From furry little critters to six-legged crawlers – the world of animals is incredibly fascinating, to say the least! It’s rare to find children who are not interested in animals, which might explain why so many beloved children’s books feature animals in them.
In this book list, we are going a step further to explore books which feature animal protagonists! So, rather than just being an animal sidekick to a human character, the animals are now the stars of the show! Often, this also means animal characters who speak and think – very much unlike real animals in the world.
Although less realistic in nature, these stories are lovable precisely because of how endearing and captivating the animals are crafted to be. Sometimes, animal characters are also used symbolically to represent groups of people in reality.
Now, are you ready to get up close and personal with some furry – and not-so-furry – animal stories? Let’s get into it!
Note: The books in this list, with the exception of the bonus list at the end, were retrieved from Singapore’s P4 GEP ‘Recommendations for Extensive Reading’. The language level is generally suitable for primary school children, although older children may benefit more through deeper discussion of the themes and issues within the books.
1. Masterpiece (Elise Broach)
James Pompaday could never imagine what would happen when he receives a pen-and-ink set for his birthday. The little beetle living under his sink, Marvin, surprises the boy with an intricate drawing painted using his front legs! However, everyone mistakenly believes that James had found his special talent, and it wasn’t long before the boy and bug forms an unlikely bond, landing them smack in the centre of an art heist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, involving stolen art, forgery, and a very famous painter.
A brilliantly crafted art mystery, Masterpiece paints the picture of a precious friendship between human and animal, while exploring themes of loneliness and acceptance.
Suitable for: Ages 9 and up
2. Young Fredle (Cynthia Voigt)
Freedom is great – but at what cost? Fredle, a young mouse, learns this the hard way when he was cast out of his comfy home in the cranny of the kitchen cupboard. Everything is new, and he has to learn to deal with snakes, cats, rain, and the field mouse outdoors. As he struggles to find his way home, Fredle’s adventure begins to make him rethink the meaning of home, freedom, and everything in between.
Young readers may find this a useful point of reflection for understanding boundaries and independence in their own lives, as well as how to savour the sweetness of discovery and new experiences.
Suitable for: Ages 8 and up
3. The One and Only Ivan (Katherine Applegate)
For twenty-seven years of his life, Ivan the gorilla has known life in an enclosure in a shopping mall. For the most part, he enjoys urban life, and counts watching television and painting amongst his favourite hobbies. One day, however, a baby elephant from the wild enters his life, challenging Ivan to see their home and his art through a new lens.
Making us readers question yet again, “Should animals be kept captive?” – this book offers a fresh perspective, which gently provocates, while being ever so forgiving and sympathetic.
Suitable for: Ages 8 and up