The best elephant books

Who picked these books? Meet our 51 experts.

51 authors created a book list connected to elephants, and here are their favorite elephant books.
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The Roots of Heaven

By Romain Gary,

Book cover of The Roots of Heaven

Alice Duncan Author Of Domesticated Spirits

From the list on humanity and its often savage inhumanity.

Who am I?

I have been blessed (or cursed) with a vivid imagination since childhood. Add to that the fact that my first three years were spent on a farm in Maine with nobody around but my mother and my sister, and I grew into a person who is happy alone and making up stories. After my family moved to California, I went to school with all colors, races, and religions and my sense of inclusiveness is abundant. Most of my stories deal with unfairness imposed upon humans by other humans. Nearly all of my books are funny, too, even when I don’t mean them to be. Absurdity is my pal.

Alice's book list on humanity and its often savage inhumanity

Discover why each book is one of Alice's favorite books.

Why did Alice love this book?

When I was a kid, I read a Life Magazine article about elephants. Specifically, it shared how the elephants tried to keep an old, beloved family member alive and mourned his passing. It touched my heart.

Set in French Equatorial Africa, The Roots of Heaven is about Morrel, who attempts to stop the extinction of elephants. It’s an uphill fight for Morrel and those few who work with him and is basically a metaphor for humanity’s struggle to survive.

I loved this book for a number of reasons, not the least of which was how hopeless Morrel’s task seems, and how he keeps fighting anyway. I feel hopeless and helpless much of the time as I watch humans kill not merely each other but the earth itself. The Roots of Heaven shows that light can still shine in the murk of destruction.

By Romain Gary,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Roots of Heaven takes as its subject the deliberate and relentless hunting and killing of elephants for their ivory. Morel, a former dentist whose survival in a Nazi concentration camp he attributes to his fixation on the freedom and companionability of elephants, travels to Africa intent on stopping the slaughter. He circulates a petition demanding their killing be made illegal. It attracts two signers: a disgraced American from the Korean War and a call girl described as "just another animal who needed protection." From here things get really interesting―politically, socially and culturally. Morel realizes that action is necessary; a…


Book cover of Let's Go for a Drive!

Marilyn Simon Rothstein Author Of Crazy to Leave You

From the list on by authors who make me laugh.

Who am I?

Children were seen and not heard when I was growing up in Flushing, Queens, where I had one tree in front of my house. I moved to Connecticut as an adult and now I look out on woods and bears sneaking into my garage. The result of my silent childhood is I’m an excellent listener and an even better eavesdropper—superb traits for a writer. I owned a Connecticut advertising agency for most of my adult life then realized I could make less money if I became an author. My first book was published when I turned 63—which is amazing because I'm only 40. 

Marilyn's book list on by authors who make me laugh

Discover why each book is one of Marilyn's favorite books.

Why did Marilyn love this book?

My family loves to laugh, and we introduce our children to books that build the funny bone. For this reason, I have a copy of every picture book written by the delightful Mo Willems. Hands down, my favorite is Let’s Go for a Drive! Here’s the story: Elephant and Piggie amass the accessories necessary to spend a day tooling around town. We’re talking sunglasses, a map, an umbrella. They are set to go when they realize they don’t have a car. Somehow, the two friends make the best of it. Good news: There are 25 Elephant and Piggie books to enjoy again and again.

By Mo Willems,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Let's Go for a Drive! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Gerald is careful. Piggie is not.
Piggie cannot help smiling. Gerald can.
Gerald worries so that Piggie does not have to.

Gerald and Piggie are best friends.

In Let's Go for a Drive! Gerald and Piggie want to hit the road! But the best-laid plans of pigs and elephants often go awry.


Strictly No Elephants

By Lisa Mantchev, Taeeun Yoo (illustrator),

Book cover of Strictly No Elephants

Benson Shum Author Of First Night of Howlergarten

From the list on inclusion and being true to yourself.

Who am I?

Growing up, I was always the outcast. I wasn't the smartest in class. I wasn't the strongest in sports. I was always the shy kid in the back, trying not to make a noise. But when I made a connection with someone or they made the effort to say hi. I treasured our friendship. I love writing and sharing stories where we are talking about inclusion and building empathy toward each other. I hope you will enjoy these books on the list.

Benson's book list on inclusion and being true to yourself

Discover why each book is one of Benson's favorite books.

Why did Benson love this book?

