Tag Archives: Animals

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World

Title: Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World


Author(s): Vicki Myron with Bret Witter




Publisher and Year: Grand Central Publishing 2008


Number of pages: 271


Tags/Themes: Animals, Chapter book, Emotion, Family, Friendship, Non-fiction, 2-5, Joe Marras


Genre: Biography


Descriptive Annotation: This is a very easy read with no prior knowledge needed.  The story of Dewey Readmore Books is very heartwarming. A very young Dewey was dropped into the drop box of the library in Spencer, Iowa on the coldest night of the winter.  He was found the next day by librarian and author Vicki Myron. She nursed Dewey back to health and decided to keep the furry fella. Dewey was a mainstay at the library for the entirety of his 19 years only leaving on holidays and long weekends to go home with Vicki Myron.  Dewey helped Myron through tough times as she dealt with a bout with cancer and a divorce from her husband, but Dewey helped everyone. Myron says that Dewey had a profound gift of knowing who needed him the most and giving that person the love and affection they needed.


Classroom Application: I think that the best application for this book is to reinforce the importance of helping out those that need a pick me up.  Everyone goes through down times and who knows how long those times will continue without a good friend or furry companion to help them through it all.  I think Dewey can teach anyone of any age a valuable lesson that it doesn’t always take words or a conversation to give someone what they need.


Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: “There were no two ways about it, Dewey led a charmed life.  But Spencer was also lucky, because Dewey couldn’t have fallen into our lives at a better time.” (page 22)  This couldn’t have been more true for the author and “mother” of Dewey Vicki Myron. She needed Dewey as much as Dewey needed his food and water.  She had been through so much and Dewey was just the one that helped her through it and made it all worth it for her. This is a very easy read, no troubling words and very happy throughout the story.  Dewey became so well known, his story was even heard by people in Japan. A filming crew even came from Japan to get footage of Dewey in their documentary about animals, “Dewey was almost fifteen years old and he was slowing down, but he hadn’t lost his enthusiasm for strangers.” (page 218)  No matter how old or slow Dewey became he never lost his enthusiasm for people. He would still greet people with the same fire he always did. I think this shows a good lesson to show that no matter how you may be feeling on a particular day to never lose your kindness because you’ll never know who it can reach.


Title: Pigsty


Author: Mark Teague


Publisher and Year: Scholastic Inc. 1994


Number of pages: 28


Tags: Animals, Fiction, K-1, Joe Marras


Descriptive Annotation:  Young Wendell has a very very messy room that isn’t just messy, it’s a pigsty.  His mother tells him to clean it, but it doesn’t bother him so he doesn’t. Then one day a pig shows up to hang out, and since the pig doesn’t mind the mess either he stays.  Wendell keeps stuffing things to the side and under his bed, and then even more pigs show up. At first they have fun and play games, but later the pigs start to ruin his things like chewing his baseball cards, sitting on his basketball, and getting hoof prints on his comic books.  Wendell finally has enough of it and with the help of his pig friends they clean his room and the pigs get on their way.


Classroom Application:  For young students this shows a valuable lesson of staying clean and organized because when things start to get messy, that is when things start to get ruined and crazy.  Also in this book Wendell when cleaning his room remembers something he heard in school, “many hooves make light work.” Showing that teamwork makes the dream work and the more the merrier.  


Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: Wendell is like most young children that don’t want to clean their room or organize all of their toys and things because who wants to do that!  I see myself in Wendell and I’m sure that many young students will see the same thing that he is much like them. It is a very light read containing very easy words and simple sentences, “Wendle could hardly believe his luck. “Now I can live however I want.” ”   This is when his mother told him that if he wants to live in a pigsty then it’s his own decision and Wendell is all for it! It is very funny and goofy, and the pigs are drawn to be very funny and especially lazy. Also when Wendell finally has had enough of living in a pigsty and needs to clean his room he remembers something he heard in school, “many hooves make light work.”  So with the help of the pigs he makes quick work of his messy room and learns a lesson that it is important to be organized.

