The most recommended zoo books

Who picked these books? Meet our 20 experts.

20 authors created a book list connected to zoos, and here are their favorite zoo books.
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Book cover of The View at the Zoo

Nancy Raines Day Author Of Applesauce Is Fun to Wear

From my list on sharing laughs with toddlers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I believe laughing together is a big part of the glue that bonds people together. Humor has gotten me through my toughest times—and given me much joy in the good times. Laughing over my books with one or both of my toddler grandsons will always be cherished memories for me. Likewise, I love hearing about moments of connection for other readers bonding over Applesauce Is Fun to Wear, Baby’s Opposites, Baby’s Firsts, and Pirate Jack Gets Dressed. Picture books should appeal to the ear as well as the eye. Coming from a family of musicians, I’m partial to rhyme, as you might guess from most of my picks here.

Nancy's book list on sharing laughs with toddlers

Nancy Raines Day Why did Nancy love this book?

What's not to love about the bouncy, perfect rhyme and zany illustrations of a day at the zoo packed with action and humorous touches? But this board book has more subtle layers, too. While the first few spreads show the zookeeper getting animals ready for opening, the viewpoint shifts to the animal's thoughts on the humans:

My, what silly things they do,/ all these creatures at the zoo.

The following pages detail actions common to people and zoo animals like dancing feet, carrying babies, and shrieking. I've often thought that if we humans could keep in mind that we’re animals, too, we’d be better at sharing the planet with them. This simple and simply hilarious book does that in a way humans of all ages can appreciate.

By Kathleen Long Bostrom, Guy Francis (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The View at the Zoo 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?

In this humorous twist on a visit to the zoo, just who has the more interesting view? As morning dawns, the zookeeper makes his rounds, exhorting the animals to wake up, comb their hair, and stand up straight. Soon their human visitors arrive, and the observations begin to flow: My, what silly things they do, all these creatures at the zoo. Walking on all kinds of feet, dancing to an inner beat. Babies riding on their backs, on their bellies, snug in sacks. Hear the silly sounds they speak, as they howl and squawk and shriek! But just who is…


Book cover of Bad Panda

Rachel Hamilton Author Of Louie Lets Loose!

From my list on by British authors to get kids laughing out loud.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Rachel Hamilton and I’m the author of the Exploding series with Simon & Schuster and the Unicorn in New York series with OUP and Scholastic. I love making people laugh, especially when it's intentional rather than accidental. As well as writing books, I write comedy sketches and have performed standup as part of the Funny Girls tour in the Middle East. It's hard to do humor well, so I have huge respect and admiration for the authors on this list, because they do it fantastically. I hope you love their stories as much as I do. 

Rachel's book list on by British authors to get kids laughing out loud

Rachel Hamilton Why did Rachel love this book?

I’ve been a huge fan of Swapna and Sheena’s since I first read Dave Pigeon, which is so good it’s now a set text on the Creative Writing degree I teach. These two are champions of slapstick, silliness, and subversive creatures with big hearts. And Bad Panda is, arguably, their greatest creation. She’s SO desperate to be bad, but she is scuppered at every turn by the fact that everything she does looks so ridiculously cute. The result is panda-monium (groan!)

“Are you sick of being utterly adorable?
Tired of being cuddled and hugged?
Fed up of having your head confused for your bottom because you just so happen to be SOOOOPER-DOOOOOPER fluffy?
Lin: If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you’re in the right book.”

By Swapna Haddow, Sheena Dempsey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Are you sick of being utterly adorable?
Tired of being cuddled and hugged?
Fed up of having your head confused for your bottom because you just so happen to be SOOOOPER-DOOOOOPER fluffy?

Lin: If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you're in the right book.

Everyone thinks that Lin is the cutest panda in the world. So much so that they ship her off to the local zoo, away from her beloved brother, to be ogled at by the masses. But Lin HATES being cute, and now she will do everything in her power to prove that…


Book cover of Silly Doggy!

Julie Fulton Author Of Bears Don't Eat Egg Sandwiches

From my list on the craziest picture books for children.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up on a diet of crazy stories by Edward Lear, Dr. Seuss, and Hillaire Belloc amongst others. They instilled in me a lifelong love of books and reading. Dad created whacky stories for me every bedtime too. Little wonder I now write my own zany tales. Greedy Mrs. MacCready and the rest of the Ever So series, plus Bears Don’t Eat Egg Sandwiches, are direct descendants of the stories I loved as a child! Experience as a classroom teacher gave me many insights into the minds of young children. I love going back into schools to read my books to a new audience. Hope you enjoy them too!

Julie's book list on the craziest picture books for children

Julie Fulton Why did Julie love this book?

When Lily looks out of her bedroom window she gets the best surprise – a doggy! But this is no ordinary doggy. There’s been an escape from the zoo… Readers know from the outset Lily’s new pet is really a bear. Hear them shout ‘but he’s not a dog!’

Even Lily notices he’s quite big ‘for a dog’, but insists on taking him for a walk and teaching him tricks, none of which he is any good at. Unfortunately, the zookeeper recognises his bear from the ‘lost doggy’ poster Lily’s mum makes her display. She must give him back.