I love the friendship between the boy and his elephant. They watch out for each other cause that's what friends do.

After they weren't allowed into the pet club, he meets a girl and her skunk and they create their own club. We learn that we don't want to be a part of something that is exclusionary. And for us to create a space where everyone is welcome.

By Lisa Mantchev, Taeeun Yoo (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Strictly No Elephants as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A sunny, smart, tongue-in-cheek tale." The New York Times Book Review
"Sweet and affirming." Kirkus Reviews
"With a gentle message of inclusion and helping others, this title reaches beyond a mere friendship story."School Library Journal
"Heartening."Booklist

In this bestselling and internationally beloved picture book, the local Pet Club won't admit a boy's tiny pet elephant, so he finds a solution-one that involves all kinds of unusual animals.

Today is Pet Club day. There will be cats and dogs and fish, but strictly no elephantsare allowed. The Pet Club doesn't understand that pets come in all shapes and sizes, just like…


Picky Panda (With Fun Flaps to Lift)

By Jackie Huang (illustrator),

Book cover of Picky Panda (With Fun Flaps to Lift)

Natasha Wing Author Of Squeak-a-boo!

From the list on cute & cuddly animal lift-the-flap for kids.

Who am I?

As an animal advocate and part-time pet sitter, I wanted to instill the love of animals to babies with a fun board book. I’ve always enjoyed the surprise factor of lift-the-flaps so I was thrilled when Squeak-a-boo! was published. These types of books make for wonderful interactive bonding moments between reader and baby. I hope you enjoy the books on this list, not only for their fun concepts and text, but also for their colorful illustrations. 

Natasha's book list on cute & cuddly animal lift-the-flap for kids

Discover why each book is one of Natasha's favorite books.

Why did Natasha love this book?

This Panda is very certain about what he likes and doesn’t like.

You could say he’s very black and white about his opinions. And that’s why the mostly black-and-white paper cut illustrations work even more! Panda’s house is stark as well.

Then one day he begrudgingly accepts a red flower from an elephant which throws him off. But in the end he makes it work. I love the graphic look of the art. 

By Jackie Huang (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Picky Panda (With Fun Flaps to Lift) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Celebrate the joys of fresh perspectives and unexpected beauty in this touching lift-the-flap picture book from paper engineer Jackie HuangPersnickety Mr. Panda likes his world to be just so. His decisions are always easy: yes or no; good or bad; right or wrong; black or white . . . until one day when the gift of a red flower changes everything. Touching, clever, and with a great message about remaining flexible and open to the beauty in the world, this lift-the-flap picture book is an innovative and heartwarming story sure to resonate with readers. Author-illustrator Jackie Huang brings her utterly…


But No Elephants

By Jerry Smath,

Book cover of But No Elephants

Matthew Ralph Author Of Family Means...

From the list on children’s books about diversity and inclusion.

Who am I?

I’m a British author who specializes in writing about diversity and inclusion. I’ve always been a firm believer in equality for all, and I think diversity is such a vital subject for children to learn. It’s so important to teach children to love themselves and treat others how they would want to be treated, even if they are different than you. I believe a little bit of love goes a long way. I hope you enjoy my list of children’s books about diversity and share in my passion for children’s books that champion love and acceptance for everyone.

Matthew's book list on children’s books about diversity and inclusion

Discover why each book is one of Matthew's favorite books.

Why did Matthew love this book?

This book is an enduring memory from my own childhood. I remember my parents used to read this to me, and they put on funny voices for each of the characters. I love the message of this book, that even though you are different from others, we can all coexist and learn to celebrate our differences. The illustrations are also so charming and really bring the story to life. 

By Jerry Smath,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked But No Elephants as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Grandma Tildy, who lives alone and works so hard she has no time to play, decides to adopt a variety of pets


Book cover of An Elephant & Piggie Biggie!

Graham Annable Author Of A Tale of Two Sloths

From the list on about friendship that I know.

Who am I?

I'm a cartoonist, animator, and Oscar-nominated film director who's worked and continues to work in the mediums of books, film, and video games all the darn time. When I think about great stories I've had a chance to read, the element of friendship always stands out for me. When there's a special, authentic bond between characters that you feel with every page and frame there's nothing better! You live the moments in the story and they stay with you forever. Like a true friend would.

Graham's book list on about friendship that I know

Discover why each book is one of Graham's favorite books.

Why did Graham love this book?

