The best books featuring animal friends and creative, artful illustrations

The Books I Picked & Why

Bluebird

By Bob Staake

Bluebird

Why 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!


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The Ranger

By Nancy Vo

The Ranger

Why 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?


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Black Bear Red Fox (Colours in Cree)

By Julie Flett

Black Bear Red Fox (Colours in Cree)

Why 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.


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Fred and Pete at the Beach

By Cynthia Nugent

Fred and Pete at the Beach

Why 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.


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Margaret's Unicorn

By Briony May Smith

Margaret's Unicorn

Why 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!


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