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The books below tell true stories of animal friendships, loyalty, and adventures. They will inspire and motivate even the most reluctant reader.
Many of these books are written by the person who got to experience the inspiring animal stories in real life, not someone who set out to be a children's book author. Perhaps this can inspire your students to become writers, telling stories about their own pets!
Animal Books for Upper Elementary Students
This is the sweet (and true) story of the friendship between a baby hippo and an old tortoise. Owen, the hippo, was stranded after a tsunami and was then "adopted" by a 130 year old giant turtle named Mzee. The book includes real photographs of the unlikely friends together.
The Reading is Fundamental website has some fun activities to supplement this book.
This is another sweet book about unlikely animal friends. It is written by Carol Buckley, one of the co-founders of an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee. Carol observed a unique friendship between Tarra, a retired circus elephant, and Bella, a stray dog on the sanctuary.
The story is sweet and at times unbelievable, but the photographs provide plenty of evidence that these two animals really were great friends.
This book tells the stories of over 20 real life service dogs. The dogs in this book have a range of experiences. Some are war dogs, some are police dogs, some are rescue dogs, some are tracker dogs, and more. The stories tell of the heroic ways real dogs help serve and protect humans, and the special bonds many humans have with their service dogs. There is information given about different dog breeds and the characteristics that make them extra special.
This book tells the true story of the bear that inspired A. A. Milne to create the character Winnie-the-Pooh. This is written by the great-great-granddaughter of Harry Colebourn, the Canadian soldier that rescued a small black bear at a train depot. The story tells of the friendship between Colebourn and the bear he names Winnie, the journey Winnie takes from Canada to England, and how Winnie ends up in the London Zoo and meets a boy named Christopher Robin.
Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh tells the same true story but is written by a different author.
This book tells the heartwarming story of an Iraqi mutt that meets Marine Major Brian Dennis, one of the authors of this book. Brian and the dog form an instant bond, and Brian and some other marines give attention and care to the malnourished dog. When the Marines are relocated to a base 70 miles away, Brian thinks he will never see the dog that he affectionally called Nubs again. But Nubs incredibly makes a long journey across the desert to find Major Brian. Since the Marines are not allowed to keep pets, Brian raises funds to help him keep Nubs.
This true story is written by Dr. Francine Patterson, best known for teaching a gorilla named Koko how to communicate using sign language. Through sign language, Koko asked Dr. Patterson for a kitten. The story shows the bond between Koko and the kitten, named All Ball, and the grief Koko feels when All Ball is tragically killed. The photographs throughout the story of Koko and the kitten All Ball really help enhance the story.
This tells the story of two explorers - Richard Byrd, who claimed to be the first man to fly over both the North and South poles, and his dog Igloo, the first dog to travel to both the North and the South pole.
While this reads like a narrative and includes some speculation, the many primary resources and historical facts included make it a nonfiction book.
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