Friendship and Animals: Books For Kids

Reading about friendship helps us learn how to be a good friend. While friendship can change as we age, it’s essence remains the same; friendship is loyalty, fun, communication, support, compassion, and love. Enjoy our list of our favorite books showing the joy, journeys, hardships, and value of friendship! We hope you might even make a few (book) friends along the way.

“Reading for me, is spending time with a friend.” – Gary Pauls

The Grizzly Bear Who Lost His GRRRRR! book
#1
The Grizzly Bear Who Lost His GRRRRR!
Written and illustrated by Rob Biddulph
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from The Goodfather

Rob Biddulph is a phenomenal children’s book author and illustrator, and I love his work in The Grizzly Bear Who Lost His GRRRRR!. His creative rhyming leads readers through a wonderful tale of the value of competition and friendship, while his fun illustrations bring the story to life.

From the award-winning author and illustrator of Blown Away, Rob Biddulph, comes a delightfully hilarious story about a grizzly bear named Fred who loses his GRRRRR. Each year, for as long as the forest has stood, a contest is held for the bears of the wood… Fred is the champion. He’s the best. But being the best takes time and training, especially when it comes to having the loudest growl. Then, one morning, disaster strikes—Fred’s GRRRRR is gone! Oh, no! Will Fred find his GRRRRR and realize that there’s more to life than being a winner?

The One and Only Ivan book
#2
The One and Only Ivan
Written by Katherine Applegate and illustrated by Patricia Castelao
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Soon to be a major motion picture! This Harper Classic edition of the Newbery Medal winner and #1 New York Times bestseller includes an author’s note, a letter from the real Ivan’s caretaker at Zoo Atlanta, Ivan’s “signature,” discussion questions, and more. This unforgettable novel from renowned author Katherine Applegate celebrates the transformative power of unexpected friendship. Inspired by the true story of a captive gorilla known as Ivan, this illustrated book is told from the point of view of Ivan himself. Having spent twenty-seven years behind the glass walls of his enclosure in a shopping mall, Ivan has grown accustomed to humans watching him. He hardly ever thinks about his life in the jungle. Instead, Ivan occupies himself with television, his friends Stella and Bob, and painting. But when he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from the wild, he is forced to see their home, and his art, through new eyes. In the tradition of timeless classics such as Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little. Katherine Applegate’s novel blends humor and poignancy to create this incredible tale of friendship, art, and hope. The One and Only Ivan was named to multiple state lists, received three starred reviews, and was hailed as a best book of the year by Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Amazon. Plus don’t miss Katherine Applegate’s Endling series!

Stuart Little book
#3
Stuart Little
Written and illustrated by E.B. White
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

A hardcover edition of this treasured story, for which Garth Williams’s original black-and-white line drawings for the jacket of Stuart Little have been colorized by the celebrated illustrator Rosemary Wells. Stuart Little is no ordinary mouse. Born to a family of humans, he lives in New York City with his parents, his older brother George, and Snowbell the cat. Though he’s shy and thoughtful, he’s also a true lover of adventure. Stuart’s greatest adventure comes when his best friend, a beautiful little bird named Margalo, disappears from her nest. Determined to track her down, Stuart ventures away from home for the very first time in his life. He finds adventure aplenty. But will he find his friend?

The Nice Book book
#4
The Nice Book
Written and illustrated by David Stein
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

A perfect introduction to manners and playing nice, by David Ezra Stein—author of Caldecott Honor winner Interrupting Chicken, Pouch! (a Charlotte Zolotow Honor book) and Leaves (recipient of the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award).

From cuddling koalas to friendly penguins, an array of animals illustrates fun, sweet, and silly examples of “how to be nice,” showing simple ways young children can show they care for those around them. The lyrical text, funny illustrations and upbeat friendship message make this a great gift and a wonderful introduction to manners.

The Trumpet of the Swan book
#5
The Trumpet of the Swan
Written by E.B. White
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Swan Song Like the rest of his family, Louis is a trumpeter swan. But unlike his four brothers and sisters, Louis can’t trumpet joyfully. In fact, he can’t even make a sound. And since he can’t trumpet his love, the beautiful swan Serena pays absolutely no attention to him. Louis tries everything he can think of to win Serena’s affection—he even goes to school to learn to read and write. But nothing seems to work. Then his father steals him a real brass trumpet. Is a musical instrument the key to winning Louis his love?

  1. How to Win Friends and Influence Creatures - Presents humorous advice on maintaining friendships with animals, including not hogging a mudbath, howling along with a pack, and learning to listen to small voices.