And Tango Makes Three

Title: And Tango Makes Three

Author:  Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell

Illustrator: Henry Cole

Publication/ Year: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2005

Number of Pages: 28

Tags/ Themes: Animals, Award Book, Diversity, Family, Non-Fiction, Picture book, K-5

Genre: Non-Fiction

Descriptive Annotation: At the beginning of the book I found myself rolling my eyes, thinking this was just another story about a man and a woman who fell in love. But I was quickly surprised! It follows the story of two male penguins, Roy and Silo, who fall in love and want a baby. Finally, the zookeeper gives them another penguin’s egg and they have the baby they have always wished for. At the end of the book, there is an author’s note which explains that all of these events are things that truly did happen in the Central Park Zoo. Students wouldn’t necessarily need any background knowledge, just an open mind.

Classroom Application: This book would be great to use when teaching acceptance and appreciation of everyone regardless of what their preferences are. It appeals more to the Social and Emotional Learning Standards, encouraging kids to both see and accept others for who they are and also to be proud and confident in themselves, regardless of if they are part of the “norm” or not. This book would be great to start a conversation about social justice issues, and I could tie it in to a social studies lesson talking about gay rights or other civil rights movements. Additionally, it makes me wonder about how different species are wired psychologically! I bet there are more examples out there of animals showing gay tendencies! I might encourage someone to do research on that and see if they can bring any other information forward (if it was an older class).

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: As I mentioned before, this has great cultural diversity. In my opinion, there are not nearly enough books which depict homosexual love. In our society today, the LGBTQ+ population is bigger than ever, probably because more are willing to be open and honest about who they are. Despite this, there is still a ton of prejudice and discrimination against us. By using books which open kids’ eyes from an early age, such as this one, showing that love is love no matter what, it will help society continue to grow more and more accepting of everyone, despite our differences.


Equal Schmequal

Title: Equal Shmequal

Author: Virginia Kroll

Illustrator: Philomena O’Neill

Publisher/Year: Library of Congress, 2005

Number of Pages:  32

Tags/Themes: Animals, Fantasy, Math, Picture book, K-1, 2-3, Rebecca Cauthorn

Genre: Fiction

Descriptive Annotation:  This book is about a group of animals who are trying to figure out how to make equal tug of war teams. At the end of the book there is a special note with the literal definition of the word equal. This is important because they talk about different kinds of equality throughout the book, equal number, equal size, equal weight, equal effort, etcetera. Students would not necessarily need to have any background knowledge of this book, but I would make it a point to make sure that they understand what the word equal means by the end of the book.

Classroom Application:  This book would be a good way to introduce a math lesson on what it means to be equal. Because it discusses numbers and halves, it would be appropriate for a younger audience. Additionally, I would use  part of the text which I disagree with to create a mini lesson. At one point, mouse says, “Equal means fair”, which I definitely do not agree with. I understand, for the purpose of the book, why the author said this. However, in the classroom setting, fair is not always equal because different students need different accommodations! So I would still use this book to help introduce the concept of equality in terms of math, but I would use that part to show that Mouse wasn’t right about that all the time.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: At the beginning of the book, Mouse is watching children play on the playground. The illustrator portrayed them as being many different races. This is important because the ethnic makeup of the classroom is likely to be diverse, so by using books which also show diversity it helps students understand that it doesn’t matter what color you are! The language in the book is easy to read, as demonstrated in this line, “Bear walked out from the trees. ‘What do you want to play?’”. However, the size of the text is on the smaller side and there is a lot of text on each page which could make it challenging for some students in lower grades. This book might be a good one to read out loud and have kids make predictions about what is going to happen next.


Ruby’s Chinese New Year

Title: Ruby’s Chinese New Year

Author(s): Vickie Lee

Illustrator/Photographer: Joey Chou

Publisher and Year: Henry Holt and Company; 2018

Number of Pages: 35

Tags: Animals, Culture, Diversity, Family, Fiction, Holidays, Picture Book, K-5, Sarah Luce

Genre: Fiction

Descriptive Annotation:

Ruby’s Chinese New Year tells the story of a girl who makes her way to her grandmother’s house to spend the Chinese New Year with her. Along the way, the young girl, Ruby, meets all the different animals of the Chinese Zodiac. Each animal that Ruby encounters has something that they bring to help celebrate, like lanterns and rice cakes. Before Ruby gets to Grandmother’s house, her gift for Grandmother gets ruined, but the animals comfort her and remind her that they have plenty of other ways to celebrate. Prior knowledge of the Chinese New Year is helpful but not required for this book, and the last few pages have information about the holiday, as well as instructions for how to make a paper lantern.

