Preschoolers love animals and learning all about them! Here are 12 great zoo books to read together to learn about the animals at the zoo. I’ve also included some zoo actvities at the end too. Be sure to watch John Lithgow read his book, Never Play Music Next to the Zoo — this read-aloud is fantastic!
12 Zoo Books:
1. Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann–
It is bedtime at the zoo and the night watchman walks around the zoo, checking on each animal and wishing them a good night. But the watchman is so tired that he doesn’t realize the gorilla has stolen his keys and is letting out all of the animals! One by one, the animals follow the night watchman through the zoo and all they way to his home. Then they creep undetected into the bedroom and settle down for the night. It looks like everyone is going to sleep indoors tonight, until the gorilla wants a bedtime cuddle. Hey, gorillas don’t sleep in beds! Now its back to the zoo for everyone. This sparsely worded book lets preschoolers tell what is happening in the story and is sure to bring on a case of the giggles!
2. What the Ladybug Heard at the Zoo by Julia Donaldson–
In this sequel to the What the Ladybug Heard, the ladybug is visiting the zoo when it overhears two robbers’ plan to kidnap Monkey Joe, They want to use him to steal the Queen’s jewels! Yikes! Ladybug comes up with a plan to foil the bad guys. All of the zoo animals and the Queen’s pups help out and stop the robbers.
3. Ellie by Mike Wu–
We read Ellie by Mike Wu, a story about a sweet elephant who shows that it doesn’t matter what old or how big you are, everyone can help in their own way. All of the animals are worried about losing their home as word spreads that the zoo is closing. Ellie, a baby elephant is worried too, but what can she do? Ellie puts her painting talents to use to help the zoo. Soon people are buying her paintings and the money made goes to keeping the zoo open!
4. Fiona’s Train Ride by Richard Cowdrey–
The animals at the zoo are so excited about the new baby red panda! Fiona and her friends (a sloth, tortoise, cardinal, and skunk) want to visit the baby, but the zoo is a big place and its too far for the tortoise and the sloth to walk. The zoo train passes by giving Fiona a great idea! That night after the zoo closes, Fiona and her friends decide to take the train to see the new baby. Who is going to drive the train? Fiona will! Uh-oh, Fiona is a little too wide to fit though train door (cue the giggles from my son!) and gets stuck. With a little help from her friends, she gets free and is able to take her place as the engineer. All aboard! The animals gather into the train and off they go to see the baby. The cute little baby is sleeping next to its mother, so Fiona and her friends whisper, “hello,” before leaving, careful not to wake the baby.
5. The Underpants Zoo by Brian Sendelbach–
The Underpants Zoo was always a hit with my library preschool storytime group! They would giggle the whole way through and we had to stop reading multiple times so the kids could talk about the pictures (an anteater with ants in its underpants — whaaaaat?!?!?). My son loves this book too and he really enjoys pouring over the silly pictures.
6. 1 Zany Zoo by Lori Degman–
This book is so much fun! Find out what happens at the zoo before all of the people arrive. The excitement and silliness from the rhyming text and the bold, emotive illustrations make this book lots of fun to read. Not only does the reader get to learn the names of animals at the zoo, but we get to count along too! Your preschooler is going to ask to read this one over and over again!
7. King of the Zoo by Erica S. Pearl–
Carlos, a chameleon, is the self proclaimed king of the zoo. Chameleon’s color changing ability is pretty amazing! However, Carlos’ friends point out that other animals at the zoo are amazing too. Just look at how big the elephants are and how well the kangaroos can jump! Everyone has something amazing about them. Carlos is starting to feel blue and wonders if maybe he isn’t so great after all. Just then, a little girl sees Carlos and is so excited because he is her favorite animal at the zoo. That’s right, Carlos is the favorite! He perks right back up and realizes that he doesn’t have to be everyone’s favorite animals to still be amazing.
8. A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Stead —
I love, love, love this book! My son and I have read this several times together and I have shared it at library storytime because it is such a sweet story about the power of kindness. Amos McGee works as a zookeeper, where he befriends an owl, a turtle, an elephant, and a penguin. Each animal has its own special needs, which Amos beautifully takes into account as he interacts with them. When Amos gets sick, his friends return the kindness he gave them, and the animals travel to Amos’ house to take care of him. The soft illustrations are perfect for this gentle story.
9. Bizzy Bear: Zookeeper by Benji Davies–
This interactive board book is so cute! My son has several of the Bizzy Bear books and he loves all of the things to touch and move on every page. These stories are great for young children to become interested in books. In this story, Bizzy Bear is helping out at the zoo. He gets to give the crocodile a bath, help the hippo brush its teeth, and feed the penguins! My son loves penguins and was so excited to see them in this book. He got to turn the wheel and make the penguins and fish swim around. The awesome pictures are accompanied by short rhyming text, making this books an ideal choice for children who can’t sit still too long.
10. Zoogie Boogie Fever!: An Animal Dance Book by Sujean Rim–
What animals do at night after all of the people have left? They have a dance party! Suddenly a disco ball appears and the giraffes spread the word that it is time to dance. Learn about different styles of dance with zoo animal friends. This book is funny, fast paced, rhyming and full of great illustrations. Little readers will love watching each type of animal show off their moves. The animals’ ability to avoid detection from the zookeeper will leave you laughing. The conga line with all of the animals brings the dance party to a fantastic conclusion.
11. Pinky Got Out by Michael Portis–
Pinky, a flamingo at the zoo, sees a girl dressed in pink touring the zoo with her class, and he decides to join in the fun. The girl and her classmates spot Pinky trying to blend in with the other animals. Readers will have fun spotting Pinky too! This books is tons of fun to read; both children and adults will enjoy the humor.
12. Feeding Time at the Zoo by Sherry Shahan–
We borrowed this book from the library and were immediately captured by the great photographs of animals. While we enjoyed the illustrations of animals in our other stories, it was nice to see what they really look like! Read this zoo book together and learn what animals eat.
Thank you for reading zoo books with us! Check your local library for these and great zoo books to read together. To help cover the costs of this site, I joined Amazon’s Affiliate program and I provided affiliate links to the books I listed. If you buy an item through one of my links, I may receive a small commission (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for support. Happy reading!
More Zoo Fun!
Paper Bag Tiger Puppet: using puppets to act out stories is tons of fun! Here is a template to make a tiger puppet out of a paper bag that your preschooler can use to tell their own zoo stories 🙂
Zoo-themed I Spy: how many of each zoo animal can you spy?