Animal books seem to have an almost universal appeal. Youngsters love listening to read-alouds featuring animals since they can point to the ones they recognize while also learning about those that they have never seen. Once they become readers, animal books are often among the titles they select because of the illustrations and the familiarity. Then, too, savvy teachers have learned to use animal stories to address gently issues such as bullying, cooperation, and social justice. They know that they can rarely go wrong when they choose books featuring animals to share with their students or recommend them for independent reading. Even students entering middle grades search for books featuring animals since they may provide avenues to escape the turmoil of approaching adolescence, appeal to their tender sides, and provide possible career choices. Here are some recently published animal stories with youth appeal.
This weekly series of book reviews is contributed by the Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) of the International Reading Association (IRA). All reviews have been written by CL/R SIG members. Visit their website to join CL/R SIG or to read more about them.
Bliss, Harry. (2011). Bailey. New York: Scholastic.
Precocious Bailey is a dog that wants to add to what he knows by attending school. Like many other elementary school students, he has some problems catching the bus, whether it's heading toward school or on its way home. He loves reading and math, but his favorite subject is lunch when he can trade dog bones for sandwiches. Although things don't always go right for Bailey, he knows that school is the place he belongs, and he makes plenty of friends there. This title would be a great read-aloud for the transition to a new classroom since it effectively reassures those who feel anxious about anything new. The pastel illustrations highlight Bailey's personality in the wiggle of his tail or the frown of concentration on his face. One of the book’s best scenes shows Bailey giving a report on Fala, the canine companion of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt with a tiny photo of the President and a huge one of Fala. Clearly, Bailey has resolved his priorities about who or what matters. - Barbara A. Ward, Washington State University
McDermott, Gerald. (2011). Monkey: A trickster tale from India. Boston: Harcourt.
Hungry Crocodile lolls in the river and longs for a nice Monkey snack in this final installment of McDermott’s trickster tales series. Monkey is also hungry and craves the delicious mangoes growing on an island in the middle of the river. Since he can’t reach those mangoes by himself, Monkey must outsmart the hungry, wily Crocodile in order to fill his belly with the delicious fruit. Young readers will be amused at how Monkey outsmarts Crocodile and avoids his sharp teeth. McDermott’s bold collage made of cut and torn handmade paper from India perfectly complements this traditional Buddhist story from the Jataka Tales. Teachers will enjoy reading this title aloud, and are as likely to be tickled by the mischievous monkey’s antics as students will be. - Terrell A. Young, Brigham Young University
Godwin, Laura. (2011). One moon, two cats. Illus. by Yoko Tanaka. New York: Atheneum.
As night falls, two cats in separate places wait until their human companions are asleep before heading out for fun. As both felines slip from their homes, they saunter confidently through the dark until noises and movements claim their attention. As the cats race after their favorite prey, mice, they leap acrobatically all over the pages. Just when the demise of a mouse seems imminent, a storm sends the cats and mice in separate directions as they scurry for cover. The cats slip surreptitiously back into their respective dwellings, leaving their human bedmates unaware of their outdoor travels. The descriptions of the cats’ appearance, actions, and personalities are extended through the use of different font sizes throughout the story. The acrylic illustrations show the playful yet sly and sneaky nature of these cats with very active night lives. - Barbara A. Ward, Washington State University
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