Classroom Application:

This text could be used to introduce students to the Chinese culture and to teach them about the Chinese New Year.  Other than the last page, there is not a lot of information about the holiday itself, but the book introduces the Chinese Zodiac as characters that Ruby meets on her adventure. It also shows different things that are used to celebrate the holiday, like flowers, foods, and candles.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis:

Ruby’s Chinese New Year represents Chinese culture and their traditions regarding the Chinese New Year. Because it doesn’t contain a lot of straightforward information, it would be best used as an introductory piece, but it could be used to teach or review the animals in the Chinese Zodiac. By page 24, all of the animals of the Chinese Zodiac (and cat), are listed in one place, “Monkey and Rooster, Horse and Goat, Dragon and Snake, Tiger and Rabbit, Ox, Cat and Rat, and…Dog and Pig.” It also highlights that a big part of the holiday celebration is being with family, as when Grandmother says, “seeing you and your friends today is the best gift of all” (page 28). I would introduce this to my students asking if they or anyone they know celebrates the Chinese New Year.


A Storm Called Katrina

Title: A Storm Called Katrina

Author(s): Myron Uhlberg

Illustrator/Photographer: Colin Bootman

Publisher and Year: Peachtree Publishers; 2011

Number of Pages: 37

Tags: Animals, Culture, Diversity, Emotion, Family, Fiction, Picture Book, 2-3, 4-5, Sarah Luce

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Descriptive Annotation:

In A Storm Called Katrina, a young boy and his family try to survive Hurricane Katrina when it hits their home. They travel through the rising waters to get to the Superdome. When they get there, conditions worsen and Daddy can’t find Louis Daniel and Mama. Daddy eventually finds his family when Louis Daniel plays his cornet in the middle of the Superdome. Special features include information about Hurricane Katrina in the back of the book. Students might need background information about the hurricane to fully understand the story.

Classroom Application:

This story could be used to teach students about the detrimental effects of hurricanes in a science lesson. The story shows the effects the hurricane has on the main character’s home and town, and the statistics in the back of the book give students information about hurricane destruction as well. It could also be used to teach perseverance and bravery in the face of crisis. The family braves a massive, historical storm and still decides to return to their home to face the aftermath of the storm. 

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis:

A Storm Called Katrina represents the culture of the people of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. There were a lot of emotions surrounding this time and region and so it follows that there were many responses to the event. Some people were angry and worried about taking care of themselves, like the “men that started fighting over a water bottle” (page 23). There were also people who were helping as many as they could.  There were people who evacuated, but also people who never expected the storm to get so bad. One woman said, “I’ve lived around these parts for fifty years…and I ain’t ever seen nothin’ like this” (page18). I would introduce this book to students, asking who has ever heard of Hurricane Katrina or knows anyone who was affected by it.


Ida, Always

Title: Ida, Always

Author(s): Caron Levis

Illustrator/Photographer: Charles Santoso

Publisher and Year: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016

Number of Pages: 37

Tags: Animals, Emotion, Fiction, Friendship, Picture Book, K-5, Sarah Luce

Genre: Fiction

Descriptive Annotation:

Ida, Always is based off a true story of two polar bears in the Central Park Zoo. The story introduces the reader to Ida and Gus, two polar bears who played together, ran together, and dreamed about New York City together. Ida taught Gus about the city’s heartbeat, and how it was always around them and with them. One day, Ida got sick, and the zookeeper told Gus that Ida would die soon. Gus and Ida spent all of Ida’s remaining days together, working through their feelings; some days growling, other days laughing. Eventually, Ida died, and Gus learned how to accept her being gone, while still remembering her and feeling her heart beat there with his.

