Animals in Literature

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Hey Little Rockabye: A Lullaby for Pet Adoption

In this picture book that celebrates pet adoption, a puppy is looking for a new home. Will the girl who finds him convince her parents to let her keep the little dog? Buffy Sainte-Marie advocates “putting the songs to work” and, like her other lyrics, Hey Little Rockabye conveys an important message about finding love and acceptance.

Why use this book?

  • Highlights the strong connection and relationships people have with animals, known as the human-animal bond.
  • A great introduction to adopting animals from an animal shelter.
  • Builds empathy and compassion towards others in new situations.

Animal Welfare Concerns:

  • The illustrations show people hugging dogs. While this is a common portrayal in many picture books, most dogs (even your family pet) are probably not comfortable being hugged. When dogs feel uncomfortable or restrained there a potential for them to bite.

Ask Your Students:

  • Where do families get their pets from? Animal shelters, animal sheltering organizations, pet stores, breeders.
  • What is an animal shelter? Where is the closest animal shelter to where you live? (List of Alberta SPCAs and Humane Societies)
  • What are some good reasons to adopt a pet from an animal shelter? Pet overpopulation, the animal will come spayed/neutered, giving an animal a new home, etc.


  • Buffy Sainte-Marie always sings this song to any animal she brings home. As a class, watch Buffy Sainte-Marie sing Hey Little Rockabye. Ask your students:
    • Why do you think Buffy Sainte-Marie sings this song to the animals she brings home? The animal is in a brand new environment so they may be nervous/scared. This helps comfort the animal and establishes a bond with the animal.
    • Why it is important to make sure a new pet feels safe?
    • Have you ever been in a new situation where you were nervous? First day of school, joining a new group of friends, etc.
    • What did others do to make you feel comfortable? Saying hello, ask if you need anything, show you around, etc.
  • It is natural to feel nervous being in a new environment/situation. As a class, brainstorm a list of what students can do to help a new student feel welcome in your class. Make a list to hang on your wall.

Additional Resources Related to Book:

  • For additional information on dog safety (reading dog body language, safely greeting a dog, etc.) visit The Family Dog website
  • Watch this Alberta SPCA video that answers the question ‘Do dogs like hugs?’.



Buffy Sainte-Marie, 2020


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