The energy and enthusiasm of this series are so impressive. Mo Willems is a master at page layout and building astounding anticipation in all of his children's books. Elephant & Piggie stories are so perfectly distilled down to the simplest and most enjoyable elements that they are an absolute joy to read with young kids or on your own. 

By Mo Willems,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked An Elephant & Piggie Biggie! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mo Willems, a #1 New York Times bestselling author and illustrator, celebrates ten years of Elephant & Piggie in this special bind-up collection: Today I Will Fly!; Watch Me Throw the Ball!; Can I Play Too?; the award-winning Let's Go For a Drive!; and I Really Like Slop!


Book cover of The Only Harmless Great Thing

KJ Kabza Author Of The Ramshead Algorithm: And Other Stories

From the list on starring sentient animals (that not enough people know).

Who am I?

Being a human is fraught, so I've always been fascinated by stories of sentient animals, long before I sold my first short story at age 19 (about a tiny dragon that lived in a bathtub drain) or my 48th story (which features talking sand cats and is reprinted in my collection The Ramshead Algorithm: And Other Stories). While most of my 90+ published stories star humans, talking animals are a reoccurring motif in my work and in the ????+ books I've read across 40+ years. If you're ready to branch out beyond Watership Down and Redwall, here are 5 books that more fans of sentient animals should know about.

KJ's book list on starring sentient animals (that not enough people know)

Discover why each book is one of KJ's favorite books.

Why did KJ love this book?

Technically, Brooke Bolander's The Only Harmless Great Thing is a novella and not a novel.

But this story, set in an alternate universe in which hyperintelligent elephants are forced into toxic factory work, packs so much pathos, vivid description, and (especially!) the world-building around elephant culture—I swoon over the voice in which the elephants tell their stories and myths to the reader—it may as well be three times as long.

This is the most modern book on my list, and it did get some excellent critical attention, including the 2018 Nebula Award for Best Novelette. But Bolander's voice of the elephants alone (to say nothing of the other voices, each masterfully different) is so danged magnificent, the more people know of this work, the better.

By Brooke Bolander,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Only Harmless Great Thing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Nebula Award for Best Novelette

Finalist for the Hugo, Locus, Shirley Jackson, and Sturgeon Awards

The Only Harmless Great Thing is a heart-wrenching alternative history by Brooke Bolander that imagines an intersection between the Radium Girls and noble, sentient elephants.

In the early years of the 20th century, a group of female factory workers in Newark, New Jersey slowly died of radiation poisoning. Around the same time, an Indian elephant was deliberately put to death by electricity in Coney Island.

These are the facts.

Now these two tragedies are intertwined in a dark alternate history of rage,…


When Elephants Fly

By Nancy Richardson Fischer,

Book cover of When Elephants Fly

Traci L. Jones Author Of Silhouetted by the Blue

From the list on shedding a light on mental illness.

Who am I?

One of the reasons I wanted to write about and explore mental health was because I was always fascinated by how the mind works and how it can turn on you without provocation. How and why some people can power through dark times, while others struggle is a topic that, within the African American community, isn't frequently discussed.  Often the advice given to someone about how to get through depression or anxiety is to pray or just dig deep and power through. It is the idea that because our ancestors suffered so much, those of us living in "easier" times should have nothing to be sad about that seems to prevent us from asking for help or getting therapy. 

Traci's book list on shedding a light on mental illness

Discover why each book is one of Traci's favorite books.

Why did Traci love this book?

Lily’s mom has schizophrenia and Lily is terrified that she might get it too. Lily gets personally involved in a story at her newspaper internship about an abandoned elephant calf. Feeling a kinship with the elephant, Lily goes through extraordinary lengths to make sure the calf finds a safe home, while at the same time, realizing that she has begun to show signs of mental illness. Fischer combines mental illness, family, friendship, and animal welfare into a riveting, thought-provoking book. I loved how she showed the reader how a character can live with the early stages of schizophrenia without losing her sense of self and purpose. 

By Nancy Richardson Fischer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Nancy Richardson Fischer deserves high praise for her well-researched and endearing novel. Her imagination, craft, and effort has resulted in her writing a piece of fiction that is worthy of winning a prize. This really is an outstanding piece of fiction that cannot be recommended enough.” –New York Journal of Books

A Parade Most Anticipated Book of Fall 2018!
A YA Books Central Buzzworthy Books of Fall 2018!
A Publishers Lunch Fall Buzz Book!

