The best books featuring animal friends and creative, artful illustrations

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an illustrator, author, and animator. When I write and draw, I hope to vividly bring characters and settings to life in the imaginations of readers. Mischievous dogs, mysterious old houses, and brilliant mathematicians are some of the subjects I’ve had the pleasure of putting on the pages of books. I love animals and art, so artistic picture books with animals at their heart, give me a lot of joy. Because the illustrations in a picture book tell stories, I look for artwork that expresses character, mood, and movement. The best picture books leave a mark in visual memory that connects to the feeling of a story.


I wrote...

Tricky

By Kari Rust,

Book cover of Tricky

What is my book about?

Tricky was my first picture book. It is about a pair of rascally troublemakers and what happens when one of them (a dog!) sees the error of his ways. It is a tale of revenge and reform told in a fun and lighthearted picture book. The story was inspired, in part, by some trickster dogs from my own life.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Bluebird

Kari Rust Why did I love this book?

Bluebird is a wordless picture book with a bird as an animal friend. The story is cinematically presented with spare, selectively coloured, and exquisitely designed images. It is a touching and heartbreaking story about a bird who befriends a lonely boy and the tragic consequences brought on by carelessness and bullying. The level of care that went into every panel of every page from cover to cover is outstanding. Be swept up by this work of art!

By Bob Staake,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bluebird as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Readers will be captivated as they follow the journey of a bluebird as he develops a friendship with a young boy and ultimately risks his life to save the boy from harm. Both simple and evocative, this timeless and profound story will resonate with readers young and old.

'Deeply impressive and moving.' - Publisher's Weekly, Starred Review

'A book of true beauty.'- The New York Times


Book cover of The Ranger

Kari Rust Why did I love this book?

The Ranger is the second book in the artistically rendered Crow Stories series by Nancy Vo. The animal friend in this book is a mysterious fox. When a young ranger, Annie, rescues a fox they begin an uneasy journey together. When Annie in turn needs help, she has to confront the meaning of friendship. The art in The Ranger has a look all its own incorporating watercolour and collage in a way that gives just the right mood to pair with the text. Readers will be drawn to the fox’s strong, captivating presence, and the beautiful, muted landscapes provide the perfect setting. In addition to the memorable illustrations, this book offers lots to discuss around reciprocity and friendship. There is also some mystery - is there more to the fox than meets the eye?

By Nancy Vo,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this memorable and beautifully illustrated story, a ranger comes across a fox caught in a trap. The ranger frees the fox and promises only to tend to its wounds. The fox recovers and remains curiously close to the ranger, and when unexpected twists occur, the fox ends up being the helper. The ranger asks the fox, "Does this make us even?" and almost immediately feels regret - keeping score has no place in friendship. And so the two continue their journey together.

In this second book in the Crow Stories trilogy, Nancy Vo explores themes of friendship and how…


Book cover of Black Bear Red Fox (Colours in Cree)

Kari Rust Why did I love this book?

Black Bear, Red Fox is a board book introducing colours in both English and Cree using animals and plants. Julie Flett’s lush, vibrant illustrations highlight the colours so vividly they seem to pop off the page. Board books are associated with very young children, however, this one can be enjoyed by anyone who is interested in learning some words in Cree while enjoying some beautiful artwork. Arden Ogg of the Cree Literacy Network provides an interesting and informative introduction about the use of colour words in the Cree language. There is also a helpful pronunciation chart. If you are looking for colour, this book delivers! Each page is a gorgeous work of art and design.

By Julie Flett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Black Bear Red Fox (Colours in Cree) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Provides the English and Cree words for colors, along with the pronunciation.


Book cover of Fred and Pete at the Beach

Kari Rust Why did I love this book?

Fred and Pete are a pair of dog friends who have an adventure making their way to the beach on their own. The trip is instigated when their guardian leaves them behind as payback for a garbage incident in the kitchen. There are so many fun qualities about this book including the “odd couple” dynamic between the two canines. Cynthia Nugent uses photographs of the dogs surrounded by richly coloured, painterly backgrounds, which gives the book an irresistible, playful realism. These two little dogs have character! The relationship between the dogs, their dialogue, the bumbling adventure, and the marvellous artwork create a charming, amusing story readers will love.

