39 Of Our Favorite Children’s Picture Books About Animals

We read approximately 5.2 million kids’ books about animals with Boy Detective when he was still in the picture-book reading phase. These are some of our favorites. Some you’ve possibly not heard about, some are pretty popular, but all of them are fantastic. (Disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links.)

My picture book posts were originally published and then occasionally expanded between 2012-2015, with reviews based on reading with my kiddo between preschool age and about eight years old. As of 2023-24, I’m freshening up my lists and adding more recs.

What’s the Most Beautiful Thing You Know About Horses? (1998) by Richard Van Camp, art by George Littlechild

Van Camp is a member of the Dogrib nation from the Northwest Territories of Canada, and Littlechild is from the Plains Cree nation. They have created SUCH a lovely book. You absolutely must read it out loud as though this kid is talking to you, filling you in on his world and what’s going on inside his head while he interviews his friends and family. The paintings are intensely colorful and distinctive. There’s a rich conversation to be had just about the art style, let alone the content. Love it!

Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type (2000) by Doreen Cronin, with art by Betsy Lewin

I almost didn’t include this because I’m sure everyone knows it, but just in case! Classic story of farm animals outwitting the outraged farmer, really funny stuff. In the years since I read it (repeatedly) with Boy Detective, I’d started to wonder if it was as hilarious as I remembered it being. So I re-read it, and the answer is yes.

Pssst! (2007) by Adam Rex

What Adam Rex can do with fonts blows my mind. Anyone with any interest in graphic design should read this book immediately. Also, this a really good story! A girl’s trip to the zoo is continually interrupted by animals asking if she’ll procure items for them on the sly. She agrees, to be helpful, because they all have such reasonable explanations of why they need flashlights, trash cans, bicycle helmets… or do they? I’ve rarely seen my husband laugh so much at a kids’ book.

The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County (2007) by Janice N. Harrington, illustrated by Shelley Jackson

Only one chicken can escape her. But she’s going to figure out how to catch that Miss Hen! Unless her careful surveillance reveals previously unknown information that requires a change of plans, of course. I can’t decide what I like most about this book. The facial expressions of the main character? The collage-style art, especially her skirt with the big button? Or the number of times you turn the page and get a giant SQUAWK from a chicken? Boy Detective was skeptical about this one but he ended up loving it. Several times in the next few days he’d start laughing about something he was remembering from it.

Millie in the Snow (2008) by Alexander Steffensmeier

A simple little story that’s funny because of all the visual details, including a turnip Advent Calendar, a bright red monster tongue that’s not what it appears to be, and many accidentally repurposed Christmas presents. Millie the mail cow has only one delivery left to make before Christmas. To her own farm! And of course she knows just where that is. Maybe. It’s just over there, right? Right?

Notably, this is one of the only children’s picture books we’ve read that identifies a woman as a farmer instead of a farmer’s wife. Maybe women get to be farmers as long as they’re single, and then they get demoted? Even though I’m pretty sure that on most family farms, everyone who lives there is doing at least some farming…? Anyway.

Too Many Frogs (2011) by Ann and John Hassett

I actually bought a copy of this in 2024 because I enjoyed re-reading it from the library so much. When it arrived, I asked my now-teenager if he remembered it. He did and had very fond memories.

“Nana Quimby has a problem. She wants to bake a cake, but it seems her cellar is filled with water! Too much water! Nana puts a call in to the plumber, who makes a house call. After the plumber leaves and the water is gone, with just one thump, Nana Quimby has an even bigger problem: TOO MANY FROGS! First one frog comes from the basement. Then ten frogs. Then twenty, thirty, then more! Nana Quimby goes about her cake-making business. But the thumping, bumping, banging, bonking frogs become too much to ignore! With the help of some clever neighborhood kids, will Nana Quimby be able to solve her problem and enjoy her cake in peace and quiet? CROAK!”

This is Not My Hat (2012) by Jon Klassen

What better way to describe this than with the text inside the front cover? “A fish has stolen a hat. And he’ll probably get away with it. Probably.” This is so simple and funny, and Boy Detective LOVED being able to anticipate what was going to happen next from the fish’s mistaken beliefs, once he caught on to the pattern. Klassen is a gem in the world of children’s books.

Lion vs. Rabbit (2013) by Alex Latimer

We love Latimer’s art and his sense of humor, and this a great little tale about how strategy can be just as important as brawn in solving a problem. Who can stop Lion from bullying all the other animals? Tiger, bear, and moose all failed. Now it’s up to a specialist: Rabbit. Weighing in at only 4 pounds to Lion’s 1,770, it’s tough to see how Rabbit will prevail. As an adult, I didn’t even get what was happening completely until the end, which is a pretty good trick to pull off in a children’s picture book!

Pedro and George (2015) by Delphine Perret

George the alligator is fed up with people calling him a crocodile. His cousin, Pedro Crocodile, blames children. Specifically, children on the other end of the world who say all kind of foolish things and should probably be eaten to teach them a lesson. Road trip! With a little biting involved, and possibly some judo, and a dramatic moment involving a natural science book. It’s mildly educational but mostly funny, especially if you pay attention to all the detailed drawings of the classroom. No crocodiles or alligators were harmed in the production of this picture book, I’m quite sure.

A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting (2016) by Michelle Robinson, illustrated by David Roberts

Short, sassy, and ridiculous. If you take advice from this book on how to handle bear encounters in the woods, it will not end well for you. So we had a great time reading it! Between the pepper spray, gum, and underwear (clean), there are plenty of laughs here. Perfect for “one more book pleeeeeaaaase” before bedtime.

Elmer (1968) by David McKee

This classic is a keeper. It’s a fable about being different. It’s also just a good, interesting story. Elmer is patchwork and not grey like the other elephants, and although he’s popular, he’s not entirely convinced it’s for the right reasons. A little experiment is enough to reassure him about his place in the community, though. Cute and funny.

Here are two animal books especially for bitty kids, though I love them a lot myself.

Gossie and Gertie by Olivier Dunrea

There are quite a few books by Dunrea about Gossie and her friends, but Gossie and Gertie is the a bit more complex in relationship dynamics and I was quite entertained. Maybe more than I should have been, since I was thinking about what some of the adults in the world could learn from this story! The dynamic between the two ducks is timeless and really funny while being simple enough to enjoy with a young child.

Cowboy Bunnies by Christine Loomis, with pictures by Ora Eitan

The art style in this book really struck me. Eitan painted on wood, and for a book focused on ranching, it’s a perfect fit. It’s sweet and ends quietly, a great little book for small kiddos ar bedtime. There are a lot of kids’ books about farms, but not many about ranches, so I thought this was a nice contribution.

And here are the books I’ve read on my own since my kiddo got too old for them; they’re all fantastic! I haven’t had a chance to write reviews or pull the covers yet, but click on through and see if one of them might be perfect for you.

Farm and city animals:

Wild animals:

And that’s the list!