We read stacks of books about hibernation, migration, and adaptation. Check out our favorites!
Have you seen our Winter Theme Pack yet? It’s over 300 pages of printables, learning centers, book lists, and more for a winter unit in preschool or kindergarten. Many of the activities feature winter animals that hibernate, migrate, or adapt.
Read these books alongside your winter animals unit!
General books about winter animals
Each of these books gives an overview of winter animals – whether they hibernate, migrate, or adapt to their surroundings.
When Winter Comes, by Pearl Neuman
This is a lovely book with beautiful drawings and very simple text on the left side of the page. It helps kids understand the difference between animas that sleep all winter (like the woodchuck) and those who wake up periodically to eat (like the black bear). The book highlights the fox as an example of animals that adapt and the Canada goose as one that migrates. The book covers just a small group of animals, but that’s enough. Recommended!
Over and Under the Snow, by Kate Messner
This is a beautiful book with very good information about winter animals. I only wish it was a little shorter, as its length may test your preschooler’s patience.
Animals in Winter, by Henrietta Bancroft & Richard G. Van Gelder
This is fantastic book that would make an excellent introduction to a winter animals unit. It begins with how things change in winter and then talks about animals who migrate, hibernate, and adapt. The book also has ideas for how kids can help feed hungry winter animals.
Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit, by Il Sung Na
This is a beautiful treasure of a book about how animals spend winter – with stunning illustrations that will have you spellbound. Highly recommended!
Animals in Winter, by Martha E.H. Rustad
This is a gem from Pebble Plus, one of my favorite nonfiction series for early childhood. The book has giant, gorgeous photos and a small amount of text. It’s a lovely overview of animals hibernating, migrating, and adapting in the winter and would be another nice way to begin the unit.
The Big Snow, by Berta and Elmer Hader
I like to read vintage books as often as possible, but I wasn’t sure about this one. It’s long. Even though it won the Caldecott for best pictures in 1948, they aren’t super colorful. But by reading it conversationally and skipping some of it, I was able to keep my Three’s attention.
I wouldn’t make this your first book in a winter animals unit, but it would be a good choice after your child or students have been introduced to the unit and can recognize and name the animals who hibernate, migrate, or adapt.
Winter Lullaby, by Barbara Seuling
I thought by the title of this book that this would be deemed “boring” immediately, but it has stunning paintings with simple questions and rhyming answers on the next page. After you’ve been through this unit a while, your child can guess the answers. “When the snow falls over the freshwater pond, where do the ducks go?” or “When ice covers the mountain lake like a crust, where do the fish go?”
Under the Snow, by Melissa Stewart
Before reading, ask, “What’s under the snow?” Does your child know that animals are underneath? It’s an entire world, both busy and sleeping! After reading the book, talk about what your child learned.
How & Why Animals Prepare for Winter, by Elaine Pascoe
While this is my not my favorite book in this list, it’s a nice little introduction to the three types of winter animals
Gregory’s Shadow, by Don Freeman
Gregory the groundhog is accidentally separated from his shadow. When the two friends finally reunite, Shadow stays carefully hidden behind Gregory – to keep the farmers happy (winter is over!) and so the two are not separated again.
Personally, I found the concept kind of strange and the book rather uninteresting, but my Three and Five enjoyed it.
Hibernation, by Margaret Hall
I love Pebble Plus books. This book is just the perfect introuction to hibernation, explaining why animals hibernate and how it looks different for different animals. If you do a regular hibernation unit, this is one to own. (You can almost never go wrong with Pebble Plus books!)
Hush Up and Hibernate! by Sandra Markle
Winter is coming, but Baby Bear has a million reasons not to go to sleep. “I’m hungry.” “I’m thirsty.” “This bed is too hard.” I love how this beautifully illustrated book about a mother bear and her cub rings very close to home! My toddler and preschooler asked for this one again and again.
