Three wonderful nonfiction picture books about dogs and cats and shelter animals

With COVID-19, many families have adopted needy shelter pets. But there are still many, many animals in shelters across the country who are in need of a loving home. These three picture books will not only share why it’s rewarding to rescue a pet but also share how to train your new dog or cat, thanks to National Geographic Kids’ two training books for kids.

“Tails From the Animal Shelter” by Stephanie Shaw and illustrated by Liza Woodruff shares the heartbreaking information that over six million animals a year arrive at animal shelters in the USA. Over three million are dogs, but there are also cats, birds, reptiles, potbellied pigs, and other animals. The book offers the sage advice that if you don’t know what kind of dog you want, let your local rescue help match you to the perfect pooch. The right dog is out there — one that will fit right into your family! Each dog is unique and if you choose by breed alone, you might miss out on a great dog. Cats are great pets, and it’s tragic that over three million of them are left homeless through no fault of their own. Cats are easier to care for than dogs because they don’t need to be walked. They automatically use their litter boxes, and the boxes just need daily cleaning. Cats should be kept inside, where they are safe from cars and predators like coyotes  and owls and even the neighbor’s dog. Some animals are special needs pets. A three-legged dog or a cat in a wheelchair might present some difficulty in finding a home for them, but they will be just as loyal and loving as any animal with more limbs or better working ones.

Potbellied pig, anyone?

Over 200,000 horses need homes every year.

Reptiles, too, often find themselves homeless. Snakes, lizards, bearded dragons, turtles and more make quiet pets. They need food, fresh water and a clean tank. Rabbits and rats, parrots and parakeets, all these abandoned and unwanted animals need a home. There is much information, including how to help if you can’t adopt a pet of your own. The illustrations are eye-catching and sweet. Each animal is infused with character – even the skunk. (Sleeping Bear Press)

“Fetch: A How to Speak Dog Training Guide” by Aubre Andrus and Gary Weitzman is published by National Geographic Kids and is a great example of a book with nonfiction text features. I’m a teacher who will be teaching students about nonfiction text features and plan to use this engaging book to show students what to look for in a nonfiction book as well as tips like how the table of contents is different from the index. The photographs are adorable, the information carefully highlighted with blocks of color; and each chapter is broken up into clearly marked subsections. Kids who love dogs will be fascinated by the wealth of information about training dogs that is encapsulated in this paperback book. There are beginning and advanced tricks and even some problem -solving tips. This is a great starting resource for training any dog.

Similarly, “Pounce: A How to Speak Cat Training Guide” by Tracey West and Gary Weitzman is about how to train cats – usually not as simple a task as training those loyal dogs. Cats like to do what they want, but there are some secrets in getting them to do what you want. Before one begins training a cat, it’s important to be able to read the cat’s body language, and there is a chapter devoted to that.  The first chapter, “Before You Begin,” includes “Reading Your Cat’s Body Language” and “Understanding Natural Behaviors.” I’m pleased that one of the questions the book poses, “Should you let your cat outside?” is answered with a definite NO. There are too many dangers outside including the risk of disease or attack from predators like coyotes and owls. Cats who wander in the streets get run over by cars and even cats who might be used to being outside get lost and killed. It’s not worth the risk. The book suggests walking the cat on a leash and harness after careful training. (Don’t make the mistake I did and just take a cat outside on a leash. My cat freaked out, slipped out of the harness, and was missing for 12 hours. It’s a long story that ended up with the cat arriving on our front door the next morning and us rescuing 2 stray feral kittens, but it’s not something I want to live through again!) Be careful.

All three of these books would make great additions to a child’s library or a classroom or school library. They are the kinds of books that kids will return to over and over, each reading  imparting new information and ideas.

Please note: This review is based on the final copies of these books provided by the publishers, Sleeping Bear Press and National Geographic Kids for review purposes.