A beautifully illustrated story, full of optimism and a little girl’s irrepressibly wonderful outlook on life. It will have you laughing all the way from beginning to the cheerful final twist.

By Adam Stower,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Silly Doggy! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, and 5.

What is this book about?

Charming, funny, beautifully illustrated this is an hilarious picture book that will resonate with dog lovers, both adults and children, as they read it together. It is full of visual jokes and it comes complete with a fold-out poster When Lily looks out of her bedroom window, she gets the best surprise ever - a doggy! But this is no normal doggy, this is actually an escaped bear. Lily's adventure with doggy is told through a poster Lily has made, advertising that she's found a lost dog. Sadly a zookeeper comes to collect Doggy. But the next day, Lily has…


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

Uma Krishnaswami Author Of The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic

From my list on middle grade featuring elephants.

Why am I passionate about this?

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

Uma Krishnaswami 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. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

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,…


Book cover of All the Impossible Things

Alyssa Roat Author Of Wraithwood

From Alyssa's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Fantasy connoisseur Worldbuilding enthusiast Amateur boulderer Teller of dad jokes Cat mom

Alyssa's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Alyssa Roat Why did Alyssa love this book?

Set in our world with hints of magic, All the Impossible Things is a middle-grade novel about finding home and finding family.

This book beautifully weaves the all-too-real struggles of a girl in foster care with the near-magical experience of a foster family not quite like any she’s experienced before. The blending of the real and the fantastical serves to highlight the emotions of the young protagonist in poignant ways, and, in the end, offers a beautiful note of hope—not easy, and not perfect, but, one might say, a little magical.

I adored the way the author blended all these notes together into a book that hits deep into the heart of kids, teens, and adults alike.

By Lindsay Lackey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All the Impossible Things as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Red's inexplicable power over the wind comes from her mother. Whenever Ruby "Red" Byrd is scared or angry, the wind picks up. And being placed in foster care, moving from family to family, tends to keep her skies stormy. Red knows she has to learn to control it, but can't figure out how.

This time, the wind blows Red into the home of the Grooves, a quirky couple who run a petting zoo, complete with a dancing donkey and a giant tortoise. With their own curious gifts, Celine and Jackson Groove seem to fit like a puzzle piece into Red's…


Book cover of The Exploding Life of Scarlett Fife

Abie Longstaff Author Of The Trapdoor Mysteries: A Sticky Situation

From my list on middle grade books of magic and adventure.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the oldest of six children – all girls! I used to make up imaginary worlds for my little sisters. We’d steal clothes from Mum and Dad for dressing up; we’d pull all the cushions off the sofa to make a show; we even used to put ribbons on the poor dog. Nowadays I write books with magic and fairy tales and adventure. I write for the child inside me; the child that loved an exciting, fantastical story. I have written over 50 books for children from picture book to middle grade, and I still love inventing imaginary worlds.

Abie's book list on middle grade books of magic and adventure

Abie Longstaff Why did Abie love this book?

Magic comes in many forms and the version in this book is fast, funny, and modern. Scarlett has trouble controlling her emotions – something children will really connect with – but whenever she tries to push her feelings down, they find a very clear way of bursting out. Maz Evans knows how her readers think and speak: the dialogue and setting feel so alive and authentic; and she knows what makes them laugh.

By Maz Evans,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Exploding Life of Scarlett Fife as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

Scarlett Fife has BIG feelings. And she's about to get into BIG trouble. From the bestselling Maz Evans comes a heartfelt and hilarious new series, perfect for fans of Roald Dahl's Matilda.

'A laugh-out-loud story full of warmth, Big Feelings and explosive results.' Dominique Valente, author of Starfell

'So funny, you'll explode with laughter' Sam Copeland, author of Charlie Changes into a Chicken

Scarlett Fife has BIG FEELINGS. And when she has BIG FEELINGS, they explode out of her like an over-squeezed stress ball.

Scarlett's in big trouble after a BIG FEELINGS episode leads to a runaway hamster getting into…


Book cover of And Tango Makes Three

Thomas Tracy Author Of Scoochie & Skiddles: Scoochie's Adoption Story

From my list on about LGBTQ+ families.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a gay father of two transracially adopted daughters, I am constantly searching for books that feature families like mine. It is important for children to see families that look like theirs represented in their storybooks. Unfortunately, there is a limited number of children’s books spotlighting adoption and even less featuring LGBTQ+ families. I am happy to share this list of some of my favorites that represent diverse/LGBTQ+ families.   

Thomas' book list on about LGBTQ+ families

Thomas Tracy Why did Thomas love this book?

It is hard to imagine that And Tango Makes Three was revolutionary and controversial in 2015 when it was published, but it was. However, it is one of those books that paved the way for greater diversity in children’s literature. Like so many powerful books, And Tango Makes Three is based on the real experiences of two male penguins raising a baby penguin. It is a staple book for the personal libraries of all families interested in promoting family diversity. 

By Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell, Henry Cole (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked And Tango Makes Three 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?

One of the six political books for kids you should definitely read according to Zoe Williams in the Guardian, November 2018!