Sleep, Big Bear, Sleep, by Maureen Wright
This is a funny book about a bear who’s ready to hibernate. Old Man Winter lets him know it’s time for slumber. “Sleep, Big Bear, Sleep.” But Big Bear is hard of hearing, and it’s hilarious what ensues. Is Old Man Winter saying “Drive a jeep, Big Bear, drive a jeep?” Or maybe it’s “Dive deep, Big Bear, Dive deep.” A must read!
Sleepover with Beatrice and Bear, by Monica Carnesi
This is a darling book about two best friends, a bear and a bunny. They play together all year, until it’s time for Bear to hibernate. Bunny doesn’t want to be left behind, so she packs her suitcase. But she can’t sleep. Instead, she leaves the cave and photographs all the winter fun she has for Bear to see in spring. We love the pictures!
Don’t Wake Up the Bear, by Marjorie Dennis Murray
In this book, animals come upon a sleeping bear in a cave and snuggle beside him because they are so cold. Each animal warns… “Don’t wake up the bear!” In the end, the mouse sneezes, waking up the bear. The animals run away when the bear growls, but as it turns out he’s just looking for berries to eat. The book has great illustrations, but the story itself was quite repetitive and rather uninteresting.
Wake Me in Spring, by James Preller
This is a cute easy reader about two friends, Mouse and Bear. Mouse is unhappy because Bear will miss all the fun of winter, and he will miss his friend. Bear assures his friend that he will miss him too.
A Bed for Bear, by Clive McFarland
Bernard the Bear needs a new place to sleep for the winter, as the bear cave is too noisy, too big, and too crowded. He visits many different animals, but none of their homes works for him. Finally a mouse leads him back to the cave, which turns out to be the perfect winter bed after all. This is an entertaining read with unique, memorable illustrations.
Bear Has a Story To Tell, by Philip C. Stead
This is a wonderful story with beautiful illustrations to match. Bear is getting sleepy and wants to tell a story to his animal friends. But they’re all too busy. Mouse is storing food, Duck is flying south, and Frog and Mole are finding warm places to sleep.
After the long winter, Bear can’t wait to tell his story. Ever thoughtful and patient, however, he finds an acorn for hungry Mouse, a puddle for the returning Duck, and patiently waits for Frog and Mole to wake up. But by this time he’s forgotten his story! This is such a tender, precious book and definitely one you should find!
Sleepy Bear, by Lydia Dabcovich
This very simple book would make a nice introduction to a hibernation unit. It has just one short sentence per page. “It’s getting cold. Leaves are falling. Birds are leaving. And bear is sleepy…”
Bedtime for Bear, by Brett Helquist
Tired bear wants to hibernate, but his friends the racooons want him to join them in the snow. Finally Bear relents and leaves his warm bed. It turns out that he has fun rolling and playing in the snow, building a snowman, and having a snowball fight. Then he returns to bed to begin his winter sleep. Cute story!
Why do Bears Sleep All Winter? by Mary Engler
I’m a fan of the First Facts books, and this is another good one. It explains how different animals hibernate for shorter or longer periods of time. The book has a lot of interesting information, like the fact that snakes coil around each other to keep from freezing. And did you know that wood frogs freeze mostly solid while building up a special sugar in their bodies to keep their organs from freezing?
How Do Birds Find Their Way? by Roma Gans
This is from another great series called Let’s Read and Find Out Science. It’s a long book, but my Three stayed interested as we learned about different theories that explain how birds know how, when, and where to migrate. It was very interesting to learn how far some birds go on their yearly journeys. (Arctic terns fly 10,000 miles from Northern Maine to the South Pole!).
A Bed for the Winter, by Karen Wallace
Despite the cover, this book is about a dormouse who is looking for a place to hibernate. As she hunts for a place, she moves past other animals settling down for their winter sleep — a queen wasp, a toad, a bear, a cave of bats, plus animals adapting for winter. This is nice story, if you don’t mind the photo of the mouse creeping across each page. (Shiver.)
Sleep Tight, Little Bear, by Britta Teckentrup
Little Bear says good night to all the other animals before settling down for his winter sleep. The book has cute illustrations, but the story didn’t grab us. It was a little too cutesy for me; we only needed to read it once.
