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A Menagerie of Books: 9 Reads for Animal Lovers

Sarah Jane Abbott is an associate editor for Paula Wiseman Books and Beach Lane Books, imprints of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.  She grew up having NANCY DREW books read to her by her father, and is now an avid reader of mystery, thriller, and horror, along with everything from literary fiction to poetry to personal essays.  She graduated from Bucknell University with a degree in English and a concentration in creative writing.  Sarah Jane is an advocate of quasi-destructive book love—her best-loved volumes are highlighted, scribbled in, dog-eared, and wavy from being dropped in the bath tub.  

I’m always drawn to a book with an animal in the title. . . . Is the book about the animal or the people who work with it? Or, just as interesting, what is the animal meant to symbolize?: What does a wolf have to do with a coming-of-age story, or an octopus with a tale about a man and his dog? For all the animal lovers out there, here is a menagerie of animal-titled books.


The Trouble with Goats and Sheep
by Joanna Cannon

Part coming-of-age story; part mystery, this quirky and charming novel tells of two ten-year-olds, Grace and Tilly, who take it upon themselves to investigate the disappearance of their neighbor Mrs. Creasy. As they do door to door around their cul-de-sac, the amateur detectives uncover more than they bargained for.

Read the full review of THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP.

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The Trouble with Goats and Sheep
Joanna Cannon

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The Bear and the Nightingale
by Katherine Arden

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, Vasilisa has grown up listening to her nurse’s chilling tales of demons and her admonitions to honor the benevolent spirits who protect their home from evil. But when Vasilia’s mother dies and her father remarries a woman who forbids the family from honoring household spirits, terrible things start to happen and Vasilia must call on dangerous gifts she has long hidden in order to protect her family.

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The Bear and the Nightingale
Katherine Arden

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Ape House
by Sara Gruen

From the author of WATER FOR ELEPHANTS is the story of Isabel Duncan, a scientist at the Great Ape Language Lab who works with six bonono apes that are incredibly intelligent and know American Sign Language. After her lab is destroyed by an explosion that injures Isabel and “frees” the apes, the animals become the subjects of an exploitive reality TV show, and Isabel must find a way to rescue them.

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Ape House
Sara Gruen

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MENTIONED IN:

A Menagerie of Books: 9 Reads for Animal Lovers

By Sarah Jane Abbott | April 22, 2019

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The White Tiger
by Aravind Adiga

Balram Halwai is a complicated man. Servant. Philosopher. Entrepreneur. Murderer. Over the course of seven nights Balram tells the terrible and transfixing story of how he went from a poor village boy to becoming a driver for a wealthy and powerful man, entering a new world in which he seeks success in life with nothing but his own wits to help him along.

Read the full review of THE WHITE TIGER.

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The White Tiger
Aravind Adiga

A stunning literary debut critics have likened to Richard Wright’s Native Son, The White Tiger follows a darkly comic Bangalore driver through the poverty and corruption of modern India’s caste society.

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Rabbit Cake
by Annie Hartnett

Twelve-year-old Elvis Babbitt knows a lot of things, like how much a healthy male giraffe weighs and that the naked mole rat is the longest living rodent. But there are a lot of things Elvis doesn’t know, like how to grieve for her mother, who drowned while sleepwalking, and how to help her father and sister deal with the loss. By turns heartbreaking and humorous, this is a poignant exploration of grief and family ties.

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Rabbit Cake
Annie Hartnett

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MENTIONED IN:

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History of Wolves
by Emily Fridlund

Fourteen-year-old Madeline lives in a nearly abandoned commune in the northern Minnesota woods. Isolated at home and school, she is drawn to the enigmatic, attractive Lily and her new history teacher, Mr. Grierson, who has a dark secret. Then Madeline is hired by her new neighbors to babysit their little boy. Soon she is drawn into secrets she doesn’t understand and makes a set of decisions that will change her life.

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History of Wolves
Emily Fridlund

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MENTIONED IN:

A Menagerie of Books: 9 Reads for Animal Lovers

By Sarah Jane Abbott | April 22, 2019

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Lily and the Octopus
by Steven Rowley

Ted, a single, gay, struggling writer, is unable to open himself up to anyone except his beloved twelve-year-old dachshund, Lily. When her health is in danger, he will do anything to save her. This poignent, humorous, and heart-wrenching debut novel explores the special, magical bond Ted has with Lily and how difficult it is to let the ones we love go.

Read the full review of LILY AND THE OCTOPUS.

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Lily and the Octopus
Steven Rowley

Ted and his elderly dachshund are at the center of this story of steadfast companionship, loss, and longing that will break your heart and put it back together again. The two share a comfortable life spent chatting about boys, playing board games, and ordering pizza just so Lily can bark at the delivery boy. But then the Octopus arrives and their simple little world begins to change. By turns hilarious and poignant, LILY AND THE OCTOPUS is a book you’ll never stop talking (and crying) about.

Read the full review of LILY AND THE OCTOPUS.

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MENTIONED IN:

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The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane
by Lisa See

Li-yan grows up in a remote Chinese village, where life is dictated by strict customs and traditions. But after an encounter with a stranger from the outside world, Li-yan begins to reject the rules that have shaped her life. When she has a baby out of wedlock, Li-yan abandons her in the nearest city. The daughter is adopted and raised by an American couple. Years later, they each begin a search for the other.

Read the full review of THE TEA GIRL OF HUMMINGBIRD LANE.

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The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane
Lisa See

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The Shark Club
by Ann Kidd Taylor

One summer day on a Florida beach, young Maeve Donnelly is kissed by Daniel, the boy of her dreams—then she is bitten by a blacktip shark. Years later, Maeve has become a globe-trotting marine biologist specializing in sharks. When she returns to her hometown, she is torn between rekindling her romance with Daniel or pursuing a relationship with her colleague Nicholas, who is in town investigating illegal shark finning.

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The Shark Club
Ann Kidd Taylor

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MENTIONED IN:

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