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Rachel’s Reads – April 2023

“An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.” – Martin Buber


Children’s books can be filled with lessons about morals, confidence, bravery, friendship, and so much more. They open up new worlds or explain parts of the world around us. They teach us about perspectives and imagination, all while surrounding us with beautiful imagery. Here are just a few of my favorites which all center around animals. 

Ayobami and the Names of the Animals by Pilar López Ávila, illustrated by Mar Azabal
Somehow both mythic and realistic, this story centers around the power of language to defend and empower us. Ayobami wants to attend school, but she has to travel through a dangerous jungle to get there. Armed with only a piece of paper and a pencil, she perseveres on her journey for education. 

Once Upon A Northern Night by Jean E. Pendziwol, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
A gorgeous lullaby in book form, this story captures the feel of a northern, rural winter night, including many animals. From rabbits and foxes to owls and deer, the cast of characters makes the poetic prose sing. 

Being A Dog: A Tail of Mindfulness by Maria Gianferrari, illustrated by Pete Oswald
This introduction to mindfulness has the reader join a young child and their dog as they experience every minute of the day to its fullest. It’s a wonderful guide told through the eyes of a canine that includes prompts for a sense-engaging mindfulness walk and a guided breathing exercise. 

Pandamonia by Chris Owen, illustrated by Chris Nixon
A grumpy panda sets off some wild partying amongst his neighbors at the zoo in this noisy and fun read. The illustrations look like fantastic woodcuts and the rhyming prose has great vocabulary words for kids. 

The Thing About Bees: A Love Letter by Shabazz Larkin
A lyrical ode to bees that shows young readers what bees provide us and how humans often fear things they don’t understand. It is both beautifully illustrated and incredibly informative. 

Sparky! by Jenny Offill, illustrated by Chris Appelhans
Thoroughly charming and witty, the narrator heads to the library when told that she can adopt a pet that doesn’t need to be walked, bathed, or fed. Enter Sparky the Sloth who brings along adventures and friendship. 

Alfie by Thyra Heder
This story about friendship and caring centers around the search for the perfect birthday present, and the pet turtle is the one doing the searching! The art is stunning while it starts off from seven-year-old Nia’s perspective, Alfie the turtle is the narrator for the second half of the story. 

Zoe and the Fawn by Catherine Jameson, illustrated by Julie Flett
Coming from Canada, when Zoe and her father find a fawn wandering all by itself in the forest, they help to search for the mother. As Zoe and her father search, Zoe encounters other other animals and learns their Okanagan names. They add an interesting education to the story but don’t take away from its flow, while the illustrations are tender and warm.

Happy Reading!


Rachel became the publisher of The Independent in March of 2017 and then married her husband Jake in May. Their goldendoodle Einstein joined the family in 2019. Rachel is an avid reader and loves to share book recommendations. (Don’t miss her column, Rachel’s Reads in the Magazine!) She can always be found with a book nearby, especially while traveling (another of her favorite things).

Bailey Pianalto Photography



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