Animal stories for children – our recommendations
Children of all ages love animal stories. From classics such as Peter Rabbit to modern epics such as The Legend of Podkin One-Ear, they can present an opportunity for the reader to empathise and relate to characters unencumbered by preconceptions, misconceptions, social pressures or prejudices associated with human society. In a sense, animal stories can reflect any reality, and present a diverse range of beliefs, opinions, ways of living, backgrounds and experiences without the policies or taboos of human life. Through carefully selected animal stories, children can be exposed to funny and life-affirming narratives, educational moral tales, different viewpoints, friendships, loyalties, and virtuous causes – all through voices that can be questioned and challenged without fear or favour.
Animal-themed stories – here’s our list of recommended titles for EYFS, KS1, KS2 and KS3. This list includes middle-grade fiction, teen novels, nonfiction and picture books by writers including Iona Rangely, Joe Wicks, Satoshi Kitamura, Moira Butterfield, Toon Tellegen and Nina Bawden.
Animal stories for children and teens – our recommended titles
The Taming of the Cat by Helen Cooper
Facing Gorgonzola, a cunning and hungry cat, Brie, a mouse, stays alive by spinning a tale that blurs the lines between reality and fiction. Helen Cooper’s masterful storytelling and intricate illustrations create an immersive experience which invites discussions about the power of narratives and unexpected friendships. It’s a captivating and inspirational read that will leave readers thinking about the power and consequences of storytelling. Highly recommended. Read our full review.
The Moon is a Ball by Ed Franck, illustrated by Thé Tjong-Khing
Through this collection of nine fables of friendship, Panda and Squirrel will teach younger children the values of consideration, reconciliation and empathy. Thought-provoking and ideal to spark circle time discussion, this beautifully illustrated hardback is a wonderful text to share with EYFS classes, and perfect for children in KS1 moving towards first chapter books.
The One and Only Ruby by Katherine Applegate
The third instalment in The One And Only Ivan series sees Ruby reunited with her caretaker from the African elephant orphanage, bringing back memories of her former life, friendships and the savannah. A compelling animal story, The One and Only Ruby is a classic animal story in the making.
The Midnight Panther by Poonam Mistry
Panther feels out of place and ventures into the jungle to overcome challenges, conquer his insecurities and find out where he belongs. The Midnight Panther is an outstandingly illustrated, spellbinding and magical modern fable picture book to read to KS1 and use as a text in lower KS2. The lyrical text and atmospheric storytelling make this book a joy to read aloud to a class and the breathtaking imagination lends itself to inspiring children’s creative writing.
Naughty Kitty by Adam Stower
When Lily’s mum says no to getting a dog, Lily sets her heart on a cat. But strange things and all sorts of chaos ensue when Kitty arrives. Slowly, the reader discovers all is not as it seems in this hilariously funny picture book with clever clues to spot for younger readers. Also in the series is Silly Doggy, where Lily is delighted to find a new pet dog in her garden. Except that this isn’t a dog, and a bear is missing from the zoo. Both books are excellent choices to encourage younger children to spot visual narrative clues and infer and predict what might happen next.
Einstein The Penguin by Iona Rangeley
During a family trip to London Zoo, Mrs Stewart jokingly tells a rather clever penguin that he “must come and stay whenever he likes”. Later that day, Einstein the Penguin turns up on the Stewart’s doorstep for tea, and he’s having lasagne. An animal story like no other, the short chapters, clever dialogue and hilarious portrayal of family life will make this an accessible and memorable story that we highly recommend for independent readers aged 8+ or for teachers to read aloud to classes in lower KS2.
Fiona the Fruit Bat by Dan Riskin
Fiona is a Fruit Bat who is afraid of the dark, afraid of the unknown and afraid to take the plunge into flight. But calming and confidence building words from her mother show her the way. A good book to help children to deal with new and unfamiliar situations, EYFS and KS1 children will learn not only about overcoming fear, but also the science behind echolocation and the lives of fruit bats. There’s plenty to discuss in this charming large format hardback picture book with lyrical text by Dan Riskin and beautiful illustrations by Rachel Qiugi. Highly recommended.
Sasha and the Wolf by Ann Jungman
This charming pair of Russian folk tales follow Sasha, a young boy who bonds with a wolf cub when both of them lose their way in the wintry landscape. But the villagers think he is stupid to trust a wolf. Can Sasha convince them that Ferdy is not a danger? Easy to read and with lots of characterful dialogue, these stories are perfect to read at the end of the day with lower KS2 classes.
