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Recommended Books about Animals

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All children love animals and most will pick a favorite one to study. We bought a book called Beastly Behaviors, by J. Benyus, which has a checklist of behaviors at the end of each chapter. I copied the checklist and we took it to the zoo, checking off the behaviors we observed, and sketching or photographing the animals. My sons started to stump other adults with animal facts. The one who loved ocean mammals made increasingly complicated versions of a board game on whales.
– Laurie Block Spigel, from Education Uncensored

Nonfiction * Fiction

Animals can provide years of curriculum. My son studied whales every year of his life from age 2 to 22 (see his whale board game). Here are some examples of an animal curriculum.
  • Reading: (see books listed here) folktales (timeless classics with animals from around the world), field guides, animal reference books.
  • Writing: research (pursue your animal questions), fiction, interviews, letters to authors.
  • Geography and Social Studies: animal origins, migrations, meanings found in animal folktales showing animals' relationship to location, symbolic meanings of animals in various cultures.
  • History: animals through the ages, such as cave paintings, Medieval bestiaries and unicorn tapestries (visit the Cloisters)
  • Math: weight and measurement of animals from birth to adult, distance of migrations, quantities of food consumed, etc.
  • Science: biology including: anatomy, camouflage, hunting and self-protection, habitat, animal behavior, evolution of the species, mammal (human) biology, modern experiments such as cloning.
  • Art: drawing, sculpture, puppets, animals both real and imaginary, animals found in art (Picasso, Chagall, African sculpture, etc.).
  • Music: Peter and the Wolf (introduces instruments), Carnival of Animals.
  • Phys. Ed.: trips to the zoo, acting out animal behavior, nature walks for bird-watching, create your own animal field guide for your block, local park or backyard (this activity uses every subject!).


  • Zoobooks Magazine. Receive a monthly issue on a different animal, without any advertising and full of photos. This is a perfect place for a child to begin researching an animal.
  • Beastly Behaviors: A Zoo Lover's Companion , by Janine M. Benyus. At the end of each chapter, on specific zoo animals, there is a behavior checklist that you can copy and take with you. Become a true zoologist when you visit the zoo by looking for new behaviors, checking them off your list, and keeping a log of your visits.
  • National Geographic Encyclopedia of Animals, by Karen McGhee

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Read about a recommended field trip: Animal Exhibits in NYC