Don’t miss one of the most heartwarming young adult novels of the year. Perfect for fans of Water for Elephants, Wonder and All the Bright Places,…


Silent Thunder

By Katy Payne,

Book cover of Silent Thunder: In the Presence of Elephants

Patricia Newman Author Of Eavesdropping on Elephants: How Listening Helps Conservation

From the list on elephants for people who love them.

Who am I?

I’m a Sibert Honor author and write books for kids and teens about nature. Ever since I saw an elephant skull on the savanna in Kenya, I’ve been fascinated by elephants. When my daughter was an undergrad, she worked with Katy Payne and the Elephant Listening Project, and I knew I had to write about ELP’s astounding work—one of the only groups working with forest elephants. I hope you enjoy the QR codes in Eavesdropping on Elephants. Katy and her colleagues were very generous with their work. The more I write the more I discover our connections to our natural world that humble me and fill me with gratitude. 

Patricia's book list on elephants for people who love them

Discover why each book is one of Patricia's favorite books.

Why did Patricia love this book?

After discovering that whales sing to each other, Katy turned her attention to elephants. Silent Thunder chronicles Katy’s work before she founded the Elephant Listening Project. In essence, it is the prequel to Eavesdropping on Elephants. Katy’s evocative prose puts you on the plains of Africa. I love the way she approached her research without any preconceived notions and let the elephants tell her what was important.

By Katy Payne,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A natural history rich in observation of the animal world and how humans participate in it, Silent Thunder is also a passionate story of scientist Katy Payne's spiritual quest as she turns a keen eye on her role in this world. Starting with the story of her revolutionary discovery that elephants use infrasonic sounds-sounds below the range of human hearing-to communicate, Payne shares what she learned from her fascinating field research in Africa, research that reveals new insights into elephants' social lives. When five of the elephant families she studies are the victims of culling, Payne's approach to her research…


Never Forget Eleanor

By Jason June, Loren Long (illustrator),

Book cover of Never Forget Eleanor

Anne O'Brien Carelli Author Of I'll Remember, Poppy

From the list on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease for children.

Who am I?

As an educator, author of children’s books, and caregiver of a loved one with dementia, I felt that I had to write a story about the disease from a child’s point of view. When I became a caregiver, I was struck by the lack of information for children and the misconceptions of the public about the disease. I wanted to create a story that reassures children and gives them guidance on how they can help be a caregiver. I added the Author’s Note to provide accurate information to adults so that more people are aware of the signs of dementia and to build understanding and compassion. 


Anne's book list on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease for children

Discover why each book is one of Anne's favorite books.

Why did Anne love this book?

This story shows how an individual who loves crossword puzzles and storytelling can be affected by the disease of dementia.

Elijah notices that his grandmother Eleanor is struggling with language and figures out a way to carry on her legacy. It’s so nice to see this aspect of the disease (memory and language) addressed in a positive, helpful way.

By Jason June, Loren Long (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Never Forget Eleanor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This poignant story from New York Times bestselling author Jason June and #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator Loren Long reminds us of the life-changing power of words and the ways we remember the ones we love who've been affected by Alzheimer's or dementia. Perfect for fans of Drawn Together and The Rough Patch.

Elijah loves spending time with his grandma Eleanor. She knows all the best words to answer tricky crossword puzzles and to tell the most beautiful stories to her family and friends.

Everyone calls her "Never Forget Eleanor" because she remembers every word she reads and person…


The Eleventh Hour

By Graeme Base,

Book cover of The Eleventh Hour: A Curious Mystery

Anne Lambelet Author Of Maria the Matador

From the list on picture books you can pore over for hours.

Who am I?

I’m Anne Lambelet, author-illustrator of Maria the Matador. The greatest compliment to any author-illustrator is that a child wants to keep spending time with your book after the first read-through is over. As an avid childhood reader who has maintained a passion for kid lit into my adulthood and my career, I’ve read a lot of picture books in my life, but the ones that have stuck with me are the ones that demanded a second, a third, even a fiftieth look. For that reason, I’ve chosen the following topic for my list of recommendations.

Anne's book list on picture books you can pore over for hours

Discover why each book is one of Anne's favorite books.

Why did Anne love this book?

