animals, family, social-emotional

Book List: The Family Pets

Pet Show! (Puffin Books)
Written & Illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats

For ages: 2-5
Ezra Jack Keats was a transformative force in children’s literature, choosing to make his protagonist Black children as he saw they had limited representation in the medium. Most people know A Very Snowy Day, but Pet Show! is also a great book. Archie wants to enter a pet show but can’t find his cat anywhere. He comes to the pet show with a seemingly empty jar and says it contains a germ, which is an animal. An older woman shows up with a cat she found in her neighborhood, which just happens to be Archie’s. This is a fantastic story about thinking outside the box and learning how to talk to people before you make assumptions. 

Strictly No Elephants (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books)
Written by Lisa Mantchev
Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

For ages: 2-5
Most will never have an elephant for a pet. However, the little boy narrating this book does, and it has caused him to be excluded from a children’s pet club. His elephant is not a big brute; instead, it is very sensitive and is scared of stepping on cracks in the sidewalk. Despite being kept out of the club, he eventually meets another child with an unusual pet, a skunk. The little girl and boy decide to start their own pet club, and we see a porcupine, a penguin, a giraffe, and more as this more inclusive & diverse group comes together. The book’s message is not just about pets, but how being welcoming and not exclusive leads to everyone having a better time.

I Want A Dog (Rocky Pond Books)
Written & Illustrated by Jon Agee

For ages: 4-8
Jon Agee’s books always remind me of classic picture books, in particular the work of P.D. Eastman (Are You My Mother?, Go Dog Go). A girl visits her local animal shelter looking for a pet dog. Unfortunately, the man who runs the facility doesn’t have any dogs today and offers her a host of unexpected pets: a baboon, a frog, and more. The girl gets hilariously exasperated by these unwanted offers but eventually takes the man up on a seal. Even though it wasn’t the pet she wanted, the girl comes to love her seal and knows she wouldn’t trade him for anything. This is a charming story about staying open-minded and learning to love the unwanted animals and people that may come into your life.

The Wondrous Dinosaurium (Maverick Arts)
Written by John Condon
Illustrated by Steve Brown

For ages: 4-8
Danny, like many children, loves dinosaurs. While walking past your standard pet stores, he comes across a strange one that offers prehistoric pets. Danny is overly excited and quickly chooses a diplodocus who eats way too many veggies a day. He goes with a t-rex next, but it is too drooly and soaks everything. With each new choice, readers are introduced to another type of dinosaur. Eventually, Danny settles on what appears to be a standard turtle. Still, his parents are in for a surprise when they learn it is yet another prehistoric beast. This is an excellent book for the dinosaur-loving kids in your life. 

Some Pets (Beach Lane Books)
Written by Angela DiTerlizzi
Illustrated by Brendan Wenzel

For ages: 4-8
While the words may be simple, this book is all about detailed illustrations. A city park hosts a busy pet show, and the readers get to enjoy the variety of beloved animals. The rhyming text showcases how wildly diverse pets can be, even within a single species. The book focuses on adjectives to highlight those differences, so if you seek to expand your student’s vocabulary, this one will provide them with many new words. It also emphasized how much animals depend on their owners for love and care and that being a responsible pet owner is the most important thing. 

SumoKitty (Charlesbridge)
Written & Illustrated by David Biedrzycki

For ages: 4-8
An absolute classic! A stray cat in Japan becomes enamored with the sumo and follows them back to their training center. It turns out the sumo are terrified of mice, so they keep the cat to rid them of an infestation. He becomes close friends with Kuma, who wishes to unseat the current yokozuna (sumo champion). He offers words of wisdom to the cat. Eventually, our feline friend follows the practices of the sumo, including eating the same diet. One of my favorite things about this book is the contradicting art styles. Humans are drawn in a Japanese woodblock style, while the cat is presented in a much more cartoon-like manner. Amusing and informative book; if you don’t know much about sumo culture, you will after this read.

Memoirs of a Goldfish (Sleeping Bear Press)
Written by Devin Scillian
Illustrated by Tim Bowers

For ages: 4-8
If you want to introduce students to personal narrative, this is the book. Written from the perspective of a goldfish, we see his world grow through his eyes. At first, there isn’t much going on in his bowl, but as his owner adds plants, decorations, and other underwater animals, it quickly gets crowded. Not every new addition is friendly, so the goldfish has to learn how to compromise and navigate his changing world. The illustrations add to the story with some deeply expressive reactions from our protagonist. I expect this is a book that will have students very eager to share their own thoughts and interact during the reading.

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