The best animal habitat books

3 authors have picked their favorite books about animal habitats and why they recommend each book.

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Animal Architects

By Amy Cherrix, Chris Sasaki (illustrator),

Book cover of Animal Architects

Each spread in this memorable book offers beautiful illustrations and a feast of information for curious kids. Featured animals include prairie dogs, trapdoor spiders, satin bower birds, coral, and others. The text focuses on these species as builders—of cozy homes, traps for prey, special spots to attract mates, and more. Starting with the book title on the cover (the reader can see how it was “built” with cross-hatch lines guiding letter placement!), I was totally engaged. So much information, so well shared! I fell in love with the teeny, tiny harvest mouse.


Who am I?

I am an award-winning children’s author who has always been fascinated by the natural world. My many published children’s books include ones about animals and ocean life. Scholastic Book Clubs and the Children’s Book of the Month Club have featured my work, and translations of my fiction and nonfiction titles can be found in several languages, including Spanish, Japanese, and Hebrew. My National Geographic title Ocean Counting was named an Outstanding Science Trade Book by the National Science Teachers Association and Walrus Song has been named a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection.


I wrote...

Walrus Song

By Janet Lawler, Timothy Basil Ering (illustrator),

Book cover of Walrus Song

What is my book about?

Walrus Song is a lyrical nonfiction picture book about a unique arctic mammal. Dive right in with noisy Walrus as he plays with puffins, lounges on ice, devours clams, and makes lots of noise! Honk, honkkkk! HOOO, HOOOOT! Squee! Squee, SQWEEE! Toot, TOOT! 

Did you know that a walrus can eat more than four thousand clams in a feeding frenzy? That some walruses weigh more than a car? That walrus tusks sometimes grow more than 3 feet long? Timothy Basil Ering’s stunning art takes you right into Walrus’s arctic world to learn more in Walrus Song.

A Hollow Is a Home

By Abbie Mitchell, Astred Hicks (illustrator),

Book cover of A Hollow Is a Home

Although I am originally from the UK, I now live in Australia—home to amazing creatures, many of whom make homes in hollows. This book rams home the importance of protecting habitat because it doesn’t just highlight species like possums, owls, parrots, quolls, snakes, and goannas, but it integrates them with their environment. A Hollow is a Home is designed in a magazine-like format, with illustrations and photos, which I have found connects really well with reluctant readers. The bite-size sections are useful for school projects and, if you don’t live in Australia, this book is a fantastic way to learn about global biodiversity!


Who am I?

When I was on holiday in Borneo with my daughter, we met an inspirational conservationist who was basically single-handedly saving sun bears from extinction. I asked what I could do to help. “Do what you do best,” he said. Those five powerful words shaped my last decade, most recently prompting the growing series of Wildlife Wong nonfiction children’s books based on his true adventures with rainforest creatures. I feel strongly about the importance of connecting kids to nature. Not only is it good for their physical and mental health, but my generation hasn’t done a particularly good job of environmental stewardship, and we need all the help we can get. 


I wrote...

Wildlife Wong and the Bearded Pig

By Sarah R. Pye,

Book cover of Wildlife Wong and the Bearded Pig

What is my book about?

When he was a boy, Malaysian ecologist Wildlife Wong dreamed of working with animals, and eventually his dream came true. In this exciting story, Wildlife Wong spends three years living in the middle of the jungle trying to trap bearded pigs. Along the way, he meets some crazy characters like Michael, his mate Mary, and their three piglets Pork, Chop, and Bacon!

This unusual book for kids aged 8-12 includes an engaging nonfiction story about a real-life scientist, cool animal facts, and experiments that encourage your youngsters to connect with the world around them.

Over and Under the Snow

By Kate Messner, Christopher Silas Neal (illustrator),

Book cover of Over and Under the Snow

From my first glide into the “frosted fresh and white” woods of this book, I fell in love with Kate Messner’s expertly crafted, sensory text that reveals the “secret kingdom” hidden under the snow—the subnivean zone, where animals and critters of all kind scuttle and nest. Neal’s spacious woodcut-like illustrations capture the experience wonderfully but don’t crowd the story out with unnecessary detail—a quality I especially admire as an illustrator. This book is one I return to again and again to experience the real-world beauty and wonder of nature. 


Who am I?