Classroom Application:

This text would likely be used best with teaching children about death, loss, and grief. While heavy topics that may not necessarily come up in curriculum and standards, they could be important to discuss depending on student experiences or situations within the classroom. Many students encounter the death of a loved one or classmate at an early age, and a book like Ida, Always could be a good tool.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis:

This book is set in the Central Park Zoo in New York City. Many students may have never been to a big city, so the illustrations and some of the text may give students an opportunity to experience the culture of a big city. Most suburban and rural areas have a lot of land that is green and natural, but many cities do not have landscapes like this. The illustrations in Ida, Always portray the landscape of big cities, where there are lots of buildings and skyscrapers surrounding the relatively small area of natural land. The polar bears also talk about the noise of the city as “the city’s heartbeat” and how “they added their snores to the sounds of their city”. I could introduce the book by asking students if they have ever been to a big city and what they noticed about the landscape there. I could also ask the students if they have ever been to a zoo and/or if they have ever seen polar bears.


Ayobami and the names of animals

Title: Ayobami and the names of animals

Author: Pilar López Ávila

Illustrator: Mar Azabal

Publisher and Year: Shanghai Chenxi Printing CO. 2018

Number of pages: 30

Tags/Themes: Animals, Culture, Fiction, K-5, Evan White

Genre: Africa; Animals; Education; children’s picture book

Descriptive Annotation:  Ayobami and the names of the animals is about a little African girl going back to school after a war.  Her father shows her a path to get to school, but she gets confused and lost.  She then asks for help from the animals in the jungle on how to get to school.  They only help her if she promises to write their name on a piece of paper and give it to them.  When she gets to school, she learns how to read a write, and she give a piece of paper with the animal’s name as she goes back home.  There is no vocab background knowledge to know, but the only back ground the students may need to know is why Ayobami is allowed to go back to school. It may be helpful to explain how having a war  takes away students’ opportunity for education.

Classroom Application: This text can be used to reinforce current events or recent events. This book shows how excited Ayobami is about going back to school because she want able to because of the war.  It is never stated what war occurred, but I think this book could be an introduction and talking about wars across the globe and the effect on students and their families.  I think I would introduce this book by having the kids display how they get to school.  Do they walk, drive, take a bus?  Who do they encounter on their way to school?  This will get them in the mindset to understand how Ayobami gets to school.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book represents a group of children in Africa who can’t go to school every day.  This generates conversations about what other places in the world is like, the difficulties people face but also how they have a goal to learn to read and write.  On each page, there are letters art of the scenery, emphasizing the need to learn letters.  “When the war finally came to an end, the teacher went from house to house, telling everyone that the children could go back to school the next day.  The children ran out into the street, shouting with joy.  They laughed and they hugged each other.  They were very, very happy” (1).  This quote shows how enthusiastic the students are for school and displays how much education means to them.  What is most important is the picture associated with this quote.  On the page, there are bullets on the ground, but cracked open.  Coming out of the bullets are letters and painted flowers, showing a new age of hope for the students, along with the students dancing.  “Ayobami’s father understood that she had learned to read and write at school.  He understood that she had made the animals dream about the sound of their names.  Clutching another piece of paper and another little stub of a pencil, the little girl set off to school again, along, the path that lead to the place where hope is born” (30).  This quote shows how proud Ayobami’s father is of her.  He expects greatness from and knows the value of learning reading and writing.  Ayobami also sparked dreams in animals too, which can lead to her being an influence to others on the future.  In the photo, Ayobami is dancing under a cloud that is raining letters.  She has immersed herself in language and is so happy about it.

Scarlet Ibis

Title: Scarlet Ibis

Author: Gill Lewis

Illustrator: Susan Meyer

Publisher and Year: Oxford University Press, 2014

Number of pages: 273

Tags/Themes: Animals; Chapter Book; Emotion; Family; Fiction; 4-5; 6-8 E

Genre: fiction, family.

Descriptive Annotation:  Scarlet is a young black girl who lives with her mum  and her brother “Red” who both are white.  Scarlet spends all her time taking care of Red who is a young boy with autism, who loves birds. Scarlet often takes care of her mum who has anger problems.  After an incident with Scarlet’s mum falling asleep with a cigarette in her mouth and almost burning down their apartment, Scarlet’s family was taken away from her.  Her mum stayed in a hospital, Red went to a foster home, and Scarlet went to a different foster home with her caretaker, Avril.  Scarlet desperately wants to find Red but is unable to contact with him.  She struggles with living with a new family in a new home coping with her emotions with her frustrations with social workers refusing to let her see her mum and brother.

