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Culture Children's Books

Heads and tails


Sara Pennypacker

Children’s Books

Heads and tails

Animal stories for ages 9-12


Tor Seidler

When Maggie the magpie grows bored with domestic life, she seeks excitement in the wrong places, necessitating a rescue by Blue Boy, an alpha wolf. Allying herself to Blue Boy as a scout, Maggie follows her hero as he acquires a new mate, pack, and family. Once past the notion of animals talking to each other, even across species, readers will find this a realistic adventure that seems true to life in the wild. Nature is red in tooth and claw, but also strangely beautiful; and though the narrative is not “faith-based,” Christian readers may find themselves marveling at God’s care in providing for all His creatures.

The Tale of Rescue

Michael J. Rosen

This novella, lavishly illustrated by Stan Fellows in full color, recounts the terrifying experience of a freak storm on the plains. A small family (mother, father, boy) is caught and lost in a blizzard, losing hope until a cowdog plunges into the snow shelter they’ve hastily constructed. The “tale of rescue” that follows is dramatic and amazing, underscored by spare prose. The story takes a semi-legendary tone: Only the dog is ever named, and all the human characters are simply identified. It’s the dog’s story, and the author uses canine perspective to capture extreme danger and extreme gratitude.

The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs 

Cylin Busby

No one wants Jacob, the runt of Mrs. Tibbs’ latest litter, so Captain Natick takes both mother and son aboard the Melissa Rae when he sets sail for New York. Days out of Liverpool, a furious storm claims Mrs. Tibbs and disables the captain, leaving Jacob to find his way through a mutiny plot. His story is a realistic portrait of 19th-century sailing, where both the mettle and malice of men are tested. Filtering the experience through a cat’s eyes softens the edges for young readers, who will soon be caught up in the adventure, danger, and romance of the sea.


Chris Hill

Lucky doesn’t feel so lucky: As a red squirrel adopted into a family of urban gray squirrels, he’s outsized and outclassed by the larger, hierarchical grays. But his tribe, the Cloudfoots, has a long-standing rivalry with the Northenders across the park, and Lucky’s agility and quick thinking might prove an advantage. Touching lightly on themes like accepting differences and maximizing strengths, this entertaining tale features distinctive characters, including a feisty young fox and a duo of admirable dogs. A light fantasy tone reminiscent of The Cricket in Times Square makes this a fun family read-aloud.


Pax by Sara Pennypacker, author of the Clementine series, has won starred reviews and generous coverage from major news outlets. The title character is a young fox raised by Peter, a 12-year-old boy whose father has just re-enlisted in the military. War is brewing (a domestic conflict, never fully explained), and Dad makes Peter return Pax to the wild. After one night, Peter packs some provisions and goes looking for his beloved fox. Two alternating quest narratives, boy and fox, will converge at the end.

The story includes loving descriptions of nature—with mankind as a blot on the landscape. The war threat looming in the background underscores our potential for damage. You humans. You ruin everything—or so Peter imagines the message in a doe’s accusing eyes. A doe’s perspective is limited, but humans bear the Image: Our capacity for destruction is also capacity for greatness. —J.B.C.