Children have a natural curiosity when it comes to learning about different types of animals throughout the world. Kids are often interested in the natural habitat of each creature and the human relationship with both wild and domestic animals. Below we recommend great books for those who are looking to provide an educational experience about animals through fiction.
Jasmine, who goes by Jay, is an orphan in England who tries to escape her conniving uncle by leaving his home to work as a groomer at a racing stable. As an outcast, Jay quickly identifies with the spirited racehorse Manhattan, whose cantankerous ways have put the mare in danger. With themes of prejudice, bullying, bribery and family dysfunction, this story is best for readers ages 12 through 16. The story is also ideal for anyone who appreciates a gutsy heroine who has flaws and a passion for overcoming anything standing in her way.
“Matylda, Bright and Tender” is a book that discusses loss and grief after one of the main characters, Guy, is killed in an accident. The story focuses on Guy’s best friend, Sussy, as she learns to grieve and live with loss. Though kids in fourth grade and up will connect with the authentic subjects addressed in this book, the story will be especially relatable for children who are dealing with loss. This beautifully written tale balances grief with humor and ultimately uncovers the triumph of friendship and love.
“Moo: A Novel” is a heartwarming story told in a blend of poetry and prose. It reveals the bonds that can develop when we open our hearts to other people and animals. The narrative, told by 12-year-old Reena, who, alongside her brother is adjusting from urban to rural life in Maine, is heartfelt, engaging and fast-paced. The story is excellent for 8- to 10-year-olds who are learning to read chapter books.t It’s not overly challenging for this age group, making it an ideal classroom read. Children will be captivated by the humorous content and stunning imagery depicted in Sharon Creech’s writing. The book may also give kids a greater appreciation of animals and farms, regardless of where they live.
The story is told from the point of view of Ivan, a captive gorilla who has long lived in a shopping mall. Ivan spends his days people-watching through a glass window, and he rarely thinks of the jungle he left long ago. But everything changes when a baby elephant who has been ripped from her family arrives on the scene. Late-elementary and middle-school readers will learn how to have greater compassion and empathy for animals as they get a glimpse of Ivan’s life in captivity. The illustrated book features stunning graphics that reflect the beautiful writing of Katherine Applegate, which is heartwarming without being overly sentimental.
This fictional story set in central Europe after a war has ended includes an orphaned boy, a fortune-teller, a magician and an elephant. Peter, the young orphan, goes to the fortune-teller’s tent when it appears on the town square and learns an elephant can lead him to his missing sister. Then, when a magician conjures up an elephant that crashes through the roof of the opera house, Peter knows it’s somehow connected to his sister — but how? As the story progresses, the point of view shifts, making this an ideal book for guided reading. Black-and-white illustrations lend visuals to the magical plot, and the poetic writing in “The Magician’s Elephant” is ideal for readers age 8-12.
“As a mother of three children who have grown up at the Columbus Zoo (home of Jack Hanna!), I have spent countless hours wandering through every exhibit and in zoo-sponsored programs with my little ones,” Melissa Spurling says. “My kids simply love conservation and animals. My goal is to find age-appropriate, animal-centric books for my daughter and sons.”
Our Expert Consultant
Melissa holds a doctorate in pharmacy and is a home educator, co-teaching a high school chemistry class and a primary school class. Having taught two of her own children to read, write and traverse Singapore Math, Melissa has spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours researching and testing curriculum.