Roy and Silo are just like the other penguin couples at the zoo - they bow to each other, walk together and swim together. But Roy and Silo are a little bit different - they're both boys.

Then, one day, when Mr Gramzay the zookeeper finds them trying to hatch a stone, he realises that it may be time for Roy and Silo to become parents for real.


Book cover of The Elephant's Girl

Carol Fisher Saller Author Of Maddie's Ghost

From my list on middle-grade mysteries about multigenerational family secrets.

Why am I passionate about this?

The older I get, the more fascinated I am with family history and the way certain traits or talents get passed down – or not. Unfortunately, we don’t always know much about our own ancestors. Maybe that’s why I appreciate a multigenerational story that shows all the forms a young person’s “inheritance” can take, whether money, looks, a special skill or talent, or even a disease. And because I’ve always loved a good mystery, I enjoy books where a young person seeks to uncover a family secret. Finally, now that I’m on the older side of the generations, I appreciate a book that portrays older family members realistically and with respect.

Carol's book list on middle-grade mysteries about multigenerational family secrets

Carol Fisher Saller Why did Carol love this book?

The premise of this book gets big points for originality: Lexington Willow is orphaned as a toddler by a tornado, literally blowing into the life of elephant Nyah, who protects and comforts the little girl in the storm and forms a mysterious connection with her. The wind is also a character in the book, hanging around long after the tornado. It knows things Lex doesn’t, and sometimes whispers to her.

The Elephant’s Girl portrays friendship, secrets, and a family’s pain in search of healing. Toss in a ghost for good measure, and what’s not to love?

By Celesta Rimington,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Elephant's Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

A magical adventure for fans of Katherine Applegate and Jennifer Holm about a girl with a mysterious connection to the elephant who saved her life.

An elephant never forgets, but Lexington Willow can't remember her past. Swept away by a tornado as a toddler, she was dropped in a nearby Nebraska zoo, where an elephant named Nyah protected her from the storm. With no trace of her family, Lex grew up at the zoo with her foster father, Roger; her best friend, Fisher; and the wind whispering in her ear.

Years later, Nyah sends Lex a telepathic image of the…


Book cover of The Not-So-Great Zoo Swap Shop

Dawn Doig Author Of Hair Peace

From my list on inspire children to be happy with who they are.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, but inherited ‘travelling DNA’ from my sailor father which has led to a life of work and travel around the globe. In addition to being an audiologist and teacher, I am also the author (and sometimes illustrator) of 15 children’s picture books. Many of my books have been inspired by the special children I have had the privilege to work with as both an audiologist and teacher. My books are on a variety of topics including childhood hearing loss, dysgraphia and writing challenges, bullying and forgiveness, learning English as an additional language, and positive self-image. Some of my books are written to evoke giggles and belly laughs. 

Dawn's book list on inspire children to be happy with who they are

Dawn Doig Why did Dawn love this book?

A wonderful book that celebrates the beauty of diversity. Our world is full of people (and animals!) who do not look the same whether it be the colour of their skin, the shape of their eyes, or the length of their limbs. These people bring with them a vast range of talents, abilities, and creativity. How boring our world would be if everyone looked the same and could do all the same things! The illustrator did a fantastic job bringing this story to life and the author did a fabulous job with the rhyming text. A lovely book that is sure to be enjoyed by anyone who ventures to open the pages.

By Cora Lydon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Not-So-Great Zoo Swap Shop as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Zebra's desperate to blend in like a chameleon. Penguin yearns for a cheetah's speed. When the chance to swap their key traits and characteristics arises will these zoo animals learn they're perfect just as they are?

When tiger announces the swap shop has arrived the animals rush to have their wishes granted. However, they soon find out that what they desire comes with unexpected consequences. Will zebra ever get his stripes back? And can warthog convince the animals that not every wish needs to come true?

Sometimes we should be careful what we wish for and learn to love ourselves.…


Book cover of Let's Talk! Going to the Zoo

Argyro Graphy Author Of The Adventures of Bentley Hippo: Inspiring Children to Accept Each Other

From my list on how disability does not define a person.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have seen a huge shift in the way others look at me and treat me since losing complete vision in one eye. I’m now labeled. It’s not fun, it’s disturbing and sad, and even though my appearance has slightly changed, I have not. “my disability does not define who I am” I may smile, but it doesn’t mean I don’t struggle and we can all use some kind words and encouragement and not be so judgmental.

Argyro's book list on how disability does not define a person

Argyro Graphy Why did Argyro love this book?

A fantastic story about two best friends where one has autism and although other children mock her for flapping her arms, they learn about autism and about being themselves no matter what others think. A wonderful book showing kids that it's ok to laugh with others but not at them.

By Lisa Jacovsky, Blueberry Illustrations (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Let's Talk! Going to the Zoo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Harper and Emma are two best friends who first met at the pool in the summer. Emma has Autism which affects her speech, but she does not let it slow her down. She has a different way to communicate. Harper learned about Autism and how to communicate with her new best friend. Now the girls are getting ready to go to the zoo for the first time. What animals do you think they will see?


While enjoying the animals Emma becomes excited and flaps her hands, making noises. A group of children come over and begin to point and stare.…