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Animals Topic (KS2)

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Recommended children’s books about animals

Animal books have always been wildly popular with children, ever since the very first children’s books were printed. In Science at KS2, children learn about animal life cycles, habitats, classification, survival and adaption, looking at different types of animals from around the globe. From marvellous mammals and brilliant birds to interesting invertebrates and clever carnivores, there’s plenty to explore in the animal kingdom. Our list of recommended children’s books about animals will help you to dig your claws right into the very best texts for the topic.

NB: This animal topic booklist is aimed at children in Key Stage 2 (ages 7-11). If you are looking for animal books for younger children, try our All About Animals (KS1) booklist.

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Our best animal stories for KS2 Children

Hannah Gold
 & Levi Pinfold
Chapter book

A beautifully heartfelt and moving story with strong environmental themes. This story highlights the topic of global warming but also draws a picture of the wonderful connection that can develop between children and animals.

When April heads to a remote Arctic island with her father, who is there for scientific research, she’s not sure exactly what to expect. The trip to ‘Bear Island’ has the potential to be a very lonely trip – with endless summer Arctic nights, an isolated wilderness and, according to her father, no actual polar bears left on the island for April to spot despite its name.

Surprisingly, April encounters a real polar bear on the island when nobody else is around, and realises that the bear is in danger. With courage in the face of powerlessness, April embarks upon a quest to get the bear to safety in an adventure that she will never forget.

There’s something magical about this story – from the wonderfully evoked Arctic setting to the glorious friendship that develops between April and the bear. There often seems to be a direct connection and a deep instinct to care that exists between children and the natural world, a connection which is highlighted in the story through how April can make a difference to the plight of the bear despite her feeling of powerlessness. Many young readers who really do care about climate change will relate to April’s frustration at the inaction of many people, to her sadness at the plight of our precious planet and to her desire to make a difference, even through the smallest of actions.

This is a powerful and important story that will stir the heart through its gently unfolding message that places hope in the hands of the young to make a difference in the planet’s future.

Lauren St John
Chapter book

This is the first novel in Lauren St John’s popular series. When a young English girl called Martine moves to live with her grandmother on a South African game reserve, she finds herself feeling lonely and isolated. One night she sees a mysterious silver giraffe and as she begins to befriend it, a thrilling mystery begins to unravel.

Nizrana Farook
Chapter book

This is a story of adventure and friendship. The relationship between Selvi and Amir takes a while to build and it shows that friendships take work to be successful. The setting of the Serendib mountains will transport children to a place that many are likely to know very little about and provides an opportunity to introduce them to different lifestyles and cultures. The issue around animal hunting is an interesting one to explore and would make the basis for a good class discussion. The relatively short chapters help to keep the story moving at a good pace and make it an easy book to dip in and out of. For children who are daunted by longer chapters and books, this will make it all the more appealing.

Carlie Sorosiak
Chapter book

Clementine is a mouse, born in a laboratory with her brothers and sisters, genetically altered to be super intelligent. One day, one of the researchers ‘rescues’ her and one of her brothers, leaving them to be looked after by an elderly man and his visiting grandson. The two humans have to think of a plan to keep the mice safe and prevent the lab from taking them back.

Written as letters Clementine sends in her head to the laboratory chimpanzee Rosie, the story gathers pace as Clementine realises what her fate might be if she is returned to the lab.

This is a wonderful book; I could not put it down. It is both an exciting adventure and a plea not to use animals in experiments. With echoes of Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh (Robert C O’Brien) and even the Queen’s Gambit (Walter Tevis), the reader follows Clementine with bated breath and learns that while some humans are very bad indeed, others can be kind and good. This is a heart-warming story, filled with humour and love.

Roger Stevens, Liz Brownlee & Sue Hardy-Dawson
Poetry
This gorgeous collection of animal poems from Roger Stevens, Liz Brownlee and Sue Hardy-Dawson will entrance and delight in equal measure. Featuring a full alphabet of animals, birds, and insects, with the odd extinct or imaginary creature thrown in, these beautiful shape poems are a perfect way to introduce children to poetry. Some funny, some serious, there is something here for everyone.

SF Said
 & Dave McKean
Chapter book

Varjak Paw has become a modern classic and an absolute staple of primary school storytimes. The eponymous feline is far from ordinary. Varjak is a Mesopotamian Blue, an exotic and ancient breed descended from the legendary adventurer and hunter, Jalal. As Varjak listens to his grandfather recount the mesmerizing tales of Jalal, the fabled ancestor begins to visit him in his dreams, inspiring the young kitten with his tales of bravery and daring.