Really anything by Graeme Base could go on this list. He’s a master of packing exquisite detail into every bit of a picture, but The Eleventh Hour particularly holds a special place in my heart. As a child I spent hours searching every page, decoding musical notes, ciphers, and hieroglyphics, unraveling both visual and verbal riddles trying to figure out “whodunit”. I even roped my parents into helping me find the clues, and I feel like they were just as enthralled as I was. The beautiful illustrations and rhyming verse would make this a fun story on its own, but the hidden mystery embedded in every page makes this book a masterpiece. 

By Graeme Base,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When Horace the elephant turns eleven, he celebrates instyle by inviting his exotic friends to a splendid costume party. But a mystery is afoot, for in the midst of the games, music, and revelry, someone has eaten the birthday feast. The rhyming text and lavish, detailed illustrations each provide clues, and it's up to the reader to piece them together and decide whodunit!"The fun of poring over the pictures is matched by the enjoyment derived from the textwitty, ingenious verses." -- Publishers WeeklyGraeme Base is the author of many award-winning books for children, including Animalia (Puffin), The Sign of the…


Noodlephant

By Jacob Kramer, K-Fai Steele (illustrator),

Book cover of Noodlephant

Lisa Cinar Author Of Monster Problems

From the list on destined to be classics but flying under the radar.

Who am I?

I am an author, illustrator, and designer who has always been passionate about books, and especially picture books. As a child I loved to look at the pictures, listen to my mom read them out loud to me, and dream about them. Today I am making my own! Knowing that now it’s my books that kids are reading, gives me a true sense of purpose and joy. A few of the things I care about (other than books) are spending time in nature with my cute senior dog, learning new things, riding my bike, neurodiversity, climate advocacy, and new ways of thinking and problem-solving.

Lisa's book list on destined to be classics but flying under the radar

Discover why each book is one of Lisa's favorite books.

Why did Lisa love this book?

I love picture books that aren’t cookie-cutters and break rules! This one checks all the boxes! It has 80 pages which is pretty much unheard of in picture publishing because most publishers still seem to think that for some reason kids only have the attention span of 24-32 pages. The story manages to be incredibly meaningful and current, political, socially aware, and about pasta all at once, and the illustrations capture a spontaneity and silliness that I adore! You’ll be left wanting to be more politically active and hungry for pasta—what’s not to like?! 

By Jacob Kramer, K-Fai Steele (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"I love Noodlephant-brilliant & necessary, and the parable we need now." -Dave Eggers, Best-Selling Author, Editor, Publisher, and Co-Founder of 826 National

Famous for her pasta parties, Noodlephant is shocked when the law-loving kangaroos decide noodles are only for them!

Noodlephant won't let this stand-Noodlephants can't survive on sticks and branches, after all. Determined to do something to push back against an unjust law, she and her friends invent a machine that transforms pens into penne, pillows into ravioli, and radiators into radiatori. With that, the pasta parties are back! But that very night, the kangaroos come bounding through the…


One Amazing Elephant

By Linda Oatman High,

Book cover of One Amazing Elephant

Uma Krishnaswami Author Of The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic

From the list on middle grade featuring elephants.

Who am I?

I was born and grew up in India and I’ve always been fascinated by elephants. When I wrote The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic, it felt natural to have Mini, the elephant, become part of its world. She’s not the main character, yet her presence raises questions about the place of these amazing animals in our world and in our hearts. I picked five titles in which elephants are secondary characters, raising similar questions for readers about who these extraordinary creatures are and why we should care. Curiously, I couldn’t find a single novel featuring African elephants. 

Uma's book list on middle grade featuring elephants

Discover why each book is one of Uma's favorite books.

Why did Uma love this book?

Linda’s a graduate of the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, Vermont College of Fine Arts, where I’ve taught since 2006. I love it when my reading mind seems to make a conversation out of the books I’ve read. For me, this novel seemed to be speaking to all the other books on this list—through the large, tender presence of the elephant, Queenie Grace, especially in the chapters written in her first-person voice; the growing affection between the child, Lily, and the elephant; the shifting family dynamics, so that blame and guilt give way to communication and empathy; all kinds of chains and ways to loosen them and be free. I even found a surprising little nugget of historical information in the author’s note. 

By Linda Oatman High,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A poignant middle grade animal story from talented author Linda Oatman High that will appeal to fans of Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan. In this heartwarming novel, a girl and an elephant face the same devastating loss—and slowly realize that they share the same powerful love.

Twelve-year-old Lily Pruitt loves her grandparents, but she doesn’t love the circus—and the circus is their life. She’s perfectly happy to stay with her father, away from her neglectful mother and her grandfather’s beloved elephant, Queenie Grace.

