Animals in Literature

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Hey Little Rockabye: A Lullaby for Pet Adoption

Hey Little Rockabye is an illustrated song about welcoming a new pet to your family and ensuring they feel comfortable. Being in a new situation can be intimidating and stressful, and it is not uncommon for young children to find themselves in these types of new situations. Meeting new friends, attending the first day of school, or even moving are all experiences that children go through that require them to have the ability to adapt to new situations and welcome others with kindness and respect.

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.

Hey Little Rockabye is part of the AnimalTales program. Above, is a small selection of the discussion questions and activities that can be found in the Kindergarten Teacher’s Guide. For additional discussion questions and activities request the FREE book-lending program for your class.

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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