The Burpee Bears by Joe Wicks
This light-hearted hardback follows a family of bears and how they start and end each day with healthy exercises. Featuring stretches, warm-ups, cooldowns, and energetic exercises – with a sprinkle of onomatopoeia and powerful verbs – this book will appeal to children in KS1. Schools that run KS2 sport leadership awards and mixed age group paired reading may find The Burpee Bears useful as a fun source of material and ideas.
Me and My Cat? by Satoshi Kitamura
When a strange woman appears in Nicholas’ bedroom and says and does strange things, Nicholas doesn’t know what to make of it. But, there’s a twist, and all is not as it would first appear. This is a brilliant picture book to read and share with EYFS classes, and to use as a text to explore character viewpoints with older primary aged children.
Cyril and Pat by Emily Gravett
This clever picture book shows younger readers the charming friendship between Cyril, a squirrel and Pat, who isn’t. Their friendship is powerful and shows children that it’s worth sticking up for those you care about. With vivid illustrations of life, foliage and flowers, an unexpected world is brought to life, and it’s one which younger readers will delight in exploring every time they visit a park.
Sing Like A Whale by Moira Butterfield and Gwen Millward
In this beautifully illustrated picture book, twelve animals show younger readers what they sound like and how they talk to each other. With catchy onomatopoeic words, each creature asks the reader: “Can you do the same? Let’s hear! Ideal for reading with a group as a call or response, expect to hear whole classrooms squeaking, roaring, a-wooing and singing. Great fun for EYFS storytime.
No One Is Angry Today by Toon Tellegen
Following a series of forest animal friends through their everyday lives, these stories examine why we do the things we do and how we feel about our actions. This unique and brightly illustrated hardback collection of ten philosophical tales will make a great addition to any upper key stage two class library. Each of these modern fables is ideal to discuss with year five and six classes in PSHE lessons. The brevity, clarity and high quality of these short stories also lends them to be useful text to study in literacy lessons, particularly in terms of viewpoint and writing style.
Podkin and the Singing Spear by Kieran Larwood
Now Keeper of the Gifts, Podkin finds himself embroiled in a battle of good against evil which sees him working with Uki to thwart a common enemy. Will their combined strength defeat the deadly Crowskins? Absorbing and highly believable, this, the seventh in the World of Podkin One-Ear series does not disappoint. Perfect for fans of animal stories and fantasy adventures, every KS2 library deserves a shelf of Podkin.
The Peppermint Pig by Nina Bawden
Polly, the youngest in her family, finds it difficult to adjust to a sudden change at home until she acquires a special pet pig. An ideal class reader book for year four children.
Read more about Nina Bawden.
Woof! by Allan Ahlberg
Eric is a normal boy. Until the nighttime that is, when, in fifteen seconds he can turn into a dog. Funny, great to read aloud and brief, this is a good easy reading option for children who love animal stories.
Picasso Perkins by Adele Geras
Perkins is a wise old tabby cat who is annoyed when his 8-year-old owner creates a picture of him for a “Paint Your Pet” competition. Perkins thinks he can do better. This would make an ideal group reading story book for year 3 children, and a good text for children interested in art.
The Railway Cat by Phyllis Arkle
Alfie the railway cat faces danger and suspense as he tries to escape from his kidnappers in a series of incredible adventures. A good introduction to short chapter novels, this is a useful text for lower ability readers and for reading around the class with mixed ability groups.
Dog in the Dungeon by Lucy Daniels
Skelton Castle has a deerhound to protect it. But Aminta, the last deerhound, died recently. But when Mandy and James explore a creepy castle, they find a deerhound, one that looks just like Aminta. A captivating mystery.
A Lion In The Meadow by Margaret Mahy
When a young boy claims to have seen a dangerous lion outside, his mother gives him a matchbox charm with a miniature dragon to keep him safe. Later on, both the dragon and the lion become very real. With wonderful illustrations, this is an ideal book for year 1 children to read and share.
Animal themed stories for teens
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Victorian London is vividly portrayed through the eyes of a horse – Black Beauty – in this timeless classic of children’s literature.
Flambards by K.M. Peyton
Christina is sent away to live with her nasty uncle in his dilapidated house. While there she discovers a passion for horses and begins to understand the peculiar world around her.
Blitzcat by Robert Westall
The horrors of the blitz are told through the eyes of a cat who is searching for her lost owner. Very atmospheric. The follow-up to Machine Gunners. An ideal class reading option for year 7 children.
If you liked this list of animal stories for children and teens, you might also enjoy our list of dinosaur books for children, our list of environment and climate change books for children, our recommended exploration topic books and our recommended magazine subscriptions for children, and our review of The Time Traveller and the Tiger by Tania Unsworth.