Then Grandpa Bill dies, and both Lily and Queenie Grace are devastated. When Lily travels…


Waiting Is Not Easy!

By Mo Willems,

Book cover of Waiting Is Not Easy!

Heather Hartt-Sussman Author Of Noni Says No

From the list on picture books parents will love.

Who am I?

I have written seven picture books, one of which was a New York Times Editors’ Choice and many of which have been award nominees. My books have been translated into five languages and are enjoyed by kids from Denmark to Korea. As a mom, I know that when a child loves a book they want it read to them repeatedly. That’s why I admire books that are written for the enjoyment of both the adult and the child. I dislike preachy books filled with lessons. I prefer when books entertain and contain a nugget of gold that readers can take with them when the book is done.

Heather's book list on picture books parents will love

Discover why each book is one of Heather's favorite books.

Why did Heather love this book?

Any impatient adult or child will tell you that waiting is indeed not for the faint of heart. In this book, which is a part of the early reader Elephant and Piggie series, Piggie has a surprise for Gerald the Elephant. But he must wait for it, and wait and wait and wait. As he waits, Gerald’s groans grow louder, illustrated typographically with ever-enlarging speech bubbles. The ending shows previously frustrated Gerald the Elephant proclaiming that the surprise was well worth the wait. And indeed it is!!

By Mo Willems,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Waiting Is Not Easy! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Gerald is careful. Piggie is not.
Piggie cannot help smiling. Gerald can.
Gerald worries so that Piggie does not have to.

Gerald and Piggie are best friends.

In Waiting Is Not Easy!, Piggie has a surprise for Gerald, but he is going to have to wait for it. And Wait. And wait some more...


Entertaining Elephants

By Susan Nance,

Book cover of Entertaining Elephants: Animal Agency and the Business of the American Circus

Keri Cronin Author Of Art for Animals

From the list on animal history.

Who am I?

I am a historian of visual culture, and my work explores the ways images can shape and challenge dominant ideas about other species. The ways we choose to represent certain animals (or not) can have important consequences, both in terms of environmental issues but also in terms of the wellbeing of individual animals. Digging deeper into these histories can make us aware that the categories we like to put animals in can shift and change depending on the time period and place. As we confront increasingly urgent climate and environmental issues, understanding these dynamics will be even more important than ever.

Keri's book list on animal history

Discover why each book is one of Keri's favorite books.

Why did Keri love this book?

This book is such an excellent and innovative example of an interdisciplinary approach to animal history. Susan Nance blends current scientific thinking about the welfare, agency, and cognition of elephants with a detailed and highly engaging look at the role of these animals in circus history. This is a wonderful model of how to write animal history, an endeavor that isn’t always that straightforward because archival records tend to focus on human lives, deaths, and achievements.

By Susan Nance,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Consider the career of an enduring if controversial icon of American entertainment: the genial circus elephant. In "Entertaining Elephants" Susan Nance examines elephant behavior - drawing on the scientific literature of animal cognition, learning, and communications - to offer a study of elephants as actors (rather than objects) in American circus entertainment between 1800 and 1940. By developing a deeper understanding of animal behavior, Nance asserts, we can more fully explain the common history of all species. "Entertaining Elephants" is the first account that uses research on animal welfare, health, and cognition to interpret the historical record, examining how both…


My Friend Is Sad

By Mo Willems,

Book cover of My Friend Is Sad

Claudia Kalb Author Of Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder: Inside the Minds of History's Great Personalities

From the list on how our chaotic, imperfect minds crackle with genius.

Who am I?

As a kid, I read the New Yorker—first, just the cartoons; later, the articles—and dreamed about becoming a writer. Sentences danced in my head as I fell asleep. I’ve always been especially interested in human behavior and the match-up between our insides and outsides. How do the roadmaps in our brains inform the way we act around others? Over the years, I’ve read hundreds of studies and interviewed countless experts to inform my writing about well-known figures like Leonardo da Vinci, Abraham Lincoln, Marilyn Monroe, and Maya Angelou. But I’m just as captivated by everyone outside the spotlight. We all have stories to tell.

Claudia's book list on how our chaotic, imperfect minds crackle with genius

Discover why each book is one of Claudia's favorite books.

Why did Claudia love this book?

I love children’s books, especially when they capture the emotional depth of a child’s mind.

