Originally published in TEACH Magazine, September/October 2023 Issue
With National Wildlife Day having just passed on September 4, and World Animal Day coming up a month later (October 4), now is the perfect time to raise discussions with students about animal welfare, endangered species, and the incredibly diverse array of wildlife that exists on this planet. And so, we’ve gathered a collection of books that will encourage readers to recognize different species of animals in a wide variety of environments all across the globe. These books also touch on themes of sustainability, conservation, environmental activism, and more, motivating students to consider what they can do to protect the world’s biodiversity and help save animals from extinction.
Angela & Lulingu: Two Gorillas, a World Apart
By Brenda Scott Royce
Blue Sneaker Press (September 2023)
Grade Level: 2–6
This non-fiction children’s book tells the story of two gorillas: Angela, who lives at the Los Angeles zoo, and Lulingu, who lives at the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) Center in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As young readers watch Lulingu and Angela grow, they will learn about what makes gorillas so special, and also what all of us can do at home to help protect these incredible primates. (Note that a portion of the proceeds from each book goes towards GRACE conservation efforts.)
The Animals Come Out
By Susan Vande Griek
Illustrated by Josée Bisaillon
Groundwood Books (September 2023)
Grade Level: K–1
Inspired by the wildlife seen in urban areas during the early days of COVID-19, this whimsical picture book uses delightfully poetic language to describe the way animals come out when humans aren’t around. The book also serves as a reminder that we share outdoor spaces with many other creatures, and must consider how our actions impact them.
Evolution Under Pressure: How We Change Nature and How Nature Changes Us
By Yolanda Ridge
Illustrated by Dane Thibeault
Annick Press (May 2023)
Grade Level: 5–8
Evolution Under Pressure combines STEM and social justice themes to look at how human behaviour has influenced evolution over thousands of years and how, in turn, the evolution of the natural world has impacted us—and continues to do so today. Students will come to see that everything is connected, and that by making environmentally conscious choices, we can all work to restore ecological balance. The book also includes profiles of young activists, and is accompanied by an Educator Guide.
Frogs (A Day in the Life)
By Itzue W. Caviedes-Solis
Illustrated by Henry Rancourt
Neon Squid (May 2023)
Grade Level: K–2
This book takes place over 24 hours and follows the lives of frogs, toads, and tadpoles as they go about their day in the rainforest. Written by frog scientist and conservationist Dr. Itzue W. Caviedes-Solis, Frogs is packed full of fun facts and incredible moments (such as a frog turning blue, or another that shoots claws from beneath its skin!), and is designed to teach young readers about the important roles that these amphibians play in ecosystems around the world.
By Stephen R. Swinburne
Illustrated by Geraldo Valério
Christy Ottaviano Books (August 2023)
Grade Level: K–3
This illustrated picture book plays a dual role of introducing students to both math and ecological concepts by focusing on one of nature’s most iconic mammals: the giraffe. How fast can a giraffe run? What are their spots for? How tall do they grow? Kids will learn all about these gentle giants through graphs, shapes, measurements, and more!
Great White Shark
By Claire Saxby
Illustrated by Cindy Lane
Candlewick Press (June 2023)
Grade Level: K–3
Great White Shark takes readers along on the journey of a female shark as she swims across the ocean to give birth. Claire Saxby’s lyrical prose is accompanied by Cindy Lane’s stunning illustrations, as well as dozens of facts about the ocean’s most misunderstood predator.
The Magnificent Book of Creatures of the Abyss
By Josh Hestermann and Bethanie Hestermann
Illustrated by Val Walerczuk
Weldon Owen (March 2023)
Grade Level: 7–12
Students can better acquaint themselves with the creatures of the deep through this beautifully illustrated guide. It’s filled with fascinating details about the extraordinary species that lurk beneath the surface—from goblin sharks to vampire squids—and also includes a full-page map showing where each one can be found.
Polar: Wildlife at the Ends of the Earth
By L. E. Carmichael
Illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler
Kids Can Press (May 2023)
Grade Level: 2–6
Polar offers a dazzling exploration of wildlife that has adapted to survive the coldest regions on Earth. Through their marvellous stories and drawings, L. E. Carmichael and Byron Eggenschwiler show how animals on opposite ends of the planet have developed the same adaptations in order to thrive in the harsh conditions of the Arctic and Antarctica. The book also includes a glossary, a list of further reading, and suggestions for way kids can combat climate change and protect these unique polar animals. Be sure to check out the accompanying Activity Guide as well.
Wild Horses: Running Free
By Linda L. Richards
Orca Book Publishers (October 2023)
Grade Level: 4–7
This non-fiction book for middle grade readers delves into the history, biology, and ecology of wild horses. Students will also learn about the relationship between wild horses and Indigenous peoples, why these majestic animals are under threat, and what young people across the globe are doing today to protect them.
Wildlife Anatomy: The Curious Lives and Features of Wild Animals around the World
By Julia Rothman
Grade Level: 8–12
Bestselling author and illustrator Julia Rothman presents a visual guide to the animals of the world in this charming wildlife treasury. Featuring hundreds of illustrations, Wildlife Anatomy outlines the unique attributes of animals from grasslands, oceans, deserts, and more. Each image is also accompanied by labels, identifying details, and remarkable facts (such as how bees groom each other, or which species of armadillo is the hairiest) that students are sure to delight in.