But when a malevolent Gentleman and his two vicious black cats arrive on the scene, Varjak’s comfortable life is abruptly overturned. To save himself, his family, and his newfound friends, Varjak must master the long-forgotten Seven Skills in the Way of Jalal. – a sort of martial arts for cats.

This is a story of loyalty, courage and self-belief that will keep readers hooked from beginning to end and of course, it is a must-read for all cat lovers.

Carlie Sorosiak
Chapter book

This is a super-engaging story about an alien who gets to spend a month in the body of a domestic cat. We were totally charmed by this middle-grade novel by Carlie Sorosiak. A witty, moving and thought-provoking story about finding and claiming your place in the world. Animal lovers in Key Stage Two will no doubt fall in love with this other-worldly adventure.

E. B. White
 & Garth Williams
Chapter book
A poignant, humorous story of a pig, a spider and a little girl. Wilbur the pig's life has already been saved by Fern, but when he is sold to her uncle, he realises his life is in even more danger. Enter Charlotte A. Cavatica, a beautiful large grey spider. Charlotte is determined to keep Wilbur from the chopping block, and comes up with an ingenious way to do just that.
Alexander McCall Smith
Chapter book
This book contains three stories about nature at its most wild and thrilling. Akimbo lives on the edge of an African game reserve where he helps his father to protect the animals in their natural habitat. In these adventures he saves elephants from sneaky poachers, rescues a trapped lion cub and saves a man from the jaws of a crocodile. Highly recommended for KS2.
Philippa Pearce
Chapter book
Sid, Peggy and Amy adore the two gerbils, Bubble and Squeak, but their mother detests them. A major family battle results, and it's clear life is never going to be quite the same again. But after a near fatal encounter between Bubble and Ginger the cat, Mrs Sparrow begins to see that life with a pair of gerbils might not be so bad after all.

Sara Pennypacker
 & Jon Klassen
Chapter book
The moving story of the extraordinary friendship between a boy and his fox and their epic journey to be reunited. Beautifully illustrated by multi-award winner, Jon Klassen. Now available in Paperback!Pax was only a kit when his family was killed and he was rescued by ‘his boy’, Peter. Now the country is at war and when his father enlists, Peter has no choice but to move in with his grandfather. Far worse than leaving home is the fact that he has to leave Pax behind. But before Peter spends even one night under his grandfather’s roof he sneaks out into the night, determined to find his beloved friend. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their journeys back to each other as war rampages throughout the country.A profound and moving story with stunning illustrations by award-winning illustrator, Jon Klassen, ‘Pax’ is destined to become a classic in the vein of ‘Charlotte’s Web’ and ‘Watership Down’.

Children's books about biodiversity and animal classification

Dieter Braun
Non-fiction
Famous German illustrator Dieter Braun offers his readers an accurate representation of animals from all around the world in this gorgeously illustrated volume. Our world is full of wonderful animals. From the brightly coloured mandrills in the rainforests of Africa to the majestic humpback whales in the icy waters of the Antarctic. Through his beautiful and colourful illustrations, readers will be dazzled by the giraffes and elephants in Africa, koalas and kangaroos in Australia, huge blue whales in the open oceans, and many more! These animals, some endangered, remind us that nature is incredible, and that we need its diversity more than ever.
Macken Murphy
 & Dragan Kordic
Non-fiction

Children’s films and books are full of nature’s duos: now it is time to learn about how pairs of animals and animal-plant combinations work together for mutual gain and survival in the real world.

Each double-page spread in this fascinating non-fiction book gives information about a different relationship. The reader learns how each member of the pair acts to benefit the other. For example: did you know that, in Columbia, there is a frog that babysits the eggs of a tarantula – stopping them from being eaten by ants – in return for being protected from predators such as snakes?

In addition to the main relationship, the reader is presented with plenty of interesting and delightful facts about each of the animals or plants themselves. Did you know that a skink lizard can make its tail fall off and grow again if it gets trapped? AND, sometimes, there is enough tail left over that the skink actually ends up with two tails!

The book covers a wide range of biomes and habitats: even the human scalp! All of the pages are beautifully illustrated to capture the reader’s imagination and make them want to discover more about the natural world. This book would be a welcome addition to any Key Stage Two non-fiction collection and could also be used as inspiration for fiction writing.

