15 Best Children's Books About Animals

Little girl reading a book inside a tent at home, sitting next to her brown teddy bear.
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Animals have been a source of imagination and interest in children since the dawn of time.

From the deep dark ocean to the planes of Africa, here is our pick of fifteen of the best nature filled books to immerse your child in the animal kingdom.

Classic Tales

These children's books with animals have strong morals and key lessons that still ring true to this day. Even the most modern child will benefit from reading one of these golden oldies.

Cover of 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' by Eric Carle.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Suitable For: Ages 2+

Written in 1969, this masterpiece of children's storytelling is a bookshelf essential. The interactive pages take you through the life cycle of a caterpillar with cute and colourful pictures. It introduces the circle of life in an easily digestible way and will remain a childhood classic for years to come.

Cover of 'The Little Red Hen' by Paul Galdone.
Image © WH Smith

The Little Red Hen by Paul Galdone

Suitable For: Ages 4-7

As the oldest story on this list, with its origins dating back to the 1870s, this classic farmyard tale has been reimagined many times. The Little Red Hen works hard tending the field for days while her lazy friends sit back and relax. They expect to reap the same rewards without putting in the effort but things do not turn out to their plan. This book discusses the value of hard work and shines a light on the things that go on behind the scenes of everyday life that don't always get appreciated.

Cover of 'The Story of Ferdinand' by Munroe Leaf.
Image © WH Smith

The Story of Ferdinand by Munroe Leaf

Suitable For: Ages 5+

First published in 1936, this beautiful book shows that there is always more to someone than what meets the eye. The original story is much more heartfelt than the recent film adaptation, as we follow Ferdinand the Spanish bull as he is prepared for a match with the matadors. Although Ferdinand is the biggest and burliest bull of them all, he would much rather sit and smell the flowers than fight for show. This touching story with sweet imagery will stay with your child for years to come.

Cover of 'Elmer the Patchwork Elephant' by David McKee.

Elmer the Patchwork Elephant by David McKee

Suitable For: Ages 4-7

These bold and brilliant illustrations are bound to capture the imagination. Here we are introduced to Elmer, whose bright patchwork skin simply does not fit in with the rest of the grey elephants. This story takes us through his journey across the jungle as he learns that animals come in many different patterns and colours. It teaches an important lesson about loving yourself regardless of what the world around you may think!

Cover of 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea' by Judith Kerr.
Image © WH Smith

The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr

Suitable For: Ages 3-7

This sweet and beautifully illustrated book answers the age old question, what would happen if a tiger came to tea? Sophie and her mum find out one day as a very hungry tiger invites himself over for dinner. The wild events that follow are sure to make an entertaining read for both you and the children.

Fun Loving Fables

For some wholesome books about friendship and animals all around the world, here are five exciting adventures that will give you a belly laugh while also sneaking in some deeper meaning and life lessons for your child to absorb.

Cover of 'Dogs don't do Ballet' by Anna Kemp.
Image © WH Smith

Dogs Don't Do Ballet by Anna Kemp

Suitable For: Ages 4+

This hilarious children's book will even have the parents laughing out loud at bedtime. Biff the dog has no interest in playing fetch or digging bones, instead, he longs to dance! Accompanied by wonderful illustrations, this dog delights the imagination while encouraging kids to have passion and determination to do the things they love.

Cover of 'Pandamonia' by Chris Owen.
Image © Hodges & Figgis.

Pandamonia by Chris Owen

Suitable For: Ages 4+

This fantastic tale has just one rule; whatever you do, don't wake the panda! With a great rhythm and stunning art, this book sings the sounds of the zoo using the interesting noises of Australian animals. Fun and fast-paced, it will become a reliable bedtime staple to read over and over again.

Cover of 'The Snail and the Whale' by Julia Donaldson.
Image © WH Smith

The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson

Suitable For: Ages 3-8

The author of the Gruffalo is back with another hit. This sweet animal adventure describes the unlikely friendship between a snail and a whale who stick together through dangerous twists and turns. With catchy rhyme and the recognisable and lovable illustration from Alex Scheffler, this book is the perfect read for parents and children to enjoy together.

Ayobami and the Names of the Animals by Pilar López Ávilia

Suitable For: Ages 5-8

This gorgeously illustrated book takes us to the heart of Africa where we meet Ayobami, a young girl excited to start school after the end of the war. However, she gets lost along the way and has to ask the local animals for help to guide her on the right path again. There is also an underlying theme of education, how important it is in a child's life and the many obstacles someone in a situation like Ayobami must overcome in order to secure their right to learn.

Cover of 'The Antlered Ship' by Dashka Slater.
Image © WH Smith

The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater

Suitable For:  Ages 4+

This imaginative book and its absolutely encapsulating illustrations will delight parents and children alike. Join Marco the curious fox as he travels the world with a crew of seafaring animals, hoping to find the answers to the big questions about life on Earth. A must-have adventure book that will keep you and your child entertained time and time again.

Educational Adventures for Environmental Learning

These animal books not only have heart but are also filled with important lessons about the precious environment we live in.

Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys by Mike Unwin

Suitable For: Ages 5+

From dragonflies to wildebeests, follow the trails of twenty different species as they migrate across the globe. Factual yet poetic language combined with beautiful art from Jenni Desmond makes for an incredibly engaging read that will not only teach your child about nature but will also inspire a love for these animals and an appreciation for the intense lengths they travel annually in order to survive.

Cover of 'Bee & Me' by Alison Jay.
Image © WH Smith

Bee and Me by Alison Jay

Suitable For: Ages 2-6

This picture book takes you on a journey you'll be buzzing about for days! With no words at all, this completely visual exploration allows your child to really engage and discuss what's happening in the story. They will definitely notice all the small details in the art and earn a greater appreciation for bees and how vital they are to our environment.

Cover of 'Dear Greenpeace' by Simon James.
Image © WH Smith

Dear Greenpeace by Simon James

Suitable For: Ages 5-11

Young Emily wakes up one day to find a whale swimming in her back garden pond. Concerned for his health, she writes to Greenpeace asking for advice. This is the most whimsical book in this category, comprised completely of letters between the characters, however, the heart and soul of the story will touch the reader while also teaching an underlying lesson about caring for nature.

Cover of 'Naturama' by Micheal Fewer.
Image © Hodges & Figgis

Naturama by Micheal Fewer

Suitable For: Ages 3+

From the woodland to the swamp, this book is chock-full of fascinating details about different ecosystems and the animals that live in them. Accompanied with charming illustrations from Irish artist Melissa Doran, this is a perfect book to pick off the shelf for some light yet informative reading to get your child interested in nature.

Cover of 'The Incredible Ecosystems of Planet Earth' by Rachel Ignotofsky.
Image © WH Smith

The Incredible Ecosystems of Planet Earth by Rachel Ignotofsky

Suitable For: Ages 6+

From the author of "Women in Science", this book takes you on a worldwide adventure through seas and deserts, exploring the many kinds of creatures that inhabit this planet we call home. It is more of a decorated atlas than a bedtime read, being slightly heavy on the text and information for younger children. However, the detailed pictures and quirky fun facts are sure to keep their interest.

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