Sunday, January 1, 2012

Texts That Feature Unusual Animal Relationships

     What child doesn't find some animal interesting? Do you remember the true story about an unusual relationship between a gorilla named Koko and a pet kitty? It was featured in the book Koko's Kitten (Reading Rainbow Book) by Dr. Francine Patterson and Ronald H. Cohn (Scholastic, 1987). Well, there's so many great books that have come out about animal relationships over the past five years that sharing one for a read aloud is easy to do! These texts make for a great way to incorporate comparing and contrasting, as well as great writing springboards. Even the most reluctant readers are intrigued at these unusual relationships. Here are a few of the great titles that you can feature with elementary age students. Whether in K or 5th grade, there's a selection that you can use. These true stories full of real photos act as a great venue for describing acceptance, resiliency, and being adaptable. Your children will be entranced! 

Little Pink Pup by Johanna Kerby (Putnam, 2010)  

     This is a story of a runt pig named Pink who is brought indoors to be taken care of. The mother dachshund of the house, Tink, adopts Pink into her litter. This is great for Kindergarten and first graders. Here's a bonus! You can read it online for FREE via the great website We Give Books. Click here to go directly to that link, and you can share it with your students up on the computer screen or enjoy it at home with your family. :) 

Tarra and Bella: The Elephant and Dog Who Became Best Friends by Carol Buckley (Putnam, 2009)

     Tarra is a elephant resident at a sanctuary in Tennessee. She came there because she is a former circus animal. Bella, a stray yellow lab, sneaks in and Tarra and Bella form a loyal bond that's unbreakable. Their dedication to one another is certainly proven after Bella suffered a serious spinal injury. Tarra doesn't leave Bella's side throughout it all! :) Now that's loyalty! Here's a video where you can learn more about Tarra and Bella.

 Suryia and Roscoe: The True Story of an Unlikely Friendship written by Dr. Bagavan Antle and Thea Feldman with photographs by Barry Bland (Henry Holt, 2011) 

Roscoe, who is a blue tick hound, becomes friends with an orangutan named Suryia who comes to the wildlife preserve for endangered animals in South Carolina. The human like qualities displayed by the orangutan, such as trying to feed Roscoe or standing upright to walk him with a leash, is certainly eye catching to readers. Children feel a connection to the orangutan because of the human like behavior it displays. Check out the video clip to see more about Suryia and Roscoe. They are endearing!

Owen and Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship by Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff, and Paula Kahumbu with photographs by Peter Greste (Scholastic Press, 2006) 
Owen and Mzee: Language of Friendship by Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff, and Paula Kahumbu with photographs by Peter Greste (Scholastic Press, 2007)  
      These two trade books are about a baby hippo named Owen that was separated from his mother in a tsunami in 2004. Owen was adopted by Mzee, a male tortoise that is estimated to be 130 years old. They learned to adapt, communicate, and care for one another. Although their relationship is unconventional, it is amazing. (There are even some board books also from Scholastic to introduce the two creatures to the youngest of readers. :)  
      Here's several bonuses for Owen and Mzee. Check out Owen and Mzee's wonderful website that is great for complementing the read aloud of these books. You can share the rebus stories with younger students or view the documentary with older students to extend the adventure of sharing these texts. The site features a video link from an episode of PBS's Between the Lions. 

Friends: True Stories of Extraordinary Animal Friendships by Catherine Thimmesh (Houghton Mifflin, 2011) 
     The text is short in this selection, so it's perfect for pre-K through first grade. Check out a little preview through this video clip:

Unlikely Friendships: 47 Remarkable Stories from the Animal Kingdom by Jennifer Holland (Workman, 2011) - This text may not be a cover to cover read aloud since it is written for adults. However, it is great for sharing some stories and the photos from the book. Older elementary students will enjoy this. I personally own this book and I've shared photos from it with students. Here's a bonus clip about the book:


Enjoy exploring these animal friendly texts with your children!


  1. We have Jeanette Winter's "Mama" about Owen and Mzee. The story is told visually with very few words and is appropriate for toddlers and older children. A narrative at the end tells the backstory. It's a great book.

  2. "Unlikely Friendships" is a perfect gift because Holland weaves into the enormously cute animal tales a scientific sensibility and a fascination with animal behavior that make it much more than one of those novelty books. It's also a really nicely designed text with fine images, compact yet substantial. Give it as a gift to an adult or a child and watch faces light up. Or I guess you can buy it for yourself and then quick look in the mirror. I love the book