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Beloved animal books for holiday gifting

Poignant? Life-changing? Humorous? Which books should you get for that animal lover on your holiday list?

Here, I share a list of my favorites and include expert advice with suggestions from library professionals across the country.

Are your favorites here? If not, share them in the comments section below!

  • All Creatures Great and Small and All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot (aka James Wight). I treasure the way Wight weaves his observations of people and animals into clever tales that show life’s humor, sadness, pain, and joy.

  • Ball by Mary Sullivan. “For a wonderful children's picture book, I recommend this award-winning and nearly wordless story,” says Anne Ayres, Chicago Public Library children's librarian and part of a family with three people, two cats, and one dog.

  • Charlotte's Web by E.B. White with illustrations by Garth Williams and Rosemary Wells. I admit I didn’t read this until I was an adult. I wanted to know why a story about a pig and a spider could be such a beloved children’s classic. Now I know.
  • Chet and Bernie mystery series by Spencer Quinn. “I love (love-love-love!) this series of eight books by Spencer Quinn,” says cat and dog owner Katy Linehan, Chicago Public Library librarian. “Chet is a K-9 dog who flunked out of K-9 school and went to work with Bernie, a former cop working as a private detective. The books are narrated by Chet and told from his point of view. They are light mysteries (not gory or overly violent) and also quite funny. Start with the first book Dog on It, although they probably could be read out of order. I've listened to all of them, except the very newest one, on audiobook book CD and the narrator, Jim Frangione, is absolutely fantastic.”

  • Chicken Soup for the Soul: Loving our Cats: Heart Warming and Humorous Stories of Our Feline Family by Jack Canfield. “These are heartwarming, amusing, inspirational, and occasionally tearful stories about our best friends and faithful companions,” says Lurine S. Carter, coordinator of Children/Teen Services for the Detroit Public Library.

  • Dinosaurs from Head to Tail by Stacey Roderick with illustrations by Kwanchai Moriya. It’s beautifully illustrated in bold colors, says Carter, and not only gives the names of the various dinosaurs, but also pronunciation help to guide children as they learn fun facts.
  • The Dogs Who Found Me: What I've Learned from Pets Who Were Left Behind by Ken Foster. “Anyone who has rescued or fostered dogs will enjoy this memoir,” says Kyleen Kenney, Chicago Public Library librarian who has two shelter dogs of her own. “Foster, a shelter dog lover and pit bull rescuer, has made it his life's work to ‘see’ the strays that most people ignore.”

  • Egg: Nature’s Perfect Package by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page is nonfiction and one of “any” books by Jenkins that Carla Kozak, youth collection development specialist for the San Francisco Public Library, enjoys and highly recommends.
  • Endangered by Eliot Schrefer. Carter enjoys this adventure tale about a girl who must save a group of bonobos and herself from a violent coup.
  • Four books by Kate DiCamillo. It was hard to choose just one from this great storyteller so Kozak suggests these award winners and I have to agree: The Tale of Despereaux, a fantasy story of a misfit mouse; Because of Winn-Dixie, all you really need to get through life is a good dog; Flora and Ulysses, a squirrel, a girl, a vacuum cleaner, and the power of poetry; and the series of beginning chapter books about the pig, Mercy Watson.
  • Frisky Brisky Hippity Hop by Susan Lurie and Alexina B. White with photographs by Murray Head. “Wonderful photographs accompany a joyful poem: Squirrels just want to have fun,” says Kozak.
  • Kitty Cat, Kitty Cat, Are You Waking Up? by Bill Martin Jr. with illustrations by Michael Sampson. Carter says this book has a great give-and-take between a dawdling kitty and its mom. “It has beautiful illustrations and you can’t help but love this cat with its always friendly disposition. It’s comical. It rhymes. I love this book,” she says.
  • Making the Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat by David Dosa, MD. “As a permanent resident of the Steer House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Rhode Island, Oscar is your typical cat in all ways except one: He seems to possess the uncanny ability to sense when the end of life is near. This story offers insight into the connection between animals and humans and about the lessons we learn if we allow ourselves to listen and let go,” says cat and dog owner Stephanie Kitchen, a Chicago Public Library librarian.
  • Mr. Wuffles! by David Wiesner. Kozak enjoys this book about an imperious cat that meets its match when tiny aliens team up with insects. She says she particularly loves the stunning illustrations and the three non-human languages.
  • Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands by Katherine Roy. “This is a beautiful, interesting, appropriately bloody, and extremely informative book about an important predator,” says Kozak.
  • Norman, Speak! by Caroline Adderson and illustrated by Qin Leng. Kozak enjoys this charming, multicultural story about a family that loves its rescue dog, but feels it isn’t too bright because it’s not learning commands. “Then they realize the dog is very well-trained—to respond to Chinese commands,” says Kozak. “So, the family enrolls in a Chinese language class.”
  • The Octopus Scientists: Exploring the Mind of a Mollusk by Sy Montgomery with photographs by Keith Ellenbogen, is a nonfiction standout, says Kozak.
  • The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. I love this bittersweet story based on the life of a real gorilla who existed for almost 30 years in a mall zoo. Told from his perspective, it looks at the relationship of animals and humans. 
  • Pete & Pickles by Berkeley Breathed is the very favorite animal book of Lynn Lobash, manager of reader services at the New York Public Library. “This children’s book is the story of an unlikely friendship that makes me cry every time I read it,” she explains.

  • The Search by Nora Roberts. “As an adult fiction read that is a rollicking romp for a dog lover, I would recommend this romantic suspense about an imperiled dog trainer named Fiona,” says Ayres.
  • The Underneath by Kathi Appelt with illustrations by David Small. Kozak and I both recommend this book. It’s a heart-wrenching tale of a mistreated hound and an abandoned cat and her kittens as they struggle to escape a vicious man woven with a parallel story about a shape-shifting ancient water snake.
  • Unlikely Friendships: 47 Remarkable Stories from the Animal Kingdom by Jennifer Holland. The unexpected friendships of a cat and a bird, a mare and a fawn, an elephant and a sheep, and more make this book one that Carter recommends.

Photo copyright: alexeyrumvantsey.

Maureen Blaney Flietner, an award-winning freelance writer, photographer, and artist, enjoys good stories told well. She has been “mom” to several dogs, cats, and horses over the years.





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