“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”  —C.S. Lewis

Kathleen and I were discussing our favorite picture books the other day. You know, the ones that appeal to grownups just as much as kids. The favorites from your childhood; the books you secretly hope your little one asks you to read over and over again.

With so many books out there for young readers, it’s nearly impossible to narrow down to just five. But because it’s Picture Book Month, here are five with animal themes that really stand out to us (and that our children have loved):

1. A Garden of Whales by Maggie Davis: In this heartful story about endangered whales, a little boy in his bathtub imagines he lives in the ocean and dreams up a way to save all of the world’s whale families. Beautiful illustrations accompany lyrical text in this picture book that will have your child loving whales—and believing that someday he or she, too, might be able to make a difference.


2. Tarra & Bella: The Elephant and Dog Who Became Best Friends by Carol Buckley: When Tarra retires from the circus, she finds a new home at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. But she’s lonely and doesn’t connect with any of the other resident animals—until Bella, a stray dog, arrives. Their unbreakable bond is tested when Bella gets injured, but Tarra stands by her side. This true story set to lovely photos documents what it means to be forever friends.


3. Anatole by Eve Titus: This is a sweet tale of keeping one’s honor set in one of the world’s most popular cities: Paris. When Anatole the mouse discovers humans consider rummaging mice to be dirty and disgusting, he is shocked! But instead of accepting this as a fact like everyone else, he’s determined to change their view of him. Though he may be just one tiny, insignificant mouse, he hatches a clever plan to help the humans and, along the way, regain his honor.


4. The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth: Based on a story by Leo Tolstoy, this lovely picture book with beautiful watercolor illustrations tells the tale of a young boy who seeks answers to some of life’s most important questions. He asks his best friends—a heron, a monkey and a dog—but, unsatisfied with their answers, sets out to ask a wise turtle. But the answers to questions such as these can’t just be told, they have to be experienced—which the boy ultimately does, following a series of choices he makes rooted in kindness and compassion.

three questions

5. Owl Babies by Martin Waddell: Three baby owls wake up in their tree and wonder, where’s Mommy? As they wait in the night, each baby has different ideas about where she might be, but they all share a deep love for her. What a timeless message this book imparts to young readers: that Mommy (or Daddy) always comes back.

owl babies

Honorable mentions: Miss Spider’s Tea Party by David Kirk (sadly, this book is out of print, but used copies are available on Amazon); Time for Bed by Mem Fox; and Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship by Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff and Paula Kahumbu.

What are we missing? What are your favorite picture books?

{Lead photo © Charlotte Jensen}


4 thoughts on “5 must-read picture books for animal lovers”

  1. So happy you shared these inspiring animal picture books Kathleen. I have such fond memories of both my mother and grandmother reading books to me over and over again! My favorite was Mickey Mouses’ Pluto the pup:). Love, Karren

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Cart
Malcare WordPress Security