Mo Willems does this beautifully in My Friend is Sad, one of the first books in his best-selling Elephant & Piggie series. The story depicts Piggie’s unsuccessful efforts to cheer up his friend, Elephant, by dressing up as a cowboy, a clown, a robot.

Elephant doesn’t recognize Piggie under the costumes, though, and it isn’t until Piggie reveals himself that Elephant feels happy. “I need my friends,” he says.

Willems’ storyline delivers important lessons about mental health: emotions are complicated, relationships are life-sustaining, and genius is sometimes very simple. 

By Mo Willems,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Friend Is Sad as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of a series of delightfully humorous award-winning tales for beginner readers from an internationally acclaimed author-illustrator

Gerald is careful. Piggie is not. Piggie cannot help smiling. Gerald can. Gerald worries so that Piggie does not have to. Gerald and Piggie are best friends. In My Friend is Sad, Gerald is sad. How can Piggie be happy if Gerald is sad? Told entirely in speech bubbles with a repetitive use of familiar phrases, this highly original book is perfect for children just learning to read.


Oh, Baby, the Places You'll Go!

By Tish Rabe, Dr. Seuss (illustrator),

Book cover of Oh, Baby, the Places You'll Go!

Susan Lupone Stonis and Jacqueline Boyle Author Of Can't Wait to Show You

From the list on to read to your baby in utero.

Who are we?

Did you know that babies can already hear and remember elements of language during pregnancy? Belly Books were inspired by abundant scientific evidence showing the profound benefits of prenatal reading for family bonding and children’s language and learning. These beautiful board books are uniquely shaped to curve over the growing baby bump, and specially written for expectant parents to bond with their baby in the womb while practicing the art of reading aloud. We are a literacy specialist and an editor who are dedicated to helping parents experience the amazing power of prenatal family storytime. Our blog, The Reading Womb, has been spreading the message everywhere: It’s never too early to read to your baby! 

Susan's book list on to read to your baby in utero

Discover why each book is one of Susan's favorite books.

Why did Susan love this book?

Everyone has heard of Dr. Seuss, but most people don’t realize that he was a prenatal reading enthusiast. As a matter of fact, Dr. Seuss (whose real name was Theodore Geisel) was fascinated by the research that shows that babies can hear and respond to the voices they hear from inside the womb. After his death, author Tish Rabe along with Geisel’s widow Audrey, adapted his popular Oh, the Places You’ll Go to create the first-ever story especially for reading to a baby in the womb. Oh Baby, the Places You’ll Go includes all the fun rhythms, rhymes, and whimsical characters you expect in a Dr. Seuss’s story, but what’s unique about this one is that it invites expectant parents to speak directly to their baby-to-be. Reading this story to the baby bump allows new parents to share their excitement about their little one’s arrival. 

By Tish Rabe, Dr. Seuss (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Oh, Baby, the Places You'll Go! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An introduction to the world of Dr. Seuss-for babies and babies-to-be!

Artfully adapted almost entirely from Ted Geisel's work, this introduction to the world of Dr. Seuss is a must for expectant parents and new babies! In simple rhymed verse, author Tish Rabe extolls the joys awaiting newborns when they meet the Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, Yertle the Turtle, the Great Birthday Bird, the Grinch, and twenty-five other beloved Seuss characters. Written to be read aloud to babies and babies-to-be (yes, babies in utero!), the book includes a brief introduction by Mrs. Dr. Seuss-Audrey Geisel-revealing how she…


Horton Hears a Who!

By Dr. Seuss,

Book cover of Horton Hears a Who!

Simon Mills Author Of The Secret of Scrufflewood Wood

From the list on children’s stories written in rhyme.

Who am I?

I have written poetry since I was a little boy. Rhyme came naturally to me, and I found it to be a world to escape to. This led me to songwriting and touring in bands, and it grew into my vocation as a jingle writer in Australia. Eventually, I wrote the jingle that won the World’s Best Jingle award in Hollywood, and this, in part, inspired me to move to New York City from Australia. The other driving force was getting my first book, How To Steal From Banks—an autobiography—published in America. Writing and rhyming are deeply embedded in my soul and cells. 

Simon's book list on children’s stories written in rhyme

Discover why each book is one of Simon's favorite books.

Why did Simon love this book?

Of all the Dr. Seuss books, Horton hit me hard.

It’s not just the rhyme or the time or the tale. It’s not the Who ocean on which Horton sails… Seriously though, it is the title that shines even among the genius of other Suess titles. Horton was my biggest influence in becoming a children’s author, and it helped me to find my own rhyming voice.

