From fossils to fantasy, picture books about animals are favorites for reading and sharing aloud. Following is a selected list of titles that will interest young readers.
"THE ANIMAL BOOK: A Collection of the Fastest, Fiercest, Toughest, Cleverest, Shyest — and Most Surprising — Animals on Earth,” by Steve Jenkins, Houghton Mifflin, 208 pages, $21.99 (ages 6-10)
Author/illustrator Steve Jenkins brings together more than 300 images of animals, including not only the smallest and largest but also the “longest, loudest, oldest, hardiest and most dangerous.” Topics such as what is an animal, predators, animal senses and defenses will appeal to a wide range of young readers. Realistic images and clear side-bar text with a dozen pages of “more animal facts,” bibliography and glossary make this a resource for all ages.
Jenkins includes an additional section, “making books” (research, timeline, etc.), which could be a book by itself.
“THE DOLPHINS OF SHARK BAY,” by Pamela S. Turner, photographs by Scott Tuason, Houghton Mifflin, $18.99 (ages 10-14)
Part of the Scientists in the Field series, this photo-essay follows dolphin research in Shark Bay, Australia. It is written with journal entries of the mammals by their given names, their identifying marks and idiosyncrasies. Remarkable photos document each family group. The longer text will be enjoyed by older readers.
"EIGHT DOLPHINS OF KATRINA: A True Tale of Survival,” by Janet Wyman Coleman, illustrations by Yan Nascimbene, Houghton Mifflin, $16.99 (ages 6-9)
On Aug. 28, 2005, the day before Hurricane Katrina hit, came predictions of a huge incoming storm. Six dolphins from the Oceanarium Center in Gulfport, Miss., were transferred to neighboring motel swimming pools for safety. The next day, the hurricane hit with full force, demolishing the dolphin house at the center. The eight remaining dolphins were swept into the ocean. Because the dolphins had been raised in captivity, there was the fear that they could not survive on their own. “Eight Dolphins of Katrina” is the story of the miraculous rescue of the eight that were cast in the sea. The story is accompanied by color-wash illustrations and full-color photographs.
“Stripes of All Types” features 19 exotic and familiar animals that have stripes that are used for camouflage, recognition and defense. This updated edition includes the Spanish translation beneath the English text. In-depth information on each animal is provided with a visual matching game.
“A BABY ELEPHANT IN THE WILD,” by Caitlin O’Connell, photographs by Caitlin O’Connell and Timothy Rodwell, Houghton Mifflin, $16.99 (ages 4-8)
The authors, a husband and wife team, witnessed an extraordinary event in the African Savannah — the birth of an elephant. The baby’s first walk (“Liza learns in only a few hours”) and the family group interactions provided a rare experience. “In the 20 years I’ve been studying elephants in Africa, this is the first I’ve been able to study one specific baby elephant’s life.” Straightforward, simple text and stunning photos make this a journal children will enjoy.
"THE SECRET LIFE OF THE WOOLLY BEAR CATERPILLAR,” by Laurence Pringle, illustrated by Joan Paley, Boyds Mills Press, $16.95 (6 and up)
Joan Paley’s colorful, cut-paper illustrations accompany informational notes about this creature’s habitat and the pearly eggs from which caterpillars start their own secret lives. Additional facts about woolly bear caterpillars and an extensive glossary make this an interesting book for enjoyment and research.
The "Woolly Bear Caterpillar" is one of a plethora of nonfiction books on bugs, ants, spiders and creepy-crawly creatures that young readers can use for research during spring and summer.
Baby Umande was born in a zoo in Colorado, and his mother didn't know how to take care of him. In this heartwarming adoption story, the keepers help show him how to be a gorilla until he is taken to the Columbus Zoo, where Lulu becomes his new mom.
Animals in fantasy situations continue to provide lessons on life and living, just as they have done for centuries in fables and traditional tales.
“LOST FOR WORDS,” by Natalie Russell, Peachtree, $16.95 (ages 4-8)
Tapir is frustrated. His three friends are writing wonderful things: verses, stories and song lyrics. Tapir can’t think of one thing to write. “The harder he tries, the grumpier he feels.”
Off by himself, he begins to sketch the sun for Flamingo, a muddy pool for Hippo and a tall tree for Giraffe. Then he draws “three friends so important that they needed a page all of their own!”
Scottish illustrator Natalie Russell reminds young readers that one’s own expression is priceless and unique.
A boy and his dog take an afternoon stroll and accidentally break a rock, finding inside of it a fossilized fern that begins to grow from the shards. Another broken rock reveals a dragonfly that darts about, and a third releases a pteranodon with a wide wingspan that threatens both boy and dog. The boy’s dilemma is how to return his world to reality.
Award-winning Bill Thompson (author of “Chalk”) develops the plot, characters and mood without a single word in amazing photolike illustrations meticulously drawn in acrylic paint and colored pencil. Young readers will readily invent dialogue to suit the extraordinary pictures, altering the storytelling with each reading.
“CHURCHILL’S TALE OF TAILS,” by Anca Sandu, Peachtree, $16.95 (ages 4-8)
Churchill is a pig with lots of friends and lots of pride. He is most proud of his tale. One morning, his tail is nowhere to be found, and the search is on. Luckily, each of his friends helps out with extra tails from a zebra, a lion, a fish and even a peacock. Can Churchill be vain enough to wear someone else’s proud tail? Anca Sandu has spun a modern fable about being yourself.
“NAUGHTY KITTY!” by Adam Stower, Scholastic, $16.99 (ages 3-5)
Lily really wanted a dog but is finally allowed to have a tiny kitten, “no good at tricks ... but otherwise he was quite cute.”
When Kitty is alone, he has a visitor: a huge something with teeth, claws and stripes that causes havoc throughout the house for which Kitty is blamed. Adam Stower cleverly allows the reader to discover the real culprit as well as the neighbor’s dog, dressed in a striped coat, which coincidentally resembles the dog in the author’s other book, “Silly Doggy,” which features Lily’s first adventure.
"HOW TO LOSE A LEMUR," by Frann Preston-Gannon, Sterling Children's Books, $15.99 (ages 3-5)
In this story of unexpected friendships, when a lemur and his friends starts to follow a little boy, the boy tries going lots of different places but they keep following. He's soon lost, but he realizes that he isn't alone as long as he has the lemurs.
"PUDDLE PUG," by Kim Norman, illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi, Sterling Children's Books, $14.95 (ages 3-5)
Percy the Pug likes to jump in puddles of all sorts, but the one he likes the most belongs to a mother pig and her piglets. When a storm scatters the pigs and tiny Petunia is missing, Percy wants to help find her.
Percy's puddle descriptions are fun and informative, and this story of helping and friendship is a sweet one.
Contributing: Christine Rappleye