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October 25, 2018

Pet Story Time

Dog reading
Reading ideas for little animal lovers.

Sharing the planet with animals gives children chances for adventure and for learning about the world! We can learn about love from the pets who live with us, we can learn about nature by exploring the different environments animals live in, and we can learn about science by talking about the ways animals live and survive. But there are also opportunities for laughs and imagination. Check out this reading list by Indiana artist and children’s literature specialist Addie Hirschten.

Not Norman: A Goldfish Story
by Kelly Bennett
Best for: Pre-K and early elementary family reading and elementary solo reading

Norman the goldfish isn’t what this little boy had in mind. He wanted a different kind of pet — one that could run and catch, or chase string and climb trees, a soft furry pet to sleep on his bed at night. Definitely not Norman. But when he tries to trade Norman for a “good pet,” things don’t go as he planned. Could it be that Norman is a better pet than he thought? With wry humor and lighthearted affection, author Kelly Bennett and illustrator Noah Z. Jones tell an unexpected — and positively fishy — tale about finding the good in something you didn’t know you wanted.

After you read: Goldfish are a fun animal to paint, draw or create with paper. And it’s also fun to depict blue water! Gather orange and blue supplies, and you’re ready to make your own Norman.

Children Make Terrible Pets
by Peter Brown
Best for: Pre-K and early elementary family reading and elementary solo reading

When Lucy, a young bear, discovers a boy in the woods, she’s absolutely delighted. She brings him home and begs her mom to let her keep him, even though her mom warns, “Children make terrible pets.” But mom relents, and Lucy gets to name her new pet Squeaker. Through a series of hilarious and surprising scenes, readers can join Lucy and Squeaker on their day of fun and decide for themselves whether or not children really do make terrible pets.

After you read: Find out what you and your little one can discover on a walk in the woods. Take along a camera or notebook and record your finds!

Jackson’s Blanket / La mantita de Jackson
by Nancy Cote
Best for: Babies, toddlers & preschool

Jackson loves his blanket more than anything in the world. He’s had it since he was born, and he brings it everywhere — to grandma’s house, on vacation, to the doctor’s office. His parents tell him he’s too big to be carrying his blanket with him all the time, but he’s just not ready to put it away! One day, when he finds a cold, lonely little kitten in the snow, Jackson realizes that sharing his blanket might be more important than keeping it all to himself. Bonus: This bilingual book also helps children explore two languages at the same time.

After you read: This story offers the perfect example for how to care for one another. Take turns being the lost kitten and gently sharing a blanket with one another.

Please Take me for a Walk
by Susan Gal
Best for: Pre-K and early elementary family reading and elementary solo reading

The book stars a very persuasive pup pleading with his best friend — the reader! — to take him for a walk. He recounts all the fun things they can see and do. They can chase squirrels in the yard. Or they can greet neighbors on their block. Or they can visit the shopkeepers downtown. Or they can swing by the schoolyard, and then run and play in the park. The dog run at the park is filled with all kinds of amazing purebreds and mutts, and our puppy wants them all to see “my best friend and me.”

After you read: Our cities, towns and neighborhoods offer many places to visit together! Make a map of your neighborhood and the spots your family likes to visit.

The Best Cat
by Valeri Gorbachev
Best for: Pre-K and early elementary family reading and elementary solo reading

When Bootsy plays with a ball of yarn, Jeff sees a clown — the best clown in the world! And when Bootsy dances, Jeff sees a ballerina — the best ballerina in the world! Jeff’s big sister, Ginny, disagrees. “Bootsy is just a regular cat,” she insists. But Ginny and Jeff can agree on one thing: Bootsy is the best cat in the world!

After you read: Creative play gives us all the chance to try on different jobs. Pretend together to be a cat, ballerina or anything at all. Remember that, when you show your goofy, dreamy side, it helps your little one discover their own!

Cowgirl Rosie
by Stephen Gulbis
Best for: Babies, toddlers & preschool

Cowgirl Rosie dotes on her pets, a quintet of baby bison whose shenanigans around the ranch keep her “plumb worn out.” Alas, on a trip into town to visit Sheriff Joe, the critters begin disappearing one by one, until all have vanished (“Oh, calamity!”). The sheriff suggests they “saddle up and hit the trail before it gets dark,” and soon the pair encounter Snakey Jake, with a sack of flour flung on his back. Demanding to see the sack’s contents, Rosie finds five white baby bison (“But these aren’t my babies”) and promptly bursts into tears. The waterworks wash away the flour, of course, revealing the missing pets, and when the varmint Jake tries to vamoose, Rosie snags him with her lasso.

After you read: Flour always makes our Brighter Futures Indiana crew think about making bread together. Once your little one is old enough to help, get them involved. They can knead dough or help to measure ingredients!

Pick a Pet
by Shelly Rotner and Cheo Garcia
Best for: Toddlers & preschool

Determined to have a pet of her own, especially since her family and friends own a vast array of pets, Patty has no idea what to choose until one night she dreams of strange and exotic creatures. And when she wakes up, she realizes she has found the perfect pet for her.

After you read: Build on your reading time by chatting about the animals you and your child dream of having. Take it one step further and draw them together.

Where Are Mary’s Pets?
by Clive Scruton
Best for: Toddlers & preschool

In this story about searching and finding, Mary wants to play with her pets, but has no idea where they are. Where can they be? Then, Mary whistles. Running, creeping and hopping, one by one will be found. In this fun flip-flap story of a girl and her trusty troops of friends we learn about animals and their styles.

After you read: You can extend the fun by hiding stuffed pets after reading. Then, take turns search for your little animal friends throughout your home.

An Octopus Followed Me Home
by Dan Yaccarino
Best for: Pre-K and early elementary family reading and elementary solo reading

Yaccarino’s retro colors and shapes tell the story of a little girl who brings home yet another stray. The octopus of the title is only the latest addition to a menagerie that includes crocodiles under the bed, seals in the pool, penguins in the fridge, mountain goats on the roof and two elephants in the garage. Dad finally has had it and sends his daughter out to take the eight-legged creature back to the sea. But she isn’t too upset in the end, since she picks up another stray on the way home.

After you read: Talk about how many legs people and various animals normally use to get around. Then, practice moving like all the animals!

Build Your Child’s Brighter Future!

Want to dive deeper into helping your little one build language skills? Check out our Play and Learning guidance about English and language arts for:

Addie Hirschten is a former children’s librarian, the host of the “Alchemy of Art” podcast, a professional painter, teacher & author of several books. She’ll be joining Brighter Futures Indiana’s official kid lit recommendation team, the Book Crew, this fall. Learn more at:

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