Animals

Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs by Michaela Muntean

Cover image of Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs by Michaela Muntean

Luciano Anastasini had been a circus performer from the time he was a child until the day he fell fifty feet from the high wire, ending his days as an acrobat. Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs, by Michaela Muntean, is the story of how Luciano got a second chance at a circus career by giving stray dogs a second chance at life.

Bowser was a thief who could even open cupboard doors to steal food. Penny walked into walls. Stick was a stray, knocking over garbage cans for food. Tyke was just ornery, and Cocoa kept digging giant holes in her owner's yard. The one thing they had in common was that no one wanted them—until Luciano took them home to the circus.

Bark, George by Jules Feiffer

Cover of Bark, George by Jules Feiffer

In Bark, George by Jules Feiffer, George is a small dog with a big problem. When his mother tells him to bark, he can't. Instead he says, "Meow," not quite the sound his mom was expecting. George keeps trying, but to his mother's growing frustration, he can only produce the sounds of other animals, like "Oink" or "Moo." Finally George's mother takes him to the vet who promises to get to the bottom of the problem. The cause of George's unusual sounds is even funnier than the idea of a dog who quacks.

Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 by Phillip Hoose

Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95

Moonbird, by Phillip Hoose, is the story of an incredible bird, B95. Through his story, we learn about an amazing species of tiny shore bird, the Rufa Red Knot. The size of a robin, this bird has one of the longest distance migrations of any animal — more than 18,000 miles in a round trip. B95 has made that trip 20 times, flying the equivalent of the distance to the moon and halfway back, earning him the nickname Moonbird.

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Petersen

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Peterson

It started as a a funny, little notion scrawled of a piece of scrap paper. "Mice have a culture all their own; Too small to integrate with other animals." Over the past decade, David Petersen's throwaway thought has emerged into a beautifully vivid adventure series that combines breathtaking action with gorgeous artwork. That series starts with Mouse Guard: Fall 1152.

The Mouse Guard are essentially wandering knights who serve a widespread kingdom. Mice have many natural predators and the guard has been established to protect citizens and keep the peace. But the kingdom is not simply threatened by snakes and owls. There are also enemies within.

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

Bears have much in common with people. We're both mammals. We're both omnivores. We are protective of our young. Also, if a bear happens to lose something very important, they will search for it. Especially if that something is their hat.

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen is a clear-cut observation of a bear in his natural habitat, asking other animals if they have seen his missing prized possession.

What that description did not tell you is how unbelievably charming and oddball Klassen has made this story. Bear, standing upright, interrogates a different animal. Nearly every conversation is alike. No one has seen his hat and bear retorts, "OK. Thank you anyway." before he goes on to the next creature. The whole thing reads like a classic comedy bit.

I'd Really Like to Eat a Child by Sylviane Donnio and illustrated by Dorothee de Monfreid

I'd Really Like to Eat a Child by Sylviane Donnio

If only I had read I'd Really Like to Eat a Child when I was small, life would have been so much easier.

This is not because I fell victim to some carnivorous beastie that could only be satisfied with devouring yours truly--though once I was surrounded by a ferocious herd of petting-zoo goats. Rather, I might have understood the importance of eating whatever my parents told me to.

I am a former picky eater. Fruits and vegetables were not my bag, and hot dogs reigned supreme. One time I even threw a stuffed pepper out the window. Fortunately, time has passed, and I began to appreciate the foods that I once avoided. But I know how the little crocodile Achilles feels when he rejects his parents' meal of freshly-picked bananas. "Today, I'd really like to eat a child."

Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Adam Rex

Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Adam Rex

Chloe and the Lion is not about a young girl facing off with a ferocious feline, no matter what the title says. Sure, Chloe's present, saving up her nickels and dimes to ride the merry-go-round. She does, in fact, spin around that ride so many times that she gets dizzy and lost in the nearby woods. It is at that very point that Chloe should meet a lion. Instead, a large, ferocious, winged, burgundy dragon steps out.

Writing a picture book is hard work. You must have a solid story, likable characters, and the right choice of words. What's more, this delicate balance can be completely thrown out of whack by a maverick illustrator who thinks that "a dragon would be cooler."

Young Fredle by Cynthia Voigt; illustrated by Louise Yates

Young Fredle by Cynthia Voigt; illustrated by Louise Yates

Young Fredle grows up repeatedly hearing the rules about how mice behave. Sometimes it seems like life between the walls of the kitchen is nothing but rules. One of the most important rules is that mice don’t change. But that doesn’t dampen Fredle’s curiosity and sense of adventure. Finally, his mother’s predictions come true, and his curious nature and sweet tooth get Fredle in deep trouble. And so Fredle finds himself Outside.

Farmyard Beat by Lindsey Craig; illustrated by Marc Brown

Farmyard Beat by Lindsey Craig

As the sun sets, the animals in the farmyard should be settling down for the night. But in Lindsey Craig’s Farmyard Beat:

“Chicks can’t sleep. Chicks can’t sleep.
Chicks can’t sleep
‘cause they got that beat.”

And so begins a toe-tapping dance party where each animal’s noisy contribution to the beat wakes up another. The chicks go peep and wake up sheep. Cat’s purr and meow wake up cow. The racket grows until it is so loud that Farmer Sue comes to investigate the noise. Of course, she joins in and the entire farmyard dances to the beat until they “fall in a heap. Asleep.”

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Ivan is a gorilla. He will tell you that isn’t as easy as it looks. It is even harder when you live in a cramped cage at the Big Top Mall and Video. Ivan is also an artist. He draws pictures with crayons that sell for $20 in the mall gift shop--$25 with a frame. Ivan’s best friends at the mall are Stella, an elephant who performs tricks she learned while part of a circus, and Bob, a stray dog.

Now that Ivan is a full-grown silverback, he no longer draws the crowds that paid to see him when he was young and cute. Some people still come to see Stella perform, but she is old and has an injured foot. The mall owner, Mack, decides the business needs a boost from another cute baby animal. And so Ruby arrives and everything changes. Caring for Ruby causes Ivan to rethink his art and his home and to dream of a better life for all of them.