Growing up with the four seasons in northern Wisconsin and Minnesota has influenced my writing and illustrations more than just about anything else. Pairing reading with hikes and outdoor play is something I loved in childhood, when my grandma Marvel would read picture books and take us grandkids on walks in nature to reenact them, along with recounting her own childhood stories of surviving in the north woods of Wisconsin. To this day I love to take reading along on walks, in hammocks, while canoeing, and by the campfire; to escape into story worlds while basking in the great outdoors.


I wrote...

Home in the Woods

By Eliza Wheeler,

Book cover of Home in the Woods

What is my book about?

A tar-paper shack deep in the woods doesn’t look like much of a home to six-year-old Marvel, her seven siblings, and their newly single mother, but it’s all they have. Starting over in this new place feels like a struggle at first, but each season in the woods reveals wonderous resources and marvelous delights. The family works together through hard times and discovers that good things take root when nurtured and given time to grow. This picture book pays homage to a family’s resilience as they discover the meaning of home. 

A Place to Start a Family

By David L. Harrison, Giles Laroche (illustrator),

Book cover of A Place to Start a Family: Poems About Creatures That Build

Given poet David L. Harrison’s background and interests (he holds science degrees from both Drury and Emory Universities), it should not be surprising to see his books show up on two of my lists. While he has published numerous poetry collections about animals, A Place to Start a Family stands out because of its tight focus – poems about animals that build nests, hives, and other types of homes – and the writer’s incredible talent for wordplay.

From ingenious internal rhyme to intriguing back matter to Giles Laroche’s masterful cut-paper illustrations, this work of creative nonfiction is equally at home in libraries and classrooms as it is on children’s bookshelves.


Who am I?

Ever since my parents gave me a copy of Dorothy Aldis’ The Secret Place and Other Poems, I have enjoyed a lifelong love of poetry. Now, as a traditionally-published children’s author, I have had numerous books and poems published over the years, including books that began as poems, like Flashlight Night (Astra Young Readers, 2017) and Once Upon Another Time (Beaming Books, 2021). My poems can be found in various anthologies including The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry (N.G. Children’s Books, 2015) and Construction People (Wordsong, 2020) as well as Highlights for Children magazine.


I wrote...

Once Upon Another Time

By Charles Ghigna, Matt Forrest Esenwine, Andrés F. Landazábal (illustrator)

Book cover of Once Upon Another Time

What is my book about?

"Once upon another time, the world was young and new. If you want to know this world, there's something you can do..." With sweeping landscapes and up-close details of the natural world, “Once Upon Another Time” takes readers through a lyrical exploration of the world as it was before humans made their mark. Contrasting the past with the present, this expansive picture book serves as an invitation for children – and all people – to appreciate, explore, and protect this planet we call home.

Written by award-winning authors Charles Ghigna and Matt Forrest Esenwine, and illustrated by Andres F. Landazabal, Once Upon Another Time is a stunning portrait of a world that used to exist, and can still be found – if you just know where to look.

Eager

By Ben Goldfarb,

Book cover of Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter

Long before I learned anything about their ecology, I was fascinated by beavers and their flair for building. Beaver dams change the courses of streams and create habitat for willows, fish, frogs, songbirds, even elk and wolves. Goldfarb’s book tells the story of the beavers’ destruction by fur hunters, the way their loss changed the way water flowed through all of North America, and the ways people are working to bring them back.


Who am I?

I fell in love with the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary thirty years ago, when I first moved to town. At the time, I was working as a field biologist, and I loved to hang out at the marsh and birdwatch—I’d see everything from pelicans to peregrine falcons. Later I shifted from field biology to science writing, and some of my first articles were about how the Arcata Marsh serves both as a wildlife habitat and a means of treating the city’s sewage. I learned about the grassroots movement that created the marsh, and the global history of wetlands loss. I’ve been hooked on wetlands ever since.


I wrote...

The Marsh Builders: The Fight for Clean Water, Wetlands, and Wildlife

By Sharon Levy,

Book cover of The Marsh Builders: The Fight for Clean Water, Wetlands, and Wildlife

What is my book about?

The majority of the original wetlands in the US have vanished, transformed into farm fields, or buried under city streets. The Marsh Builders delves into the intertwined histories of wetlands loss and water pollution. 

The book’s springboard is the tale of a citizen uprising in Humboldt County, California, which led to the creation of one of the first US wetlands designed to treat city sewage. The book explores the global roots of this local story: the cholera epidemics that plagued 19th-century Europe; the researchers who invented modern sewage treatment after bumbling across the insight that microbes break down contaminants in water; the discovery that wetlands act as powerful filters for the pollution unleashed by modern humanity.