Old Bear, by Kevin Henkes
This is a very simple board book about a bear dreaming during his hibernation sleep.
Good Night, Baby Bear, by Frank Asch
In this book, Baby Bear can’t sleep and wants all kinds of things. When he asks for the moon, his exasperated mother rolls in a snowball with moonlight shining on it. My Three really liked this book, but it bored me. I sure felt Mother Bear’s frustration, though!
TIme to Sleep, by Denise Fleming
Usually I don’t enjoy Fleming’s illustrations because her style is too indistinct for me. But I actually like this book because it covers so many hibernating animals. Make it a game- can your child spot the cut paper animals?
Hibernation Station, by Michelle, Meadows
This is an adorable book because all the animals are dressed in pajamas as they climb aboard a train at the hibernation station. If you choose to read this, it would be important to preface it with an explanation that this is a silly book about animals who are going to hibernate. I would not make it the first book you read in the unit, as it would likely confuse young children. That said, it’s worth a read just for the pictures.
The Bear’s Winter House, by John Yoeman
This is a sweet book about a thoughtful bear who designs and builds a warm winter home. The other animals tease, but quickly find their way to his home when the winter weather is too cold. As it turns out, they are noisy house guests and the poor bear hardly gets a wink of sleep. When he relocates, he finally catches up on his winter sleep.
Bear Snores On, by Karma Wilson
This and the other books in the series are made even better by Jane Chapman’s endearing illustrations. In the first book, many animals and birds get out of the cold and into Bear’s warm cave. As they brew tea and pop corn, Bear snores on. When he wakes up to find his friends having fun without him, Bear is distraught: “You’ve snuck in my lair, and you’ve all had fun. But me? I was sleeping… and I have had none!”
Not a Buzz to be Found: Insects in Winter, by Linda Glaser
This book is a really interesting look at where insects go during the winter… ladybugs huddle, monarch butterflies migrate, the mourning cloak butterfly hides under the bark of a tree, etc.
Animal Hibernation, by Jeanie Mebane
I love the First Facts Heinemann books. My Three didn’t get into this one, but let’s be fair – he’d heard a gazillion books about hibernation by this point and was more than ready for a new theme. 🙂 The book has great photographs, information, and vocabulary (such as estivate, burrow, and frostline).
Sleep, Black Bear, Sleep, by Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple
This is a great little book of poems about hibernating animals. I love how it teaches about a large variety of hibernating animals in the form of a lullaby. I do think it out of place that the animals wear clothes and sleep in beds. I’d have preferred more realistic illustrations to go with the factual information.
Read these books to teach your child or students about land, sea, and air migration.
Gotta Go! Gotta Go! by Sam Swope
This is a fun book about a caterpillar who knows she’s “gotta go to Mexico.” None of the insects she meets can tell her how to get there, but she knows it’s where she needs to go. When she changes into a beautiful monarch, she flies a long and dangerous journey until she meets millions of butterflies just like her. This is a great book for talking about animal instinct.
Going Home The Mystery of Animal Migration, by Marianne Berkes
This is a good one to read after reading many simpler books, as the poetry and imagery could be boring for children unfamiliar with the topic. Have your child identify the animal in each picture before you read about it. Unlike the other books in this list, this one focuses on animals returning home after a winter migration.
Except for the fact that people are called “animals” on the first page, I like this little book. It’s a very basic overview of animal migration with specific animals like the arctic tern, albatross, caribou, elk, and more.
Why Do Geese Fly South in Winter?: A Book about Migration, by Kathy Allen
Why do animals migrate? Which ones hibernate instead? How do animals know when to leave? How long does their journey take? This book answers all these questions and more. There’s also a nice list of references for more information in the back of the book.
Following Papa’s Song, by Gianna Marino
I love this simple book about a father and son humpback whale beginning their migration. Little Whale has many questions about the journey. How will they know the way to go? What will they find there? The story is beautifully simple, and the illustrations are striking.
