Teacher holding book in classroom

Recommended Books with Humane Themes

Animal-themed books to promote empathy for people and animals

Empathy through Literature

RedRover maintains lists of children's books that highlight the human-animal bond, depict accurate animal body-language, and promote empathy for animals and people.

Want to recommend a humane-themed book? RedRover is always on the lookout for humane-themed books to add to our list. We are especially looking for books which highlight the human-animal bond, display accurate animal behavior, are beautifully illustrated, and do not overtly tell a message (the story invites the reader to discover the message instead). Book suggestions can be emailed to Readers@RedRover.org.

RedRover Readers
Program Books

Books about

Books about

Books about
Other Animals

Books about
Pet Loss

Books about

Books about Animal Behavior

Suggest a

Below is the list of books that are used in the RedRover Readers program. RedRover Readers has developed CASEL- and Common Core-aligned curriculum around these titles, provided after taking a RedRover Readers workshop.

Click here to download a list of the books in the RedRover Readers program.

PLEASE NOTE: RedRover Readers only maintains curriculum (Teaching Guides) for the books listed above.

Download a PDF version of the following list: RedRover's Recommended Books Humane Themes

Books about Dogs

A Home for Dixie

Written by Emma Jackson | Full-color photographs by Bob Carey
Recommended for ages 4 to 8

Written by a high school student who adopted a puppy named Dixie, the story follows Dixie from when she was found as a puppy, to a rescue group and finally into her forever home. Discusses how rescues work, the needs of puppies and how to adopt your own dog. Beautiful photographs accompany a simple and heartfelt story.

A Kid’s Best Friend

Written by Maya Ajmera and Alex Fisher
Recommended for ages 2 and up

Dogs, just like children, come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors. Beautiful photographs of children and dogs from all over the world fill this book. Pictures of children caring for and interacting with dogs abound. Conversations about the diversity of humans and different breeds of dogs are sure to arise while reading this book.

A Very Unusual Dog

Written by Dorothy Joan Harris | Illustrated by Kim LaFave
Recommended for ages 6 and up

Jonathan's dog is imaginary, but he still takes good care of him, providing food, walks, affection, and a comfortable place to sleep. Jonathan’s grandmother shows him a photo of a cat she once loved and tells him her current apartment does not allow pets. To ease her loneliness, Jonathan gives “Dog” to her and tells her how to care for him. The story shows the power of love and memory, and how animals – even imaginary ones – can provide companionship. Themes of companionship and responsible pet ownership are explored.

A Day, a Dog

Written by Gabrielle Vincent
Recommended for ages 7 and up

In remarkable black-and-white pencil drawings, the artist shows us a dog being heedlessly thrown out of a car, chasing after it fruitlessly and unwittingly causing a major highway accident. Reviewers have described it as "a powerful documentary in picture-book form" and "a passionate condemnation of cruelty to animals and a work of art that shouldn't be missed." Themes of abandonment and animal cruelty are depicted.

Beautiful Joe a Dog’s Own Story

Written by Marshall Saunders
Recommended for ages 9 and up

This is a sweet story of a dog who has his tail and ears cut off by a dog abuser but ends up in a wonderful and loving home with a family who takes great care of him. The beginning of this book is quite violent and could frighten young readers, but the story does have a happy ending. This book highlights the treatment of animals and the power of a loving family.

Because of Winn-Dixie

Written by Kate DiCamillo
Recommended for ages 9 and up

Rescuing an animal can be an act of heroism, and so much more. This 2001 Newbery Honor book is a story about a young girl, Opal, who is lonely until the day a dog wrecks a grocery store and Opal decides to adopt him as her own. Through the dog, who she names after the grocery store, Winn-Dixie, Opal discovers that everyone has a story and that by telling those stories, we learn from one another.

Before You Were Mine

Written by Maribeth Boelts | Illustrated by David Walker
Recommended for ages 3 and up

This is a gentle story of a young boy who wonders what his loving dog’s life was like before he was adopted from a shelter. Colorful illustrations bring this book to life. Themes of kindness, animal adoption, curiosity, and friendship are depicted.

Belle's Star

Written by Connie Gotsch | Illustrated by John Cogan
Recommended for ages 7 and up

Told from a dog named Belle’s perspective, this chapter book is about a young dog who is mistreated by her first owners and finds herself in a loving home with people who understand and care for animals. Find out how Belle learns to trust new people and even saves a little girl because of the bond between them. This book offers young readers a glimpse of what dogs might be feeling and thinking in various situations. Themes of animal cruelty, abuse, abandonment, trust, and friendship are explored. Belle’s Star has been nominated for a New Mexico Book Award.

Buddy Unchained

Written by Daisy Bix | Illustrated by Joe Hyatt
Recommended for ages 6 and up

Happy in a new home, Buddy tells the story of his former life of neglect, abuse, and finally, rescue, to live a good life with a family that cares about him. Information is included for parents and other adults about resources they can readily contact when they encounter a dog being abused. Themes of animal abuse and neglect and responsible pet ownership are depicted. Part of the RedRover Readers program. (Listen to an audio clip of a volunteer reading this story or read the transcript.)