The best books on animal adaptations for young readers

Laura Hulbert Author Of Who Has These Feet?
By Laura Hulbert

Who am I?

When I was a child, I saw a grasshopper doing the sidestroke in the ocean and it sparked my interest in animal behavior. Though I still don’t know if all grasshoppers do the sidestroke, I’ve learned a lot about animal adaptations since then. And I’ve learned a lot about what motivates young readers from my years as a reading specialist and a classroom teacher. I’ve put that knowledge to work in my two popular books: Who Has These Feet? and Who Has This Tail?


I wrote...

Who Has These Feet?

By Laura Hulbert, Erik Brooks (illustrator),

Book cover of Who Has These Feet?

What is my book about?

Who Has These Feet uses a lively guessing game format to introduce children to animal adaptations. Young readers enjoy following the predictable format of the text to explore the link between shape and function in the feet of nine animals from different habitats. The brightly detailed paintings by Erik Brooks are scientifically accurate and very appealing.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Why Do Cats Meow?

By Joan Holub,

Book cover of Why Do Cats Meow?

Why this book?

Like my book, this one draws young readers into the topic of animal adaptations with a question. Although the book doesn’t have a table of contents for easy perusing, it does provide a model for picking and choosing the chapters of interest. It’s likely to be a young reader’s first experience with the scanning procedure we use in nonfiction materials--as opposed to the page after page reading necessary in fiction stories. The book consists of 20 chapters each addressing a question about cat behavior. The explanatory paragraph is from 3-10 sentences long, pitched at a late 1st-grade reader. The visuals are a combination of photographs and drawings.

Why Do Cats Meow?

By Joan Holub,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Why Do Cats Meow? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Many children love cats, and there is so much to know about America's most popular pet. Why do they meow, hiss, and purr? Why do they have whiskers, tails, and claws? Beginning readers can find out the answers to those questions and many more in this fun, fact-packed book filled with colorful feline photos and drawings.


Scholastic True or False: Mammals

By Melvin Berger, Gilda Berger,

Book cover of Scholastic True or False: Mammals

Why this book?

The “test your knowledge” format of this book is appealing to a wide age range of youngsters. A simple question like “All mammals eat meat. TRUE or FALSE?” is followed by a one word answer (FALSE) and then a one sentence answer in large font: Cows and many other mammals usually eat plants. The subsequent paragraph goes into more detail about the topic. In this case, it explains how the shape of an animal’s teeth provides a clue to its diet. Full disclosure: Many kids who peruse the book on their own skip over the paragraphs. Captivating photos of animals in nature abound.

Scholastic True or False: Mammals

By Melvin Berger, Gilda Berger,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Scholastic True or False as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Fun, photographic nonfiction at its best! True or False? You decide!

Let’s face it, kids love to ask and answer questions, which is why the Scholastic True or False series is packed full of fun questions like "Do all mammals live on land?" and "Is the mouse the smallest mammal?" Kids will read the question on the right-hand page and then flip it over to find out the answer. It’s the truth--the Scholastic True or False series is a hit!


Building Beavers

By Kathleen Martin-James,

Book cover of Building Beavers

Why this book?

What I love about the books in the Lerner’s Pull Ahead series is the natural language that’s used and the depth of information that’s provided. In an effort to be readable, many non-fiction books aimed at young elementary students are so concise as to wind up being superficial. But this series explores concepts in depth. In Building Beavers, 12 sentences are devoted to the construction of a beaver lodge. The books include 27 pages of text (two to three sentences per page.) At the end of the book, there is a map showing where in the world the animal is found and a diagram of the animal’s body parts as well as a glossary and an index. There are no headings or chapter titles, however. The detailed photographs provide an excellent complement to the text.

Building Beavers

By Kathleen Martin-James,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Building Beavers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Who built the first dam in North America? A beaver! Learn how beavers--much like humans--change the landscape to suit their needs. Stunning photos and engaging text show beavers eating, swimming, escaping from predators, and growing from playful kits into industrious adults.


Reptiles

By Catriona Clarke, Connie McLennan (illustrator),

Book cover of Reptiles

Why this book?

You really can’t go wrong with a book from Usborne publishers. Reptiles is a gem. It has all the features of a traditional non-fiction book--chapter titles, table of contents, glossary, and a list of related websites--and it bestows information in kid-friendly language. When a procedure is outlined, such as temperature regulation for a desert lizard through a long hot day, the process is distilled into 4 numbered steps. The small size of the book (6” x 8”), the beautiful integration of photographs and illustrations, and the high interest level of the topics covered makes this book a surefire winner with kids.

Reptiles

By Catriona Clarke, Connie McLennan (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Reptiles as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is a fantastic brand new addition to the "Beginners" series, designed to provide an informative introduction to trees and plant-life for young readers. Children can learn about some of the most fascinating cold-blooded creatures in the world from reptiles that can fly, walk on water, and climb on ceilings. This book offers terrific reading practice for children who prefer fact to fiction. It is developed with a reading expert from Roehampton University to help young readers grow in confidence. It is great value for money.


Animals and Where They Live

By John Feltwell,

Book cover of Animals and Where They Live

Why this book?

There are lots of animal encyclopedias out there, but none compares to this Dorling Kindersly book. Each double-page spread focuses on a particular biome. The illustration takes up most of the page and depicts the inhabitants assembled in naturalistic poses. Along the borders of the page are labels and short paragraphs about each of the animals. Topics related to a particular biome are included: Surviving the Cold, The Burrowers, etc. The Life in the Mountains and The Ocean Depths sections show the different levels in which animals live. This is a book to be gazed at long and luxuriously, preferably on a lap.

Animals and Where They Live

By John Feltwell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Animals and Where They Live as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

so cool HB children's book


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in adaptation, cats, and animals?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about adaptation, cats, and animals.

Adaptation Explore 18 books about adaptation
Cats Explore 134 books about cats
Animals Explore 146 books about animals

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Real Life, Bouncing Forward, and The Story of the Human Body if you like this list.