There’s nothing more motivating for kids than reading about a topic they love. And so often when we ask parents what themes appeal to their kids, they tell us ‘they love animals’ or ‘they’d like to have a pet’.
Here’s a collection of book suggestions to pique those kids’ interest. (Scroll over or click on the covers below to learn more about each series or book.)
We’ve written before about how reading fiction can boost children’s empathy and we think animal stories can be part of that: they allow kids a deeper understanding of animals’ needs. And we humans often channel some of our deepest emotions through our animals and pets.
Gail, a vet, wrote in a blog on the Booktrust UK site that:
‘Maybe animal stories touch us deeply because they mirror our own humanity.
They show our human capacity for kindness and compassion, to the very depths of our brutality.
Maybe through these stories we gain an understanding of ourselves, and just maybe, we become better people for it.’
There are several classics on our list, which have delighted generation after generation. Your kids might have discovered these first through the film and TV adaptations: The Jungle Book, The Incredible Journey, Storm Boy, 101 Dalmatians and Lassie Come Home.
The Sheep-Pig was the inspiration for the film Babe.
Among the more recent publications in our list, Lulu Bell and Juliet Nearly a Vet appeal to quite young readers. Both series are Australian and feature a young girl helping out in a parent’s vet surgery
Rainbow Street Pets is a ‘fat’ book, but it contains 6 short stories so it can be read in short chunks. The wonderfully warm tales centre on an animal shelter – we discover the stories of both the animals and the humans who love them and care for them – and appeal to readers of seven or eight and up.
Love that Dog is something a bit different: it’s told in a series of poems written by young student Jack in response to his teacher’s requests. At first he’s very reluctant (‘I don’t want to …’) but gradually he finds his voice and out pours the story of his beloved dog, Sky. It’s a beautiful book for reading aloud or sharing in class.
Wolf Brother and the other books in the ‘Chronicles of Ancient Darkness’ series are set 6,000 years in the past and centre on the relationship between a twelve-year-old boy, Torak, and the wolf cub he befriends. Much of the story is told from the wolf’s point of view. There are fantasy and magic elements here, too, including a demonic spirit in the skin of a bear. It’s really engrossing reading, but there is a fair bit of violence and darkness – something to be aware of for more sensitive young readers.
Blending real-life with fiction, War Horse is an incredibly moving novel, inspired by the horses on the front lines in WWI.
My Family and Other Animals is also part novel and part real-life autobiography. Gerald Durrell tells the story of his family’s stay in Corfu of the 1930s, beginning when he was aged 10. It’s full of funny observations of his family and detailed descriptions of the plants and animals he came across.
And for kids who aren’t in the mood for, or aren’t attracted by, long narratives, non-fiction books presented in short chunks of text broken up by illustrations can be a great choice. We even know some kids who’ll happily go to bed with a Cronin’s or similar ‘field guide’ to reptiles or birds!
125 True Stories of Amazing Animals is packed with photos and colour graphics and collects together favourite articles from National Geographic Kids magazine – most of which are around half a page long.
Which animal stories do your kids love? Please tell us in comments below. And if you like this list, please consider sharing it using the social buttons.