To tell a powerful story in rhyme is far more difficult than writers and readers may think, and this book goes deep—a rich example of Dr. Seuss’ brilliance and rhyming excellence in storytelling. 

By Dr. Seuss,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Horton Hears a Who! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Horton the Elephant hears a tiny voice calling for help from a speck of dust, he is determined to save his new friend.

'A person's a person, no matter how small..'

Horton the elephant sets out to save the inhabitants of a speck of dust, in this classic and hilarious tale about friendship and respect, from the inimitable Dr. Seuss.

As part of a major rebrand programme, HarperCollins is relaunching Dr. Seuss's bestselling books, including such perennial favourites as The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham and Fox in Socks. In response to consumer demand, the bright…


Big Twitch

By Sean Dooley,

Book cover of Big Twitch: One Man, One Continent, a Race Against Time - A True Story about Birdwatching

James Currie Author Of When Eagles Roar: The Amazing Journey of an African Wildlife Adventurer

From the list on elephants and birds.

Who am I?

I've had a life-long passion for birds and African wildlife that developed from a very early age, spending countless hours on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. At various times I've had a totally compulsive obsession for birds and have chased rare and endangered birds around the planet for my long-standing TV series Nikon’s Birding Adventures TV. My love for elephants is equally as strong and I produced an award-winning conservation film in 2018 entitled Last of the Big Tuskers that features the plight of the world’s last remaining 20 or so super-tusker elephants. I'm a conservation fanatic and love exploring the links between local people and wildlife.

James' book list on elephants and birds

Discover why each book is one of James' favorite books.

Why did James love this book?

I love stories about obsessive birding characters, and this is, without doubt, the funniest!! The author details his quest to try and break the annual Australian birding record by seeing more than 700 birds in a year. He drops everything to try and complete this task and runs into incredibly humorous and sometimes unbelievable situations. I love the way the author uses his self-deprecating humor to drive this fascinating story. An excellent read for anyone with a keen interest in birds and a keen sense of humor!

By Sean Dooley,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Big Twitch as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sean Dooley seems like a well adjusted, functioning member of society but beneath the respectable veneer he harbours a dark secret. He is a hard-core birdwatcher (aka twitcher').Sean takes a year off to try to break the Australian twitching record - he has to see more than 700 birds in twelve months. Travelling the length and breadth of Australia, he stops at nothing in search of this birdwatching Holy Grail, blowing his inheritance, his career prospects and any chance he has of finding a girlfriend.Part confessional, part travelogue, this is a true story about obsession. It's about seeking the meaning…


An Elephant in the Garden

By Michael Morpurgo,

Book cover of An Elephant in the Garden: Inspired by a True Story

Uma Krishnaswami Author Of The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic

From the list on middle grade featuring elephants.

Who am I?

I was born and grew up in India and I’ve always been fascinated by elephants. When I wrote The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic, it felt natural to have Mini, the elephant, become part of its world. She’s not the main character, yet her presence raises questions about the place of these amazing animals in our world and in our hearts. I picked five titles in which elephants are secondary characters, raising similar questions for readers about who these extraordinary creatures are and why we should care. Curiously, I couldn’t find a single novel featuring African elephants. 

Uma's book list on middle grade featuring elephants

Discover why each book is one of Uma's favorite books.

Why did Uma love this book?

I love historical fiction, and I love stories within stories and this novel is both! It’s set at the end of World War II, just after the Allied bombing of Dresden. We’re following 16-year-old Elizabeth, her Mutti, her little brother Karli, and a downed Swiss-Canadian airman as they flee to safety near Heidelberg in the company of—yes, really—an elephant! A story of survival, of endurance, of building lives. The human relationships, in a dark and dangerous time, are brightened by the unexpected presence of one remarkable animal. 

By Michael Morpurgo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked An Elephant in the Garden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A thrilling and moving new novel about an extraordinary animal caught up in a very human war, for anyone who loved The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips or The Butterfly Lion...

Dresden, 1945. Elizabeth and Karli's mother works at the zoo, where her favourite animal is a young elephant named Marlene. Then the zoo director tells her that the dangerous animals - including the elephants - must be shot before the town is bombed. Unable to give Marlene up, their mother moves her into the back garden to save her... and then the bombs start to fall.

Their home destroyed,…