Students might need to know the variation of “mum” to understand it means mom, but a different spelling.

Classroom Application: This text can be used to reinforce health/physical education area.  The major plot point is after Scarlet’s mum burns down their apartment.  After reading that chapter, it would be important to discuss with the class and practice fire safety and ways to prevent fires in their home.

This text meets the SELS of students experiencing family emotional stress.  It can also be used to stretch how the students think of the definition of family.  A foster family can be just as tight or close to other types of families.


Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis :

This book represents the culture of children in foster care/families.  It would be used to generate discussion on how foster care works, why it happens, teaching the students to not bully students with different families.  It also represents the culture of children with autism.  Generating discussion on how children/people with autism or special needs require a lot of love, and give a lot of love, just like how the students require love from their family and give a lot to their family.  Growing a culture of respect and value for students with autism/special needs is another classroom application from this book.  I might introduce this book to my students by having them draw a memory or activity they value about their family to get them in the mindset of valuing family with the content of this text. “Red cradles Little Red in his lap.  I watch him run is hand from the pigeon’s head to his tail feathers.  Little red becomes calm and turns his head to look at Red.  Red touches the soft down of his chest.  Red relaxes and I see his shoulders drop.  He’s happy just stroking the bird.  I slump into the armchair.  My head feels heavy.  My whole body feels tired.  All I want to do is to curl up and sleep, and sleep, and sleep” (213).  This quote shows how much Scarlet values her brother, but at the same time how drained she is.  The tone is serious, Scarlet feeling tired with her words and imagery.  It paints a picture how she needs help taking care of Red, and how students need to no place everything on their shoulders. “I take a step toward them. “It’s all right for you,” I say. “You can go back to your nice homes with your nice families.  You can have your meals cooked every night.  Your mums and dads look after you.  They’re not crazy.  They don’t swear at you or call you names.  But Red and I don’t have that.  We don’t have anything like that.  All we’ve got is each other.  And if you tell on us, we’ll be split up, and then we won’t have anything as all ”” (228).   This quote really shows the conversation tone in this book.  Scarlet frustration built up and she is exploding to her friends.  You can hear her anger and frustration in the sentences.  The beautiful thing about this quote is her friends listen to her afterwards and give her the space to vent and be vulnerable to them.  Teaching the students friends allow each other to be vulnerable to each other.


Two Bad Ants

Title – Two Bad Ants

Author(s) – Chris Van Allsburg

Illustrator/Photographer – Chris Van Allsburg

Publisher and Year – HMH Books for Young Readers, October 24, 1988

Number of pages – 32 pages

Tags/Themes – Rylie Loux, Animals, Emotion, K-1, 2-3

Genre – Fiction

Descriptive Annotation: This story is about two ants who endure a dangerous adventure in a human kitchen. When morning comes, the ants are violently awakened by a large scoop lifting them out of the crystal jar and dropping them into a hot brown liquid. They manage to escape and take one last crystal each and leave the strange and frightening place. Dragging their crystals back home, they are glad to be doing the right thing and returning to their family.

Classroom Application: This is a perfect resource for engaging students in a descriptive writing lesson. When Chris Van Allsburg is describing the kitchen he doesn’t tell the readers directly. He uses familiar descriptions for the readers to identify the setting without him actually saying it. This encourages and teaches children to give as many details as possible in their writing so the other students or readers are able to guess where their story is taking place. An example of this in Two Bad Ants is “When the ants climbed out of the holes they were surrounded by a strange red glow. It seemed to them that every second the temperature was rising. It soon became so unbearably hot that they thought they would soon be cooked.” In this excerpt, Allsburg is describing the toaster. Through this story, students are able to capture examples of the skill descriptive writing.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book represents the idea of being bad and what the consequences may be. If someone is doing something they shouldn’t be, they may not always get caught. In the story Bad Ants the ants face many obstacles because they are in a place they shouldn’t be. “But as soon as they had climbed inside, their hiding place was lifted, tilted, and lowered into a dark space.” This quote explains that once the ants thought they were in good spot, they were about to be caught. By the end of it all, after they’ve almost been drowned, cooked, and electrocuted, they are ready to head back home. This is showing the readers that sometimes it’s not a good idea to head off on your own or be somewhere you shouldn’t.