The Long, Long Journey, by Sandra Markle
Have you ever heard of the godwit? This book tells the story of a godwit’s journey from Alaska to New Zealand. The story begins when the baby bird hatches, tells how of how she escapes predators, and how she makes the 7000 mile journey with her family. The watercolor and paper collage illustrations are lovely.
I was surprised that both my son and I enjoyed this book, as many of the books about migration I found were too long to attempt with a 3-year-old (they didn’t make it on this list!). Somehow the author managed to tell a very long story and keep our interest on every page.
Manatee Winter, by Kathleen Wiedner Zoehfeld
This is a nice story, telling about Mother and Little Calf making their migration to spring waters amid the danger of boats, weeds, and just the race against time. I held off on reading it because I wasn’t sure it would keep my Three’s attention. When I finally pulled it out, we talked a lot as we read. “Doesn’t the manatee have a funny face? What do you think the loud noise is? Uh-oh, the baby manatee is lost!” etc.
The Journey of a Swallow, by Carolyn Scrace
The first time I attempted this one my Three resisted. “It’s too long.” We tried again another day. I only read the large print, but children who are interested may also like the additional details in the small print. I’ve never been very interested in birds, but it’s truly fascinating learning the details of their long migrations. We liked the map at the end of the book, showing the migration routes of swallows all over the world.
Is This Panama? A Migration Story, by Jan Thornhill
This is another book that I waited a while to read. I wasn’t sure my Three would sit for it. But it turned out to be a lovely story about a little Wilson’s warbler named Sammy. Sammy missed the migration and now must travel to Panama alone. Along the way, Sammy learns a lot about the migration and winter behavior of other animals. This is worth reading, but choose a time when your listeners are at their best.
These two books focus mainly on animals who adapt to the winter weather.
When It Starts to Snow, by Phillis Gershator
This is the perfect book to introduce a discussion about adaptation. It talks about how animals store up food, wear a new white coat, etc. It does touch briefly on hibernation and migration, but adaptation is the main focus. I love the pictures and the simple text!
In the Snow: Who’s Been Here? by Lindsay Barrett George
This is a really fun book about winter animals. Kids are on a winter walk and see clues by trees. Which animal was there? We guessed and learned the answer by turning the page.
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Love this list! I hope you’ll sample A WARM WINTER TAIL (published by Sylvan Dell/Arbordale, illustrated by Christina Wald) as a possible addition for a future update. Here’s the blurb: Do you ever wonder how animals stay warm in the winter or cool in the summer? They wonder how humans do too! In a twist of perspective, wild creatures question if humans use the same adaptation strategies they do. Educational backmatter enhances and extends the story and provides another springboard to inquiry. True information is delivered through the fictional voices of a variety of young animals.
Available in e-book, hardcover, paperback, and in Spanish all formats.
Thank you for your good work on behalf of children’s literacy, Tirzah.
Carrie A. Pearson
oops I meant to type ANNA (not Tirzah) but got distracted by Tirzah’s unique name! 🙂
Heather Groth, Customer Support
Thank you for the suggestion, Carrie! Anna has reserved it at the library and will add it to the list if she feels like it’s a good fit!
Thank you for this list! So many of my book ideas for teaching come from you.
Any books with real photos for adaptation you know about?
Hmm… if I’d discovered them when making this list I would have included them, but you can check out Pebble Books and Rookie Read about Science. Those are some great nonfiction series for kids with real photos. Maybe they’ve published something recently. 🙂
Thank you SO much for this book list. Not many are as detailed as this one is, this is exactly what I needed!
We’re so glad this was helpful, Olivia! :))
Completely loved this post – it was exactly what I was looking for!! Loved how you broke down the focus of each group of books but especially your descriptions of each and the fact that you’ve clearly actually read every one with your kids and have an honest opinion of how effective/engaging each one is. Thank you for this resource!!
This comment made my day, Tirzah! It does take a long time to make these book lists, so I really appreciate your feedback! 🙂