15 Best Children’s Books About Animals

Welcome to Elephant Notes . . . our periodic take on some of the ideas, issues, and news impacting parents, children, and reading.

February 2020

Children’s books that feature animals are some of the most hilarious, creative, heart-warming, wholesome, and exciting books around.

According to a survey done by librarians at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, about 26% of all picture books feature animals as their main characters. And there’s no wonder why! These books allow children to not only learn more about nature, but they also often carry important themes about friendship, perseverance, kindness, and much more. They have so much to offer in terms of child development and emerging literacy, and they are consistently favorites of children of all age groups.

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Classic Children’s Books about Animals

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
Bill Marin Jr. and Eric Carle

This timeless classic features a brown bear looking around at all the other animals he can spot. From a big happy frog to a plump purple cat to a handsome blue horse, this book depicts many different animals along the way. Eric Carle’s signature style brings each illustration to life and makes the storyline all the more engaging. This book also features a repetitive rhythm and rhyme that makes it an amazingly engaging read that a child of any age will enjoy.

The Cat in the Hat
Dr. Seuss

One of the most iconic children’s books of all time, The Cat in the Hat tells the story of poor Dick and Sally, two children who are stuck in the house, bored with nothing to do. That is, until a giant cat in a hat shows up and brings them on an exciting, if not chaotic, adventure. Written in 1957, this book stands the test of time and continues to be a favorite of countless families.

Make Way for Ducklings
Robert McCloskey

After searching for a cozy home for she and her eight ducklings to live, Mrs. Mallard decides that the pond in the Boston Public Gardens is the perfect place for her family. The problem, though, is getting there through the busy streets of Boston. With a little help from the Boston police, the ducklings and their mother make it safe and sound to their new home. This book, with its beautiful illustrations, sweet sentiments, and amusing storyline is a must-have for any bookshelf.

Ian Flaconer

A more modern classic, Olivia has captured the hearts of many. It tells the heart-warming story of a sweet pig with a whole lot of energy. Getting into many adventures and making a little trouble along the way, Olivia is an endearing and relatable character that your children are sure to love. And with engaging illustrations that play with minimal color, this book is perfect for a read aloud with your little one. 

The Story of Babar: The Little Elephant
Jean De Brunhoff

Literature’s most beloved elephant comes to life in this classic, inspiring tale. After his mother is killed by a hunter, Barbar escapes to the city where he finds a new friend, Old Lady. Later on, with his cousins, he returns to the great forest to be crowned King of the Elephants. We love this book because it carries a powerful message of never giving up and being kind and compassionate no matter what. And, of course, we are fans of any and all elephant books. Check out our favorite children’s books about elephants.

Nonfiction Children’s Books about Animals

Finding Winnie
Lindsay Mattick

This book tells the real life story of the actual bear that inspired the beloved Winnie-the-Pooh. In 1914, a veterinarian on his way to treat horses in World War I, stumbled across a baby bear and named her Winnie. The veterinarian’s great-granddaughter tells his story of undeniable friendship and exciting adventure across the world. Even if your child is unfamiliar with Winnie-the-Pooh, this book is fantastic because its message and storyline are so inspirational and encouraging.

My Big Animal Book
Roger Priddy

This board book is perfect for children that love animals. It features many different animals from all around the globe, with the name of each animal printed in large, easy-to-read lettering. With large pages, as well, this book makes it easy and fun to discover new animals and engage with new ideas. It’s the perfect addition to any collection.

Biggest, Strongest, Fastest
Steve Jenkins

This fascinating book features fourteen different animals that hold records. It portrays the world’s largest, slowest, longest living, strongest, fastest animals. Each record has incredible illustrations that make it easy for your child to learn even more about each animal. This book is perfect for any child that likes animals or likes to learn facts about nature.

