The best animal stories to tug your heartstrings

The Books I Picked & Why

The Midnight Fox

By Betsy Cromer Byars

Book cover of The Midnight Fox

Why this book?

I loved Betsy Byars’s books growing up. Being English, these American childhoods were so fascinatingly different! The Midnight Fox is a funny, bittersweet story of city boy Tom falling in love with the wildlife of the forest – and most of all with the beautiful midnight fox and her cub. But by making them more familiar with humans, he ends up attracting them closer to the farm and putting them in danger – it’s such a heartbreaking, beautiful book.

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By Sara Pennypacker, Jon Klassen

Book cover of Pax

Why this book?

Another fox book! Such a wonderful story of love between a boy and a wild creature. Pax’s relationship with the rest of the foxes is so brilliantly told – he longs to belong with them, but he’s still so closely woven with Peter, his boy. The strange, jarring background of war adds so much tension to this story too – no one can be safe. Utterly gripping.

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The Book Cat

By Polly Faber, Clara Vulliamy

Book cover of The Book Cat

Why this book?

This gorgeously illustrated book is the story of Morgan, who becomes the Book Cat at the real publisher Faber. I adored TS Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats as a child, and Morgan was a real cat who was one of the inspirations for the poems. These are his adventures during the London Blitz – in some ways a familiar story, but so moving from a cat’s point of view! 

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Owl Babies

By Martin Waddell, Patrick Benson

Book cover of Owl Babies

Why this book?

I read this to my children over and over, and I still adore it – which is probably the best thing a parent can say about a picture book! There’s something so clever and magical here, the little owls’ worry about their missing mother builds the tension even when you’re reading it for the fifth time in a day. And of course, she always does come back!

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Tarka the Otter

By Henry Williamson, Charles Tunnicliffe

Book cover of Tarka the Otter

Why this book?

I have been working on a book about otters for the last couple of years, and I returned to this classic remembering how much I’d both loved and hated it as a child. I loved the wonderful first-person descriptions of Tarka’s water life, and his joy exploring the river – and I was devastated by the terrifying scenes of the otter hunt. An amazing book, but definitely one to share with your children, to talk about our effect on animals and the natural world.

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