The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle, by Hugh Lofting
Yes, I have to admit, I gave "The Story of Mankind" a pass. I tried. I really did. I'll go back and try again some day.
Moving on ...
Having seen the 1967 Rex Harrison version of Doctor Doolittle many times over the years, the book was a great delight, filling out more of the details of a well-loved childhood memory.
It's a very quick read, with short chapters, so ideal for reading with a small child. The story moves along quickly, and is told in a conversations "story telling" style. It tells of the famous Doctor Doolittle, the "nacheralist" who can speak to the animals. He travels around the world on The Curlew, meeting various animals and learning their languages.
Highly recommended, both for a casual fun read, as well as for reading to your kids.
By the way, due to the age of the book, you can obtain it online a number of places for free, including Page By Page Books.