Anonymouse

By Vikki VanSickle, Anna Pirolli (illustrator),

Book cover of Anonymouse

Anonymouse is a charming illustrated picture book for children that grownups will appreciate. It tells the story of a mysterious graffiti artist that creates art specifically for animals. What I love most about it, is that it illustrates the transformative power of art. As the different animals are surprised and delighted with the graffiti, their lives, how they see themselves and relate to each other are enhanced in surprising ways.


Who am I?

I'm sure you’ve heard of method acting. A technique by which an actor embodies the character they're portraying 24/7. I'm a method writer. I embody the world of the novels that I write. However, when the time came to write a novel inspired by graffiti, I faced a particular frustration. Graffiti is illegal. I felt a strong desire to grab a spray paint can to decorate public spaces. And yet the fear of a jail cell prevented me from acting on the impulse. I had to find a different outlet for that desire. I poured over every book and movie on the subject. I believe I became a bit of an expert.


I wrote...

Graffiti Hack

By Elen Ghulam,

Book cover of Graffiti Hack

What is my book about?

Nelly Nasah grew up in a culture obsessed with decoration. So when Nelly arrives in Washington, D.C. she has a mission—to make the Internet beautiful. She lands a job as a graphic designer in Georgetown, and gets to work trying to inspire her colleagues. Despite all her efforts, Nelly’s only friend in this new country is a rickety old elevator, who communicates with her through the language of his gentle sways and flickering lights.

After a failed presentation, Nelly turns to the dark world of hacking. When lavish designs begin to appear on unsuspecting high-profile websites, the Internet starts to pay attention. Nelly’s latest “hits” go viral as the multitudes read political and social messages into her digital decorations. Is Nelly headed for deep trouble?

Little Tigers

By Jo Weaver,

Book cover of Little Tigers

Little Tigers tells the story of a mom tiger and her cubs searching for a new safe place to live. It’s a simple story about animals and survival, but it serves as a metaphor for humans too; when the place where we live isn’t safe anymore, don’t we seek refuge in a new home too? This book is perfect in every way, and Jo’s charcoal illustrations are just magical.


Who am I?

I’m a children’s book author and illustrator and I have a special fondness for picture books. They’re often a child’s first experience of reading — or being read to, and that’s such a magical time! I still remember my favourite picture books as a child. I’m also a crazy cat person and I love all cats, big and small. My first picture book, Tiger in a Tutu, is about a tiger who lives in Paris Zoo but wants to be a ballet dancer. I made a small list of my favourite tiger picture books for you. I hope you enjoy it.


I wrote...

Tiger in a Tutu

By Fabi Santiago,

Book cover of Tiger in a Tutu

What is my book about?

Max lives a life of luxury in Paris Zoo. But Max isn't like the other tigers -- he's a tiger with a dream!

Max longs to pirouette and plié, to leap and spin. He wants to be a dazzling dancer, shining on the stage! But will this tiger in a tutu get his moment in the spotlight? And will he ever find a friend to dance by his side? Set in Paris, with a dancing tiger as the star, Tiger in a Tutu is an uplifting tale of following your dreams and pursuing your talent, no matter what.

A Visual Introduction to Penguins

By Bernard Stonehouse, Martin Camm (illustrator),

Book cover of A Visual Introduction to Penguins

This beautiful book is written by a famous penguin expert who wrote the ‘bible’ about penguins for adults, so you can be absolutely certain that all of the information is 100% accurate! (Which, unfortunately, is not always the case for books written by individuals who aren’t penguin experts. That said, you can be assured that every book on this curated list has extremely accurate information about penguins!) Each species in this book has a page with fact sheets, geographical ranges, and biological details. There are also numerous photos and absolutely gorgeous illustrations that are highly detailed, bringing the author’s words to life in a visually engaging way. This is the perfect book for children who want to take a deeper dive into the lives of penguins. Best for ages 9-12.


Who am I?

I’m a penguin expert, TED speaker, and lifelong animal lover. After getting a BS degree in Animal Science, I became a Penguin Aquarist at Boston’s New England Aquarium. For 9 years, I took care of the penguins there and educated visitors during daily talks. In 2000, I helped manage the rescue of 40,000 penguins from an oil spill in South Africa. (With the help of 12,500 volunteers, we saved most of them!) I founded my educational company The Penguin Lady in 2005, and speak at schools, universities, libraries, for TED-Ed and TEDx, and on National Geographic’s ships in Antarctica. I love sharing my knowledge, and passion for penguins with others!


