My kiddos love to read and, along with most of their friends, they also love animals. This is our list of both tried and true books featuring furry friends along with books that are on our summer reading list. Each has been previewed by at least one of us or has been researched thoroughly and is great for 4th - 8th graders. We hope your kiddos will enjoy our finds and that their summers and yours will be more memorable because of them!
by Kate DiCamillo
One of my favorite books in the entire world! Yes, one of my favorite books—though my kids love it, too. If you didn't enjoy the movie, don't let that deter you. If you did enjoy it, the book is a gazillion times better! The Tale of Despereaux is a Newbery Medal award winner and tells the interwoven stories of three main characters. It is a tale of Despereaux Tilling, a small mouse who doesn't behave like an ordinary mouse. Despereaux likes to read stories and falls in love with a princess named Pea. The Mouse Council banishes Despereaux to a dark dungeon for breaking the mouse rules of conduct. It is a tale of Chiaroscuro, a rat who lives in the darkness of dungeon but has an unusual interest in light. It is also a tale of Miggery Sow, an abused and slow-witted servant girl who longs to be a princess. After discovering the rat's plot to kidnap the princess, Despereaux bravely comes to the rescue. With a well-paced story and memorable protagonists, it is also a great chapter book to read aloud.
by George SeldenThe Cricket in Times Square is a charming animal fantasy book about Chester Cricket's adventure in New York City. At the start of this classic children' book, the country cricket arrives at the Times Square subway station by accident. Mario Bellini, whose parents own a newsstand, finds him and lets him stay in the newsstand. The cricket goes on to make friends with the boy, Tucker Mouse and Harry Cat.
by Sheila Burnford
The Incredible Journey is a classic animal adventure book. Three animals--a Siamese cat, a bull terrier, and a Labrador retriever-- make an incredible journey through the Canadian wilderness in search of their family and their home. The pets face hardship, starvation and wild animals on their adventurous journey. The last chapter, in which they find their owners, is very moving. Cat and dog lovers will especially love this heartwarming animal story.
by Robert Lawson
Rabbit Hill is another Newbery-award-winning classic children's book. In this gentle chapter book, animals on Rabbit Hill are anxiously waiting for the arrival of new folks. Author Robert Lawson creates a few vivid animal characters, such as gentleman-like Father Rabbit, worry-prone Mother Rabbit, grumpy Uncle Rabbit and Little Georgie the rabbit. It is a charming and sweet animal fantasy story.
The Mouse and the Motorcycle
by Beverly Cleary
I believe that one of the reasons I remember 3rd grade so fondly is because my teacher read The Mouse and the Motorcycle aloud to us. One of my favorite books as a child! Ralph the mouse makes friends with a boy named Keith, the owner of a toy motorcycle, and goes on many adventures. This is especially great for boys who may not be as apt to read because it's filled with action and adventure.
Charlotte's Web has got to be one of the best children's books ever written. In this Newbery award-winning chapter book, a pig named Wilbur forms a strong friendship with a spider named Charlotte, who also lives on the farm. Charlotte saves the pig's life by spinning words on her web. E. B. White creates a very memorable character in Charlotte. Charlotte's Web is another good animal fantasy book to read aloud.
Another wonderful story by E.B. White, Stuart Little is a classic chapter book that has delighted generations of children. A mouse born into a human family, Stuart Little goes through many adventures. His biggest adventures occur when he leaves home in search of a lovely bird named Margalo. Like The Mouse and the Motorcycle, this one is filled with adventure.
While The Horse and His Boy is the third story in the Chronicles of Narnia Series, it stands alone in the series and does not at all need to be read before or after the other Narnia books (though they are all wonderful books). Shasta, a boy living in the land of Calormen, discovers that his master is selling him to a Tarkaan, a noble from the south. The boy meets Bree, a talking horse of Narnia who was captured when he was a young colt. Together, they decide to flee to Narnia. On their long journey, the boy and his horse have many adventures and are joined by a brave aristocratic girl named Aravis and her talking horse called Hwin.
Another wonderful read by Kate Dicamillo, The Tiger Rising is a book that will touch your heart. Walking through the misty Florida woods one morning, twelve-year-old Rob Horton is stunned to encounter a tiger - a real-life, very large tiger - pacing back and forth in a cage. What’s more, on the same extraordinary day, he meets Sistine Bailey, a girl who shows her feelings as readily as Rob hides his. As they learn to trust each other, and ultimately, to be friends, Rob and Sistine prove that some things - like memories, and heartaches, and tigers - can’t be locked up forever.
Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry is a classic children's book in the genre of realistic fiction. Main characters in the chapter book, two children named Paul and Maureen, set their eyes on Phantom, the wildest horse on Assateague Island. They work really hard to earn enough to buy the horse. After twists and turns, the two children bring the wild mare and her colt Misty to their home on Chincoteague Island. In the end, they have to decide whether to set Phantom free.
by Ursula K. Le Guin
Catwings by Ursula K. Le Guin is a story about the adventures of four cats with wings as they leave the city and find a new home in the country. This easy-to-read animal fantasy book will also appeal to children whose reading level may be below grade. There is also a sequel to this book—these two are favorites of my oldest daughter who is so in love with cats!
by Beverly Cleary
Henry Huggins, another wonderful read by Beverly Cleary, is a humorous story about a boy and his dog, Ribsy. After third grader Henry Huggins finds a stray dog at a drugstore, hilarious adventures follow, such as winning top prize in a dog show when Henry has mistakenly put pink powder on Ribsy. Henry Huggins is a memorable character that many children can relate to. Kids in third grade through sixth grade will enjoy this funny chapter book in the genre of realistic fiction.
by Dandi Daley Mackall
The first in the Winner the Horse Gentler Series, this book is the perfect read for horse loving girls. Twelve-year-old Winnie Willis has a way with horses. She can gentle the wildest mare, but other parts of her life don't always come as easily. Along with her dad and sister, Lizzy, Winnie is learning how to live without her mom, who was also a natural horse gentler. As Winnie teaches her horses about unconditional love and blind trust, God shows Winnie that he can be trusted too. Readers will be hooked on the series' vivid characters, whose quirky personalities fill Winnie's life with friendship and adventure. For younger readers, there is a similar series called Backyard Horses.
by Scott O'dell
In the Pacific there is an island that looks like a big fish sunning itself in the sea. Around it, blue dolphins swim, otters play, and sea elephants and sea birds abound. once, Indians also lived on the island. And when they left and sailed to the east, one young girl was left behind. Based on a true story, this is the story of Karana, the Indian girl who lived alone for years on the Island of the Blue Dolphins. Year after year, she watched one season pass into another and waited for a ship to take her away. But while she waited, she kept herself alive by building shelter, making weapons, finding food, and fighting her enemies, the wild dogs. It is not only an unusual adventure of survival, but also a tale of natural beauty and personal discovery.
by Kate DiCamilloAnother wonderful read by Kate Dicamillo, The Magician's Elephant is a timeless fable filled with the largest themes – hope and belonging, desire and compassion – with the lightness of a magician's touch. When a fortuneteller's tent appears in the market square of the city of Baltese, orphan Peter Augustus Duchene knows the questions that he needs to ask: Does his sister still live? And if so, how can he find her? The fortuneteller's mysterious answer (an elephant! An elephant will lead him there!) sets off a chain of events so remarkable, so impossible, that you will hardly dare to believe it’s true.
by Kate DiCamillo
There is a reason why so many of Miss DiCamillo's books have made our list—she is an incredible author and a great weaver of animal stories. Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a china rabbit named Edward Tulane. The rabbit was very pleased with himself, and for good reason: he was owned by a girl named Abilene, who adored him completely. And then, one day, he was lost... Kate DiCamillo takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the depths of the ocean to the net of a fisherman, from the bedside of an ailing child to the bustling streets of Memphis. Along the way, we are shown a miracle -- that even a heart of the most breakable kind can learn to love, to lose, and to love again.
by Cindy Vincent
Perfect for cat lovers and mystery lovers alike, Buckley and Bogey, Cat Detectives, find their next big case to be their most complicated ever! It all starts when someone hides a mysterious package in their Mom's antique store - in the middle of the night! Of course, the boys find it, and put it in a nice, safe place, until they can open it... and find the rightful owner. But that's when a whole bunch of suspicious people show up in St. Gertrude, and every single one of them seems to be after that package! Holy Catnip! Plus, everything happens just when a priceless, jeweled statue collection goes on display at the St. Gertrude Museum. Missing from that collection are two jewel covered cat statues that disappeared almost a hundred and fifty years ago. But soon Buckley and Bogey wonder how long those statues will stay missing. Because this is one case that really keeps them on their paws! My daughters love this book as well as the other two in the series which we didn't read in order, though that'd be fun, too.
A near-forgotten classic written by another of my favorite authors in the world, The Wanderings of Clare Skymer is one of George MacDonalds few children's books. He writes of adventure, mystery, and weaves a wonderful story. In The Wanderings of Clare Skymer, a homeless boy wanders through the countryside of nineteenth-century England. With his faithful dog, young Clare Skymer finds adventure among tramps, thieves, wild animals, and fellow refugees from society, and perseveres through his devotion to God.
by Beverly Cleary
Newbery Medal-winning author Beverly Cleary gives Henry's dog, Ribsy, the center stage in this dog's-eye view of the adventure of a lifetime. Good ol' Ribsy's ever-curious mind has always gotten him into scrapes, but this time he may have gone too far. After a comical turn of events, Ribsy finds himself in the wrong station wagon with the wrong children. Ribsy will do anything to find Henry, but there's plenty of excitement to be had along the way—and scoring a touchdown for a local high school team is only part of the fun!
by Beverly Cleary
Another one by Beverly Cleary, Socks is a very funny chapter book about Ramona Quimby's kindergarten experience. Socks is one happy cat. He lives the good life with his affectionate owners, Mr. and Mrs. Bricker. Ever since the day they saved him from a life spent in a mailbox drop slot, Socks has been the center of their world. And he always has everything he needs—tasty kitty treats and all the lap room he could want!But when a new baby arrives, suddenly the Brickers have less and less time for Socks. Little Charles William is the one getting all the attention. Socks feels left out—and to show it, he starts getting into all sorts of trouble! What will it take to make Socks realize just how much the Brickers care about him?