Animal Intelligence

Books for Young Adults (and Adults)


Parry, Rosanne. A Wolf Called Wander. New York: Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2019.
Heart of a Shepherd , about the son of a soldier in Iraq, and Written in Stone , about an indigenous girl during the 1920s, are hauntingly memorable novels by Rosanne Parry: easy to read but hard to forget. A Wolf Called Wander is another remarkable story by this author. This time, the protagonist is a wolf, Swift, who is separated from his pack and forced to find a new home far from his old territory. Based on the true story of a wolf who travelled 1,000 miles throughout the Pacific Northwest, this first person account – told from Swift’s point of view – will appeal to animal lovers and environmentalists 10 to 15 years old. A map and additional information about wolves and other animals of the Pacific Northwest are included at the end of the novel.


Balcombe, Jonathan. Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good. New York: Macmillan, 2006.

This book provides overwhelming evidence that both domesticated and wild animals feel emotions and behave in ways to enhance positive feelings and concludes by addressing the responsibilities of human beings. Recommended for competent readers 14 years old and up.

Balcombe, Jonathan. Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

Filled with page after page of evidence, this book shows that both domesticated and wild animals have complex emotional lives. They are self-aware, sensitive and communicative. What are the implications for human beings? Can we still use animals for experiments? Can we still eat them? This intriguing book for competent readeres 14 years old and up is definitely worth reading.

Balcombe, Jonathan. What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of our Underwater Cousins. New York: Scientific American/Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2016. 

Imagine a little fish in a tank hiding out from a curious house cat. Imagine that cat leaning over to lap up some water. Imagine that little fish shooting up to the surface to bite the cat’s tongue! It happened! Amazing stories fill this 288-page book recommended for competent readers 13 years old and up. (Besides the stories, there is a lot of scientific information. Younger readers may want to skim over that and hunt for the anecdotes.)

Eszterhas, Suzi. Moto and Me: My Year as a Wildcat’s Foster Mom. Toronto: Owlkids Books, 2017. 

Written and illustrated by a wildlife photographer, this enchanting 38-page book about the rehabilitation of a serval is recommended for readers 10 years old and up.

Hatkoff, Amy. The Inner World of Farm Animals: Their Amazing Social, Emotional, and Intellectual CapacitiesNew York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2009.

Heart-warming vignettes tell astonishing stories of chickens and turkeys, cows and goats, pigs and sheep. Any reader aged eleven and up will enjoy this easy-to-read book full of incredible feats and touching relationships. And if you are not already a vegetarian, you are likely to give more thought to the treatment of these animals who far too often are treated merely as raw materials for human consumption.

Dogs on Duty

Hinshaw, Dorothy. Dogs on Duty: Soldiers’ Best friends on the Battlefield and BeyondNew York : Walker & Co., 2012.

An intriguing illustrated book for readers 10 years old and up.

Klukow, Ellen, Mary. Siberian Huskies. Mankato: Amicus, 2020.

I will remember Siberian huskies! Firstly, I will remember that they can have mismatched eyes. Secondly, I will remember that they stay the happiest with people or other dogs. They are social dogs. They love their families. Thirdly, I will remember that they don’t just look like wolves, but they also howl like wolves. Most dogs bark, but instead of barking, huskies howl. Their howls are very loud. And that is the reason they are considered vocal dogs! Fourthly, I will remember that mother huskies can have four to six puppies in a litter. All husky puppies are born with their markings; they learn howling from their mother. Fifthly, I will remember that they are considered to be escape artists. They are good at escaping from almost anywhere. They can be dig under fences. They can jump over fences. They are strong! One cool husky even ate through concrete to escape: what? Sixth – and most importantly – I will remember that in 1925, huskies saved the town of Nome, Alaska. People were dying of diphtheria, a disease that gives people a fever and a sore throat. Sled dogs brought them medicine that no one else could provide; those Siberian huskies saved 10, 000 people: that’s a lot! – Sunmeet in grade 6

Masson, Jeffrey Moussaieff. The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm AnimalsNew York: Ballantine, 2003.

This bestselling author of books about elephants, dogs and cats now addresses the inner lives of pigs, chickens, ducks, sheep and cows, strenuously emphasizing that these creatures do not only operate on instinct but instead have complex emotional lives that are all too often ignored by humans.  Also available as an ebook. Recommended for competent readers 14 years old and up.

Peterson, Dale. The Moral Lives of Animals. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2011.

Like human beings, many animals have a strong sense of morality. Whether by following rules or by showing empathy, many animals have evolved to show moral behaviour in regards to authority, violence, sex, possession, communication, cooperation and kindness. The author maintains that this morality developed as a response to living in groups. Easy to understand and fascinating to read, this almost 300-page book is nevertheless best suited for accomplished readers 15 years old and up.

Thornhill, Jan. The Triumphant Tale of the House Sparrow. Toronto: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2018.
For over 100 years, little brown house sparrows have been at home here in British Columbia. They enjoy living near people, near a steady supply of food. So it is not surprising that over 10,000 years ago, when people started settling down and growing grain in the Middle East, sparrows started settling down, too, making their homes inside human dwellings. As human settlements spread, the house sparrow travelled along until now it can be found almost all around the world.
Jan Thornhill, acclaimed Canadian author and illustrator, tells the story of this lowly bird in a fascinating and exquisite picture book accompanied by a world map, a life cycle chart, a glossary, a list of wild animals that live near people, and a list of related websites. Too detailed to be a read-aloud but highly recommended for curious readers – 11 years old and up – as a book to not only borrow but buy!

Waal, Frans de. The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society.  Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2009.

This well-known biologist explains how both animals and humans are not only capable of kindness but are neurologically wired to have empathy for others. Available as an ebook. Recommended for competent readers 15 years old and up. 

Wohlleben, Peter. The Inner Life of Animals: Love, Grief, and Compassion: Surprising Observations of a Hidden World. Vancouver: Greystone Books/David Suzuki Institute, 2017.

A fascinating account! Masses of information in an easily readable smoothly flowing style. Translated from the German by Jane Billinghurst with a foreword by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and an index.  Highly recommended for competent readers 15 years old and up. 


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