Animal adventures for young readers

Animals in books can be protagonists, best friends, imaginary friends, heroes, vulnerable companions and so much more. Here are some of our favourite books for readers aged 8 -12 years that give animal characters the limelight they deserve.


Pawcasso by Remy Lai

Every Saturday, Pawcasso trots into town to buy groceries and undertake other chores for his family. One day, he passes by Jo’s house, where she’s peering out the window, bored and lonely. When Jo sets out to follow him, a group of kids from school mistake her for Pawcasso’s owner and, excited to make new friends, she reluctantly hides the truth. But Jo soon becomes trapped in her own web of lies. Will she risk her new friendships by telling the truth?

This heartwarming and hilarious graphic novel depicts the sweetest friendship between the loneliest girl in class and the coolest canine in town.

For ages 8+.


The Last Bear by Hannah Gold & illustrated by Levi Pinfold

There are no polar bears left on Bear Island. At least, that’s what April’s father tells her when his scientific research takes them to this remote Arctic outpost for six months. But one endless summer night, curious and brave April meets a starving polar bear who is a long way from home. Determined to save him, April begins the most important journey of her life…

Real life issues of climate change, polar ice cap melting and endangered species combine with love, magic, activism and adventure in this heartwarming story about two friends who share a true bond. This gorgeous hardcover book is illustrated sensitively by award-winning illustrator Levi Pinfold.

For ages 8+.


When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

When Korean-American Lily and her family move in with her sick grandmother, a magical tiger straight out of her halmoni’s Korean folktales arrives. The tiger offers Lily a deal - if Lily will open her grandmother’s star jars and return the stories that she stole, the tiger will heal her grandmother. But deals with tigers are never what they seem! With the help of her sister and her new friend Ricky, Lily must find her voice … and the courage to face a tiger.

When You Trap a Tiger won the prestigious 2021 Newbery Medal, and is a gently magical book that explores family, grief, healing and immigration.

For ages 8+.


The Midnight Guardians by Ross Montgomery

When Col’s childhood imaginary friends come to life, he discovers a world where myths and legends are real. Accompanied by his guardians - a six-foot tiger, a badger in a waistcoat and a miniature knight - Col must race to Blitz-bombed London to save his sister Rose. But there are darker forces at work, even than the Nazi bombings. Soon Col is pursued by the terrifying Midwinter King, who feeds off the chaos of war.

This thrilling adventure cleverly combines the real-life history of WWII with mythology and action. Col’s fantastical animal companions - wisecracking Pendlebury the tiger and gourmand badger Mr Noakes - are delightful and worthy Guardians, along with the feisty King of Rogues.

For ages 8+.


Paws by Kate Foster

Everything is changing for 11-year-old Alex and, as an autistic person, change can be terrifying. With the first day of high school only a couple of months away, Alex is sure that having a friend by his side will help. So, he’s devised a plan - impress the kids at school by winning a trophy at the PAWS Dog Show with his trusty sidekick, Kevin the cockapoo. But when a new family moves into his neighbourhood, a fresh opportunity for friendship presents itself, even if it’s not so obvious to Alex at first.

This empathic Australian debut focusses on the challenges of finding friends. Author Kate Foster has drawn on her own parenting experiences and their beloved family dog to create Alex and Kevin’s story.

For ages 9+.


Music for Tigers by Michelle Kadarusman

Shipped from her home in Toronto to spend the summer with her mom’s eccentric Australian relatives, young violinist Louisa is prepared to be resentful. But life at the family’s remote camp in the Tasmanian rainforest is intriguing. There are pig-footed bandicoots, scary spiders, weird noises, a boy named Colin who is an excellent cook and her strange Uncle Ruff. Finally, Louisa learns the truth: Convict Rock is a sanctuary for Tasmanian tigers, established by her great-grandmother Eleanor, and there is one tiger left in the forest.

With mining companies moving in, Louisa must forge connections with Colin, the forest, her musical abilities and - through Eleanor’s journal - with her great-grandmother, to find a way to save the last remaining Tasmanian tiger.

For ages 9+.


Pax by Sara Pennypacker

Pax the fox and ‘his boy’ Peter have been inseparable ever since Peter rescued him as a kit. But one day, the unimaginable happens: Peter’s dad enlists in the military and makes him return the fox to the wild. At his grandfather’s house, three hundred miles away from home, Peter knows he isn’t where he should be – with Pax. He strikes out on his own despite the war rampaging through his country, to be reunited with his fox. Meanwhile Pax, steadfastly waiting for Peter, embarks on adventures and discoveries of his own…

Pax tells the moving story of the extraordinary friendship between a boy and his fox and their epic journey to be reunited. Grab a box of tissues!

For ages 10+.


The Last Wild by Piers Torday

Kester lives in the bleak Spectrum Hall Academy for Challenging Children, in a land that’s distinctly dystopian in nature. A deadly red-eye virus has killed all the animals except pests and the humans have been evacuated to Premium City. But when mute Kester realises he can talk to cockroaches and pigeons, he finds they have great hope invested in him. Kester escapes with his new friends and they embark on a dangerous journey to try and find Kester’s veterinarian father, collecting animals along the way.

A wild and highly inventive adventure, The Last Wild harbours a great love for our furry friends, and warns against environmental destruction and evil corporations.

For ages 10+.

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Remy Lai

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