Nicola Davies
 & Emily Sutton
Non-fiction
Winner of the Margaret Mallett Picture Book Award, as part of the English 4-11 Picture Book Awards.There are living things everywhere: the more we look, the more we find. There are creatures on the tops of the tallest jungle trees, at the bottom of the coldest oceans, even under the feathers of birds and in boiling volcanic pools. So how many different kinds are there? One, two, three ... lots! From the award-winning team behind Tiny: The Invisible World of Microbes comes Lots, a beautifully illustrated introduction to the concept of biodiversity for younger readers. With words from Nicola Davies and exquisite artwork by Emily Sutton, this groundbreaking book is certain to enchant and inspire children.
Jenny Broom
 & Katie Scott
Non-fiction
Welcome to the museum! There are more than 160 animal specimens to be discovered in Animalium, the first in a series of virtual museums. Wander the galleries - open 365 days a year - and discover a collection of curated exhibits on every page, accompanied by informative text. Each chapter features a different branch of the tree of life, from the simple sponge to the enormous elephant.

Children's books about endangered animals and animal survival

Jess Butterworth
Chapter book

When the Mountains Roared is the much-enjoyed second novel from Jess Butterworth, and one that has gone down a storm in Key Stage 2 classrooms. The physical book itself is actually really beautiful both inside and out, with its stunning cover by Rob Biddulph and the leopard-print design of its pages.

The story follows Ruby, a twelve-year-old girl who is grieving the recent death of her mother and has become filled with fear since her mother’s car accident. Ruby is an animal lover and she enjoys photographing wildlife. At the beginning of the story, Ruby faces the devastating news that her Dad is planning to uproot them from their Australian home and relocate to a remote mountain village in India to run a hotel.

Unimpressed when she arrives in her new home, Ruby does manage to find some things to like about the foreign setting. Jess Butterworth’s descriptions of the mountain landscape are beautiful and evocative as nature-lover Ruby takes in the new smells, colours and wildlife of the Himalayan habitat. Although the hotel is quite isolated, Ruby quickly befriends a local shepherd boy called Praveen, who shares Ruby’s admiration of the natural world.

Together, Ruby and Praveen set about to protect the few remaining leopards from the threat of poachers. The story is full of danger and adventure as Ruby undertakes a perilous trek through the mountains and comes face to face with some very hostile poachers, putting aside her own fears in order to save the leopards.

This is an atmospheric and enticing animal rescue story that explores an important theme about preservation and it will appeal to readers in Years 4-6

Nicola Davies
Picturebook
A rhinoceros remembers his life before grey captivity, one full of colour, with familiar smells and sights. He thinks of his mother being slain by poachers. He has searched the zoo but cannot find another like him. He fears he is the last. He describes a joyless life for all the animals with him, before being rescued and brought back home. The colour is brought back into his life when he realis-es he is not the last.Last evokes a longing for home from the reader and a sense of hope for the future upon its ending.In her debut as an illustrator, Nicole Davies effectively and beautifully portrays the differences in mood and surroundings between the rhinoceros' life before and during captivity through her effective use of colour.
Catherine Barr & Anne Wilson
Non-fiction
An engaging and colourful book looking at different endangered species. The information on each page draws attention to the beauty and uniqueness of each creature and highlights the way in which each one is in danger. There are also useful suggestions of ways to help each endangered creature.
Jess Butterworth
 & Kirsti Beautyman
Chapter book
Do you like exploring, animals and adventure? Then join The Adventure Club this summer! A brand new illustrated series for younger readers about animals and adventure from much-loved author Jess Butterworth - writer of classic adventure stories in vibrantly described settings. Tilly has no plans for the summer holidays and is dreading months of boredom -- that is until she becomes part of The Adventure Club and wins a place to go track and monitor endangered red pandas in Nepal! In the Himalayas, she meets other members of the club, rides on yaks, plants a bamboo forest and even spots the secretive red panda. But then the red panda Tilly and her team has been monitoring disappears. Will Tilly be able to help find it, or will her first ever adventure end in disaster? Packed full of illustrations and set as Tilly's own diary, this new series is perfect for young readers who are beginning to read on their own.

Gill Lewis
Chapter book

Sky Dancer is a fabulous read – an emotionally gripping, totally uplifting, captivating story with an important environmental theme. The novel deals with the pressing issue of decreasing numbers of hen harriers. This is largely due to the ‘management’ of estates and moors to preserve the numbers of grouse for the shooting season. Lewis deals with the issue fairly, without preaching, and both sides of the argument have convincing vehicles in the believable characters of the village of Hartstone. The novel provides plenty of opportunities for pupils to engage with the ongoing UK debate and to research the passions of both sides. Sky Dancer, as you might expect from one of the UK’s leading novelists, is a confident and convincingly told story – with plenty for classes to admire beyond the key storyline. The writing has a classic feel with authentic and gritty characters with whom we can easily empathise. Ultimately Lewis has created a story about finding yourself, your voice and having the courage to speak out.