  2. Goat's Coat - This charmingly illustrated rhyming picture book about Alfonzo, a goat with a very special coat, celebrates the power of kindness and friendship. Let me tell you the tale of Alfonzo the goat, who was terribly proud of his lovely new coat. Alfonzo was happy; he pranced and he skipped. Then he heard a sad noise, croaking out of a ditch. Alfonzo couldn’t be happier. He just got an amazing new coat, and he feels like a million dollars. But when he discovers some creatures in need of help, will Alfonzo be able to give up his treasured possession to save the day? This great big hug of a book shows that kindness is definitely the best recipe. Awards for Tom Percival Herman’s Letter—A Kids’ Indie Next List Pick

  3. The Whale in My Swimming Pool - One sunny day, a little boy heads outside for a swim, but his pool is already taken . . . There’s a big whale in the water and it’s not budging! The boy tries everything to get the whale to leave. Nothing seems to work. Not fetch. Not tag. Not even offering his allowance. What’s a boy to do? Luckily, he comes up with the perfect solution: he decides to chill out on a spray of water over the whale’s spout. This colorful whale of a tale from the talented Joyce Wan is sure to inspire giggles from little guppies!

  4. Ribbit! - A group of frogs are living happily in a peaceful pond, until they discover a surprise visitor: a little pink pig. Sitting contentedly on a rock in the middle of their pond, the pig opens his mouth and says: RIBBIT! The frogs are bewildered at first, and then a bit annoyed—“What did that little pig just say?”, “Does he think he’s a frog?”, “Is he making fun of us?” Soon the pig draws the attention of all the nearby animals; everyone is curious to know what he wants! After much guessing (and shouting) and a visit to the wise old beetle, the animals realize that perhaps the pig was not there to mock them afterall—maybe he just wanted to make new friends! But is it too late? This is a warm, funny, and beautifully illustrated story of friendship, with boisterous RIBBIT!s throughout—perfect for reading aloud

You Should, You Should! book
#10
You Should, You Should!
Written and illustrated by Ginny Tilby
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

Hippo’s morning starts off good, until friends say, “You should! You should!” You should prance! You should sing! Wear this hat! Stretch your wing! Though Hippo wants to be a friend, he wonders when the “shoulds” will end.

Hippo and friends will soon find out that being yourself is what life’s about.

The Bear Who Stared book
#11
The Bear Who Stared
Written and illustrated by Duncan Beedie
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

There once was a bear who liked to stare… and stare… and STARE. Bear doesn’t mean to be rude, he’s just curious but too shy to say anything. But nobody likes being stared at and it soon gets Bear into trouble. Luckily a goggly-eyed frog helps Bear realise that sometimes a smile is all you need to turn a stare into a friendly hello.

Kitty Alone book
#12
Kitty Alone
Written by John M. Feierabend and illustrated by Mina Echevarria
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

Kitty Alone is the latest in a series of captivating picture books, each based on a beloved songtale from the great American folk music heritage. This beautifully illustrated version sets the song in the Appalachian Mountains and uses a bobcat, called a “woods ghost” by locals, as the title character. Like the other titles in the First Steps in Music series, Kitty Alone includes song history and notation, along with a free download link for the song, sung by Jill Trinka.

Friends Stick Together book
#13
Friends Stick Together
Written and illustrated by Hannah Harrison
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Rupert is a rhinoceros of refined sensibilities. Levi, the new tickbird in class, is not. He burps the alphabet, tells corny jokes, and does really embarrassing air guitar solos. Worse, he lands right on Rupert and is determined to be Rupert’s symbiotic best pal! Rupert wants him gone. But when Levi finally does bug off, Rupert finds the peace and quiet a little boring. It turns out, Rupert could really use a friend like Levi.

Owl & Friends book
#14
Owl & Friends
Written and illustrated by Joyce Wan
board book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

I play with the squirrels, sing with the birds, and have a picnic with the deer. What am I? Children are asked to figure out just who does all these things in this delightful, bright board book. By opening the gatefold at the end, they discover it’s a big, strong tree.

  1. Animal Inn 3-Books-in-1! - The first three novels in the Animal Inn chapter book series, where the fur—and fun—flies at an animal spa and hotel, are now available together in a fur-tastic paperback edition! The Animal Inn is an all-inclusive pet resort and spa for animals from dogs to rabbits, cats to ducks, parrots to lizards. From doggie and kitty daycare, to grooming, and group play—you name it, and the Animal Inn has it. The Inn is run by the Tyler family along with their pets Leopold, the Macaw; Fuzzy and Furry, the gerbils; dogs Dash and Coco; felines Shadow and Whiskers; and a rollicking horde of animal visitors. In A Furry Fiasco, when the animals hear that a new boarder—a Komodo Dragon—will be coming to the Inn, they panic! Will it gobble them all up and then devour their family? In Treasure Hunt, the animals are convinced a pirate with a glittering treasure is visiting the Animal Inn. Will the animals have to walk the plank in order to survive? Arghhh! And in The Bow-Wow Bus, Cassie Tyler’s first grade class takes a field trip to Animal Inn for a meet and greet. And it’s a furry good time for all—even for the newest kid in class, a goldfish named Blub.

