My granddaughter (Alden), my wife and I recently read aloud Dodie Smith’s delightful The 101 Dalmatians (ISBN-13: 978-0-14-034034-1). This is not a 20 or 30 page book with drawings on every page, but rather the original 184 page novel for children that was published in 1956 and turned into a Disney animated movie in 1961. It is an enchanting book that treats animals like fairly smart adults, and adults like they are the animals’ pets. For instance, the two main Dalmatians, Pongo and Missis, take their pets, Mr. and Mrs. Dearly, out for a walk in the evening. Cruella de Vil (notice that her last name spells devil) is really mean and nasty, and she loves to wear fur coats year round because she can never get warm enough (Isn’t that strange?). The action seldom lets up for long, so don’t worry that the kids won’t be able to sit through an hour or so reading of the book. Keep in mind that Cruella is very vocal about what she intends to do to the dogs. I would recommend this book for children who are at least eight years old.
Another book that my granddaughter, my daughter, and I have enjoyed immensely is Unlikely Friendships: 47 Remarkable Stories from the Animal Kingdom by Jennifer S. Holland (ISBN-13: 978-0761159131). Imagine a bond between a dog and an elephant, a gorilla and a kitten, and a seeing-eye cat and a blind dog. These are not simply animals that coexist, but rather cases where animals seem to genuinely feel affection for one another. There are lots of photos as well as the heart-warming stories so that “children of all ages” will be enraptured for hours.