By Cynthia Nugent,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fred and Pete at the Beach as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Follow Fred and Pete on an adventure where they hitch rides in anything with wheels, and optimism prevails.

Fred is a near-sighted dog who worries all the time. He worries the most about what kind of trouble Pete is going to get them into next. Unlike Fred, Pete is a happy, impulsive dog who believes something wonderful waits around every corner. Fred and Pete live with their human, Ron. When the dogs misbehave, Ron leaves them at home for the day. So the dogs decide to find their own way to the beach. Pete is sure they can get to…


Book cover of Margaret's Unicorn

Kari Rust Why did I love this book?

Margaret’s Unicorn is full of atmosphere and a feeling of place. From the golden, beautifully rendered light, to Margaret’s woollen sweater, the book is like a warm hug. The animal friend in this story is a young unicorn. Margaret, a girl who is adjusting to a recent move to the countryside, witnesses a ghostly, mysterious herd of migrating unicorns on her first walk exploring her new landscape. Moments later, she finds a baby unicorn who was mistakenly left behind. Over the year of waiting for the herd to return, Margaret looks after her little friend and experiences the seasons in her beautiful new environment. By the time she has to say goodbye, Margaret has settled into her new home and the unicorn is ready to return to his family.

I enjoy this book particularly for the lovely, convincing depiction of the countryside mixed with the touch of magic. Readers will fall in love with the adorably drawn baby unicorn. It is a cozy, sweet, friendly fantasy with soft, rich illustrations. Curl up and enjoy!

By Briony May Smith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Margaret's Unicorn as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

A perfect read for unicorn lovers, this beautiful and utterly transporting picture book tells the story of what every little girl wishes would happen to her: a girl finds and takes care of a lost baby unicorn.
Margaret's whole world changes when her family moves to a cottage by the sea. One evening, Margaret spots a mist over the water. No, that's not mist ... clouds maybe? No, they're unicorns descending onto the shore! They vanish as quickly as they'd appeared, but accidentally leave behind a baby, tangled in the weeds...


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Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

By Rebecca Wellington,

Book cover of Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

Rebecca Wellington Author Of Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I am adopted. For most of my life, I didn’t identify as adopted. I shoved that away because of the shame I felt about being adopted and not truly fitting into my family. But then two things happened: I had my own biological children, the only two people I know to date to whom I am biologically related, and then shortly after my second daughter was born, my older sister, also an adoptee, died of a drug overdose. These sequential births and death put my life on a new trajectory, and I started writing, out of grief, the history of adoption and motherhood in America. 

Rebecca's book list on straight up, real memoirs on motherhood and adoption

What is my book about?

I grew up thinking that being adopted didn’t matter. I was wrong. This book is my journey uncovering the significance and true history of adoption practices in America. Now, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, the renewed debate over women’s reproductive rights places an even greater emphasis on adoption. As a mother, historian, and adoptee, I am uniquely qualified to uncover the policies and practices of adoption.

The history of adoption, reframed through the voices of adoptees like me, and mothers who have been forced to relinquish their babies, blows apart old narratives about adoption, exposing the fallacy that adoption is always good.

In this story, I reckon with the pain and unanswered questions of my own experience and explore broader issues surrounding adoption in the United States, including changing legal policies, sterilization, and compulsory relinquishment programs, forced assimilation of babies of color and Indigenous babies adopted into white families, and other liabilities affecting women, mothers, and children. Now is the moment we must all hear these stories.

Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

By Rebecca Wellington,

What is this book about?

Nearly every person in the United States is affected by adoption. Adoption practices are woven into the fabric of American society and reflect how our nation values human beings, particularly mothers. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, the renewed debate over women's reproductive rights places an even greater emphasis on adoption. As a mother, historian, and adoptee, Rebecca C. Wellington is uniquely qualified to uncover the policies and practices of adoption. Wellington's timely-and deeply researched-account amplifies previously marginalized voices and exposes the social and racial biases embedded in the United States' adoption industry.…


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