Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Chapter Books For the Animal Lover

I had a conversation with my friend Allyson via her blog about reading books to young animal lovers.  She mentioned that her almost-3-year-old loves animals and that books about animals hold her attention.  I got to reminiscing about my own animal loving girl.  Maddie has had a tender heart for animals since she was a teeny thing so we have read our fair share of animal stories over the years, and still do. 

I wrote a blog post about two years ago, sharing some of our favorite animal chapter books and I'm republishing it below.

However, before I get to that,  I  have a few more to mention.

We've read Socks by Beverly Cleary twice.  It is written from the perspective of Socks who is once the pampered kitten of a young newlywed couple but feels displaced when the couple brings another "pet"-- a pet who cries-- into their home. 

 We read  Henry Huggins also by Beverly Cleary for the first time last January.  The first in the series of six books, this one tells the story of Henry finding a scraggly stray dog and his mission to adopt the mutt for his own. We read this only a month before we got our own puppy and you can believe it fed a few longings of my own 7-year-old girl who had been begging for a dog for years

James Herriot's Treasury for Children is another can't miss.  I read all of James Herriot's books for adults while I was in high school and I absolutely adored them, but many of the stories would be too complicated, or not suitable, for young listeners. (Think blood, plus medical terms and procedures.)  This volume complies some of the more appropriate stories into one place for children, complete with beautiful illustrations.


A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole is full of animals-- a mouse, an osprey, a thrush, many other birds, plus a few rats and cats, too.  This was a delightful book about the painter John James Audubon and chock full of learning, all written on a young child's level (and loaded with illustrations).  Read my full review here.

And now...republished from the archives

Charlotte's Web by E. B. White is such a gem that we have read it again as each child becomes old enough to enjoy it thoroughly.  Several stuffed pigs have played the part of Wilbur and the mouse that was once Ralph has played taken his turn as Templeton, too.   I love to see my children recreate the stories spontaneously in their play. (Note from 2013: E.B. White wrote other animal stories.  Skip Stuart Little-- blah.  Read The Trumpet of the Swan in elementary school-- excellent.)

One winter we were looking for a special book to read during our month-long break from school and we selected Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater.  I remember wondering if the story was just a wee bit too advanced for them and being surprised by how much the children loved it.  I remember sitting on the edge of the bunk bed, reading a begged-for one last chapter before bed and the giggles being  infectious as we read about the penguin named Captain Cook who came to live in suburbia. 

A few summers ago we were at a loss for what to read next and I put out a call on Facebook for reading suggestions and someone suggested Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat.  I put the book on hold at the library and when it came in, we began to read almost as soon as we brought it home.  It was such a thin book with such an engaging story.  We were intrigued by the boys who were allowed  to keep owls as pets on their Canadian property.  As a mama of children who have asked for a variety of pets from spiders to dogs to sheep, this was a little scary, too! 

What better way to expose my children to a bit of poetry than to read it from a story about a mouse?  The Mouse of Amherst by Elizabeth Spires is another thin little volume.  It tells the tale (pun intended!) of a little mouse who shares a room with the reclusive poet Emily Dickinson.  Snippets of poems are interspersed throughout the simple story.

One story that has stuck with my children more than any other is the one of the raccoon named Rascal.  Though there is a full-length version of the story, we were privileged to find an out-of-print copy of Little Rascal by the same author, Sterling North.  Both books tell the true story of a young boy who raises a raccoon for a year.  So fun, so touching, so memorable.  (We have several stuffed Rascals who live in the toy box with Ralph and Wilbur.)

A list of our beloved read-alouds wouldn't be complete without a mention of Thornton Burgess.  Brian has done most of the before-bed reading with our kids for several years.  It is our nighttime ritual that while I am getting the youngers ready for bed or nursing a baby, he will tuck the olders in to bed and read them a chapter or two.  We discovered Thornton Burgess's books by accident when my sister cleaned off her bookshelves and passed The Adventures of Bobby Raccoon on to our family.  After devouring the slim novel, the kids asked for more, but a local library search turned up only a few more in the series.  When I discovered that Amazon carried many more for only $2 a book, Brian purchased a small stack for our personal collection and Burgess became the nightly selection for more than a year while they acquainted themselves with Jimmy Skunk and Sammy Jay and Buster Bear and more of their animal friends. 


  1. Thanks for the great list! I think we're going to go ahead and try Henry Huggins this year since we found a copy at Goodwill last week. If it goes well we may be reading the entire series.

    I seriously need to stop looking at the children's books at Goodwill, we've brought home 10 more chapter books in the past few weeks. And, of course, the kids want to read all of them this year :)

    Also, any thoughts on Judy Blume's Fudge serious, someone just gave us a few, but I don't remember ever reading them, and would rather not spend the time prereading them, if you could just tell me :)

  2. Oh, I would have to agree about Stuart Little. We were recently given a copy in a box of book, but I think it'll be set aside for paperback swap. I'm hoping someone wants it.

  3. We read the Fudge series in the fall. The first book, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, was funny and the kids were slightly shocked/amused by the mischief behavior of Peter's little brother, Fudge. The second book, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great was also okay, though it talked about "cute boys" and had a little too much sibling rivalry between the two sisters. We went on to read the other three books in the series, but I had to edit some things as I read. One of Peter's friends has divorced parents and they talked about the mother leaving the family. I didn't feel it was something my children needed to hear about in detail. They also mention children using bad words. Overall, I'd say the first book might be worth a laugh when the kids are older, but skip the rest.

  4. We just discovered James Herriot this year because it's in our Sonlight curriculum. We LOVE it! Also...I adore Charlotte's Web and Trumpet of the Swan was one of my faves that I read over and over growing up. I'll have to look in to some of these other great books!


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