of taking in a new family member who is very different from you. 

Pigloo written by Anne Marie Pace and illustrated by Lorna Hussey

An imaginative little pig sets on to find the North Pole and stretches his imagination with the help of his sister.

The Bear Who Wasn’t There by LeUyen Pham

This is a “monster at the end of this book” type of book. Readers are encouraged to go on a journey to find the bear who just doesn’t seem to be showing up in the book. Readers will meet a whole cast of animals along the way.

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

India Opal Buloni finds a dog in the Winn-Dixie grocery store and tries to convince her dad to let her keep him. Little does she know that Winn-Dixie will help her meet a whole community full of wonderful individuals that will help Opal grapple with her own struggles.

Cat Found by Ingrid Law

This story takes place in a town that torments cats. Billy finds a cat in need of help and decides to try to stop the cruelty and create a safe space for cats.

Moo by Sharon Creech

Reena moves from the city to rural Maine and has a hard time adjusting. Luckily, she meets an ornery cow who leads her to discover just what she needs to feel at home.

Wish by Barbara O’Connor

Charlie Reese gets sent to live with her aunt and uncle who she barely knows. Charlie makes the same wish every day, and with the help of a new dog, she discovers that what you wish for may not really be what you want.