Bugs! Bugs! Bugs!
Bob Barner

This interactive book is perfect for children that love to explore creepy crawlies. From pretty ladybug to rolly pill bugs to majestic butterflies, this book features a number of interesting insects with whimsical illustrations. It also comes with a chart depicting each insect’s actual size, making it easy for your child to jump right into the world of bugs. Each page also offers interesting information about each bug, making this book fun, exciting, and informative.

Hello, World! Arctic Animals
Jill McDonald

Learn about the lives of all kinds of Arctic animals in this exciting board book! This book features facts about different animals that live in the Arctic, including how these animals heat, how they sleep, and how they stay warm in the bitter cold. With bright and cheerful illustrations, it is sure to captivate and engage children of all interests. It is a great way to introduce nature and science to your toddler and allow them to explore the world around them.

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Funny Books about Animals

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus Book Cover

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
Mo Willems

When a bus driver takes a break, he tells his reader one thing: “Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus!” The pigeon, however, is determined to drive the bus! He does everything from telling fibs to flattering the reader. Will you let him drive? This book, told entirely in speech bubbles, is hilarious, interactive, and adventurous. It is sure to leave you and your child with more than a few giggles!

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!
Joe Scieszka

What does the story of The Three Little Pigs look like from the wolf’s perspective? Changing the point of view, this hilarious book reimagines the classic tale in a thrilling way. With its outlandish and clever storyline, both you and your child will find yourself laughing throughout the entire book. And with wacky and simplistic illustrations, you can ask yourself whether you knew the story of the Three Little Pigs at all.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
Laura Joffe Numeroff

This classic book withstands the test of time with its silly and mischievous main character. A hungry little mouse shows up at your doorstep and asks for a cookie. If you give him one, though, he’ll ask for milk. He also might ask even more of you, from letting him look in the mirror to providing him a pair of scissors to give himself a trim. Be careful what happens when you give a mouse a cookie! 

Z is for Moose
Kelly Bingham

Zebra wants to make a show about the alphabet, but his friend Moose has some unexpected and creative ideas for what it should look like. Moose tells Zebra that M isn’t for Moose–Mouse has already taken that letter so Moose has to find another. This hilarious book has unexpected twists and turns that will make you laugh-out-loud. And, even better, it has a great message about friendship, sharing, and compromise.

Elephants Cannot Dance
Mo Willems

Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggy characters have become comedy favorites throughout their fun adventures. In this tale, Piggy wants to teach everyone to dance because it’s something that she really loves to do. Elephant, however, is apprehensive, claiming he cannot dance. Join Piggy in trying to convince Elephant that dancing is fun and anyone can do it!

How important is it to read about animals to children?

Reading books about animals with your children can benefit them in a number of ways. Firstly, in terms of child development, it will help them to expand their abilities to focus. Reading about something they are interested in or are more familiar with, such as animals, will encourage them to practice paying attention, which, in turn, will expand their focusing skills. Furthermore, being introduced to new ideas helps children develop greater vocabulary skills, which will help them in the future to continue learning. And, finally, it helps to increase their literacy skills in general by practicing reading, reading out loud, sounding out words, using pictures to better understand the text, etc.

Secondly, your child might be more interested in books about animals, even if animals aren’t their passion. Animals like dogs and cats, or even elephants and giraffes that your child might have seen at a zoo, are things that your child has likely encountered in real life. Being able to draw connections between their real life and what they’re seeing in the story not only helps promote comprehension, but also might get your child more interested in the material than something completely new and alien. Furthermore, oftentimes books about animals are more entertaining because it seems silly and unrealistic that animals would do things like create a play about the alphabet or attempt to drive a bus. Your child might get more excited to read these titles because they are so creative, novel, and exciting.

Elephant Books: The Book Club for Kids

Because of our name, books about animals have a special place in our heart. But we don’t stop there. We search for some of the best, most engaging and entertaining children’s books on the market to send every month to our customers. We offer packages featuring interactive and playful board books or beautiful and exciting picture books. Follow the link to our website to learn more about Elephant Books for kids.

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