Back in the day, “Black Beauty,” “The Wind in the Willows” and “The Incredible Journey” may have been the animal classics you most liked to read.
Who can forget “Babe,” the gallant pig? And what little girl hasn’t devoured horse books like “Misty of Chincoteague” and “My Friend Flicka”?
Corduroy isn’t real, but he was just as endearing. Just like Paddington Bear.
But now our children have a fresh set of favorites. Youth collection development librarian Kendall Munch and the youth services staff at the Omaha Public Library share these animal classics that kids are enjoying now.
Babies and toddlers
1. "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" by Bill Martin Jr. The repetitive structure makes it a perfect read-aloud with very young children, who delight in guessing what animal comes next. The lines are easy to memorize, encouraging even toddlers to “read” along. Pre-readers can practice identifying colors and animals.
2. "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" by Laura Numeroff. Mouse and human friend Oliver have all sorts of adventures with Pig, Moose, Cat, Dog and their favorite people pals. No matter how ordinarily their day starts, there’s no telling where their paths will take them when they follow their imaginations. Through it all, they rediscover the importance of friendship, responsibility and learning from mistakes.
1. "Diary of a Worm" by Doreen Cronin. The first-person narrative gives the reader an idea of the daily life of a funny, intelligent worm. He shares his family’s pride about the important role that worms play in caring for the earth and loves his life, although he can see both sides to being a worm. He shares all kinds of adventures as he records his life.
2. "What Pet Should I Get?" by Dr. Seuss. This book was discovered among Seuss’ papers in 2013. The same siblings from “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” finally have their parents’ permission to get a pet. Their mission has two constraints: Choose one pet only, and be back home by noon. When they walk into the pet store, the number of fascinating pets available overwhelms them. What’ll it be?
1. "Mercy Watson to the Rescue" by Kate DiCamillo. Pig Mercy Watson is loved by Mr. and Mrs. Watson, who sing her to sleep every night. One night, Mercy gets scared and crawls into bed with the Watsons. However, the added weight of Mercy in the bed turns out to be more than the floorboards can bear. Mix-ups abound as the Watsons think Mercy is going for help. But all turns out well.
2. "The World According to Humphrey" by Betty G. Birney. You can learn a lot about life by observing another species. That’s what hamster Humphrey was told when he was first brought to Room 26. There are always adventures in the classroom, and each weekend he gets to sleep over with a different student. Humphrey learns to read, write, shoot rubber bands (only in self-defense, of course) and much more.
Middle school grades
1. "Because of Winn-Dixie" by Kate DiCamillo. The heartwarming, often funny, story of a young girl’s relationship with a lovable mutt. The book deals with some significant life experiences, (abandonment, alcoholism, death of a loved one and the difficulties that come with major change in a child’s life). The issues are treated sensitively and gently, without too much detail.
2. "Hoot" by Carl Hiaasen. Three kids unite to combat the corporate entity endangering owls. One of the rebels, a wily nature-boy named Mullet Fingers, discovers the company’s scheme and then sets to sabotaging the construction site, persuading his friends to help him. The kids get into all kinds of trouble. But is it OK since they are trying to do something good?
3. "Marley: A Dog Like No Other" by John Grogan. Newlyweds John and Jenny Grogan leave Michigan winters behind in favor of Florida, where they find themselves struggling to gain footing. When Jenny starts talking about a family, John asks a friend for advice on how to distract her. Sebastian suggests a puppy. As Marley destroys their house, their car and their social interactions, John decides to use his antics as fodder for his new newspaper column.
4. "The One and Only Ivan" by Katherine Applegate. Based on the true story of a gorilla who now lives in a lowland gorilla habitat at Zoo Atlanta but before that had spent 27 years in a cage in a shopping mall after being captured as a baby in Africa. The story is from Ivan’s standpoint, of life in the circus mall, being gawked at by tourists and how it all seems so normal. But the arrival of a baby elephant starts to trigger memories.
(Commonsensemedia.org contributed to this report.)
This article originally appeared in the April 2020 issue of the Momaha Magazine.
Omaha World-Herald: Momaha
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