Jess French & Angela Keoghan
Non-fiction

This is full to the brim with simple ideas to help endangered animals and make the world a better place. The book begins with a guide to the different types of habitats that can be found before taking each individual one and detailing not only what wildlife lives there (with fantastic facts and size and weight keys to make it even easier) and ways we can help. The illustrations are bold, beautiful and give a high-quality finish. Perfect for all ages from 5 year olds to 105 years old, this is one not just for school but a perfect home addition as well.

Children's books about habitats and animal life cycles

Rachel Williams & Emily Hawkins
 & Lucy Letherland
Non-fiction
Celebrate the incredible ways in which animals survive in the wild, from epic migrations and extraordinary behaviours to Herculean habits. There are hundreds of things to spot and facts to learn with every turn of the page, as you'll meet another of nature's most adventurous creatures, learning about their amazing behaviours and habitats.Each section begins with an infographic map of the region it explores, followed by richly detailed two-page spreads featuring its most fascinating creatures. You'll get to run with the wildebeest in Kenya, nest with the puffins in Iceland, parade with the peacocks in India, hit the dance floor with the birds of paradise in New Guinea and go north with the narwhals of Canada, among many other adventures.
Colin Dann
Chapter book

This animal adventure story has become a children’s literary classic. The animals living in Farthing Wood come under threat when bulldozers come to destroy their natural habitat. They must work together to survive the dangerous journey to a nature reserve, making friends and enemies along the way. A good text to support the topics of food chains and habitats.

Chris Packham
 & Jason Cockcroft
Non-fiction Picturebook
Get ready to meet some fascinating animals and find out all about their incredible homes in this beautiful and informative non-fiction picture book written by wildlife expert and BBC presenter Chris Packham. Just like us, animals need a place to call home. From a beaver's dam and a honey bee's hive to a red ovenbird's nest and a snail's shell, explore the amazing homes of some incredible creatures from all over the world. Uncover extra information about these fascinating animals in the Find Out More section at the back of the book. An excellent source of expert wildlife information for all young nature lovers, this animal book is the perfect introduction to the natural world for children.
Rachel Ignotofsky
Non-fiction
An illustrated tour of our planet's ecosystems both large and small, from reefs, deserts and rainforests to a single drop of water - from the bestselling author of Women in Science . Through exquisite illustrations, maps and infographics, bestselling author Rachel Ignotofsky explains how our planet works, from its incredible ecosystems and the plants and animals that live there to the importance of biodiversity , weather cycles and more. Including information on the dangers of climate change and ideas for how to protect Planet Earth, this utterly charming guide is the perfect gift for all nature-loving readers on the planet we call home.
Jon Richards
 & Josy Bloggs
Non-fiction
This series of stunning illustrated texts demonstrates the stories behind some of nature's greatest phenomena.In 'Habitats', find out about the most extreme ecosystems from around the world, and the weird and wonderful things that exist within them. With contents covering diverse environments and their inhabitants, from the gargantuan trees of the temperate rainforests to the great grazers that occupy tropical grasslands, this book is a wonderful way to learn about a range of habitats.Key information is presented in accessible chunks and accompanied by stunning panoramic illustrations, whilst infographic panels offer the reader memorable bite-sized facts. All animals included in the text are also featured on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. With an interest range of 9-11 years, this book is ideal for children in late-KS2 who are looking to learn more about nature and environments.

Mary Auld
 & Anna Terreros-Martin
Non-fiction Picturebook
Unfold a world of discovery.Small, Speckled Egg takes young readers from the small and familiar to new areas of knowledge where they really have to think big!It starts with an egg that hatches into one of the most impressive birds on the planet - an Arctic tern. Watch her grow, learn to fly, and start her long migration from the Arctic to Antarctica and back again. A journey she does every year of her life.Her lifecycle is turned into this easy-to-read story and the beautiful illustrations transport you to chilly polar landscapes. Additional captions are packed with information for able readers to expand on new areas of knowledge. The book touches on KS1 primary science topics: the lifecycle of a bird, food chains, migration, seasons and polar regions.At the back of the book there is a giant fold-out map that includes a fun I-Spy game to take children back into the book to find the polar animals.A brilliant addition to any home or school library with lots of detail that will be returned to again and again.Look out for more science-based picture books in the Start Small, Think Big series including Little, Brown Nut.

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