Lions and Tigers and Wolves, Oh My!

New picture books will tickle the funny bone while indulging a child’s love for animals.

By Erin Bailey


Boy reading in the library

There is nothing like a new read aloud to kick off the school year. All three of these recent releases will spark imagination and leave children giggling.

Wiener Wolf by Jeff Crosby

Grade Level: Preschool-Second Grade

Genre: Fiction

We all dream of more exciting lives at one time or another. Wiener Dog is no different. He is bored living with Granny in a safe little house and wearing warm little sweaters. After watching a nature show on television, he decides to answer the call of the wild. He ditches his sweater, joins a new pack, and becomes Wiener Wolf. 

Children will quickly grasp the parallels between Wiener Wolf's old life and his new one. His new backyard is a vast forest; his water dish is a fresh lake; and his new squeaky toys are wolf pups. Crosby’s illustrations are full of little details that will delight keen eyes.

All seems to be going great until Wiener Wolf witnesses his new pack kill a deer (not gruesome), and he suddenly decides he prefers Granny’s safe predictability to the wild unknown. After welcoming him home, Granny knits Wiener Dog a new sweater. She also realizes that he needs new friends, albeit more tame ones, which they find at a nearby park.

Designing new sweaters for Wiener Dog and then hanging them on a clothesline is a fun way to cap off the story and work in some patterning, too.

If All the Animals Came Inside by Eric Pinder and Marc Brown

Grade Level: Preschool-Second Grade

Genre: Fiction

Did you ever have a great idea, like letting the hamster loose? Did it end badly? This book is all about a grand idea that lacked foresight.

A little boy imagines all the fun he could have with lions, rhinos, bears, and cows if that menagerie came inside the house. Hilarity ensues when Dad sits on the porcupine and a game of hide-and-seek takes over the living room. In addition to wily rhymes, the text features a fun chorus that listeners will love shouting out: “The walls would tremble, the windows would break. Oh what a terrible mess we would make.” Marc Brown’s clever illustrations combine cut paper and photographic elements that children will enjoy imitating. Watch for a surprise appearance from D.W. and Arthur.

Soon, however, the animals have overstayed their welcome. When the rhinos get in the way of the television and the wolves howl from sunset to sunrise, the chorus changes to “The walls would tremble, the windows would break. Oh what a terrible mess they would make.” In the end, the little boy arrives at the conclusion that wild animals should stay at the zoo, and dogs and kittens make more suitable pets.

If you’re exploring cause and effect, ask your students to look through the pages and write either a cause or effect statement that a partner can complete. For example:

                                        The elephant ran through the living room; The flower pot got broken.

You can also pose other questions along the line of “What might happen if…” to practice abstract-thinking skills.

Gilbert Goldfish Wants a Pet by Kelly DiPucchio Illustrated by Bob Shea

Grade Level: Preschool-Second Grade

Genre: Fiction

Gilbert has a castle, a treasure chest that blows bubbles, and flakes that fall from the sky. What he really wants is a pet.  As a parade of animals visit his bowl, Gilbert envisions each of them as the perfect one. But the dog’s barking keeps Gilbert awake; the mouse thinks Gilbert is a piece of cheese; and the fly gets swatted.

Finally, a new creature arrives – one with a long tail and whiskers. When Gilbert invites his new pet in for breakfast, the reader’s heart catches in suspense. What a relief when we discover that the new pet is a catfish which Gilbert names Fluffy. Now he has everything!

This book is well-suited for creating all sorts of charts and graphs. Start by asking your class to list the pets that they own. Depending on the results, these can be categorized by the number of legs; warm-blooded or cold-blooded; or mammals, birds, fish, amphibians or reptiles. They can use the information to draw bar graphs or make Venn diagrams.

Many More Ways to Incorporate These Titles

If your class is studying the similarities and differences between pets and wild animals, any of these would be a playful addition. For more lesson ideas that the above books would complement, please consider these from Lesson Planet.

Animal Coverings

Primary learners investigate the different types of animal coverings by completing a picture sort, making a graph, and creating an art project. This resource satisfies science and math objectives. Read any of the books reviewed above to enhance your lesson.

Animal Classification

Targeting kindergarten through third grade, this aims to classify animals by their characteristics. Pupils sort animals based on where they live and then make a bar graph showing the number of animals in each of three categories— sky, land, and water.

Animals Have Needs

The primary objective of this lesson is to demonstrate that animals have needs similar to humans, especially the need for a habitat. Learners will research the animals that live in one of four habitats. Using Kid Pix, groups then will create a poster for their assigned habitats.