I wrote...

All about Penguins: Discover Life on Land and in the Sea

By Dyan deNapoli,

Book cover of All about Penguins: Discover Life on Land and in the Sea

What is my book about?

All About Penguins is a beautifully illustrated book for young children about the basic biology and behavior of penguins. Fascinating facts about the penguin’s life cycle, how they swim, hunt, hide from predators, raise their chicks, and more are covered in concise, yet detailed and engaging text. The book includes a glossary, call-out boxes, range map, and a fun trivia section about each penguin species. (And it definitively answers the age-old question; “Do penguins have knees?”)

This book has been enthusiastically endorsed by renowned penguin expert and author Lloyd Spencer Davis, who said, “All About Penguins is so beautiful and so stuffed with facts that it resembles a krill-filled penguin.” Best for ages 4-8.

Rescue at Lake Wild

By Terry Lynn Johnson,

Book cover of Rescue at Lake Wild

When I was a kid, I wanted to rescue animals. I remember taking crabs home from the beach in milk cartons. Sadly, they didn’t make it – nor did they need rescuing in the first place. 12-year-old Madi Lewis is a savvier rescuer, an “animal whisperer” trained by her late grandmother, an animal rehabber, to keep careful records and do basic caretaking. But Madi’s parents have made it clear: no more foster animals. When Madi and her friends find two orphaned beaver kits in a dam, she has to keep it a secret – hard to do as they uncover a local conspiracy to eliminate beavers at Lake Wild. This fast-paced eco-mystery teaches a lot about conservation, ethics, and, of course, beavers! I love Madi as a young Jane Goodall type, too. 


Who am I?

I live in a town near a wildlife refuge. I frequently encounter wildlife, including turtles, in my neighborhood. Trouble at Turtle Pond was inspired by volunteer work my son and I did with a local conservation group, fostering endangered Blanding’s turtles. Although my previous books were mysteries set in other countries, I have become interested in the mysteries we can find in our own back yards and in other community spaces we share with nature. I love eco-fiction about kids who love animals, who are “nature detectives,” who have strong opinions, and who are working for the environment, recognizing that every small step makes a difference.


I wrote...

Trouble at Turtle Pond

By Diana Renn,

Book cover of Trouble at Turtle Pond

What is my book about?

Eleven-year-old Miles has moved to a neighborhood near a wildlife refuge, where nesting turtles are on the move. His neighbor, Pia, convinces him to join the Backyard Rangers, who are working to protect them. Miles and Pia discover clues to crimes against endangered Blanding’s turtles. Worse, a pair of foster turtle hatchlings in Pia’s care go missing at a town event. Suspecting poachers, the Backyard Rangers investigate suspects in town. But when Miles becomes a suspect himself, he has to convince his new friends he’s not who they think he is and stop the turtle crimes before more turtles – and people – get hurt.

Trouble at Turtle Pond is a friendship-centered eco-mystery about community science, activist kids, and the power of paying attention.

The Poison Season

By Mara Rutherford,

Book cover of The Poison Season

The forest is hungry and the lake is thirsty and only outsiders can satiate them. Nature is its own intricate, brutal character in this artfully drawn novel about a girl who lives in an insular society protected by a seemingly vicious habitat. Outfits inspired by seasons and folklore enchant the mind’s eye, along with questions about whether the monsters in ourselves are scarier than those found in the forest deep or the lake’s depths. 


Who am I?

While supporting myself as I got my MFA, I worked as a bridal stylist at an upscale Beverly Hills wedding salon. Just like most of the main characters in these books, I was thrust into a new world that was full of couture, decadence, and wealth. It was also full of backstabbing, competition, and elitism and I endured my share of it. As a girl from a blue-collar family who grew up with no fashion sense whatsoever, it was an experience that fed my fascination with glittering societies that have dark sides and inspired my first young adult novel, A Dress for the Wicked.   


I wrote...

A Dress for the Wicked

By Autumn Krause,

Book cover of A Dress for the Wicked

What is my book about?

A Dress for the Wicked is about a fashion-obsessed Victorian society. Every few years, there is a cutthroat competition to gain entry to the prestigious Fashion House and, for the first time ever, a girl from the country, Emmy, is admitted as a contestant. Emmy thinks her dreams have come true only to realize that the Fashion House is using her as a political pawn and that sabotage is always in style. Stolen kisses, midnight galas, and backstabbing unfold, and Emmy learns that ambition has a dark side—and that she might too. 

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