  2. Hey, Dog - A boy cares for, feeds, and helps an abused stray dog to learn to trust humans again.

  3. A Mouse Called Julian - Julian is a mouse who is perfectly happy avoiding other animals. They seem to just get in the way, and sometimes even try to eat him! But one day, Julian has an unexpected dinner guest… When the fox tries to sneak into Julian’s burrow for a tasty bite of mouse, it finds itself stuck headfirst in Julian’s front door! At first alarmed and wary, they soon find themselves having a lovely dinner together, and it’s not long before each realizes that they have found in the other a lifelong friend.

  4. Bikes for Sale - Maurice rides his bike to his shop every day. Lotta rides her bike to collect sticks every day. Both go about their separate routines, unaware of the friendship that awaits them just a few blocks away. But what happens when a branch and a lemon peel get in the way? This delightful falling-in-like story from acclaimed picture book creators Carter Higgins and Zachariah OHora celebrates the power of coincidence to lead us to the friends we’re meant to meet all along.

Ready, Set, Build! book
#19
Ready, Set, Build!
Written by Meg Fleming and illustrated by Jarvis
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Grab your hard hat and get ready for a day of construction fun with a busy builder and his friend!

Grab your hard hat, tie your boots.

Pack your lunch. Ready? Scoot!

Sketch a dream. Post a chart.

Hatch the plan before you start.

Get ready for a day full of construction fun! Children can follow a busy dog builder as he sketches and plans his dream, clears rubble to make space, and gets to work digging, lifting, and sawing. He builds a house for himself and his bird friend, and satisfied after a hard day’s work, they takes in all they’ve done and look forward to the next day of building!

Sweety book
#20
Sweety
Written and illustrated by Andrea Zuill
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Sweety is awkward, even for a naked mole rat, but with encouragement from her Aunt Ruth, she begins to see that being herself is the best way to find a friend.

Mr. Duck Means Business book
#21
Mr. Duck Means Business
Written by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Jeff Mack
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Mr. Duck enjoys a quiet morning routine on his private pond every day until other animals mistakenly think he has invited them to join him, in a simple tale that illustrates the importance of friendship.

Friends book
#22
Friends
Written and illustrated by Aiko Ikegami
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A girl from a faraway place begins her first day at school. She doesn’t speak the language and she looks different. She just doesn’t fit in. But one day, she makes an unexpected friend—a squirrel! Then a rabbit joins them. Soon the girl’s fuzzy woodland friends are followed by human ones and school becomes more fun! When a surprising new student joins the class, the girl and her new friends know just how to make him feel at home.

The Very Long Sleep book
#23
The Very Long Sleep
Written and illustrated by Polly Noakes
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Bear, Fox, Chipmunk and Marmot are all very good friends. They think it would be wonderful if they all lived in one grat big house. Beat, Chipmunk and Marmot, however, forgot to tell Fox one small thing which makes for a very lonely winter indeed.

  1. A Bear Sat on My Porch Today - What to do if a rather insistent bear squats on your porch today? Followed in short order by a shaggy squirrel, a spraying skunk, a playful possum, and a bevy of forest critters large and small? This hilarious cumulative tale of reluctant hospitality and generous inclusivity will leave readers chanting, “OKAY. OKAY! YOU CAN STAY.” But watch out! That porch is starting to sway. . . . Jane Yolen’s uproarious chant-aloud story is brought to life by Rilla Alexander’s dazzling retro-hip illustrations in an exuberant collaboration sure to take its place alongside such cumulative classics as This is the House that Jack Built and There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.

  2. The Sheep Who Hatched an Egg - Lola is proud of her amazing wool. After all, everyone on the farm tells her how beautiful she looks. She spends hours brushing her wool to keep it shiny and silky. Until one day when the weather gets hot, and all the sheep have to get haircuts—including Lola! She’s so upset without her wool that she runs away and hides by herself. And when her wool finally grows back, it’s tangled, messy…HORRIBLE! But hiding in Lola’s wool is a wonderful surprise, one that will help her realize that she doesn’t have to be pretty or perfect in order to be a friend…or to be extraordinary!

Did you enjoy our children's book recommendations? Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!