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16 December 2008


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Most everything on the list is something I'd put on my own list of favorite animal books.

I'd also include Helen Griffiths' Just a Dog. I think I got it from Scholastic, when I was in 4th or 5th grade. It ends well, but it made me cry my eyes out. I re-read it a few years ago, and it stood up well (still made me weepy, though!).

Terri Alice

I had read many of the listed books as a child, but the one that touched me most was Beautiful Joe. I had no idea then that it was a true story, nor that it was written in the 19th century. There was something in that telling that embedded in my heart for life. At 66, I still get tears remembering.

Gina Spadafori

Another vote for "Plague Dogs" ("Watership Down," too.)


On the horsey side --

Justin Morgan Had a Horse

Misty of Chincoteague

(OK, all of the Marguerite Henry books)

My Friend Flicka

Black Beauty

On the doggy side --

The Plague Dogs (older kids only)

Where the Red Fern Grows

..all the Lassie Books

.. so many wonderful old books, but I do wonder if 'modern sensibilities' would permit children to read books where so many traumatic things happen.

Gina Spadafori

You may laugh -- and you likely should -- but when I was 10 or so I loved this book called "Tecwyn, Last of the Welsh Dragons."

It was about a baby dragon who needed to eat coal to keep his fire alive (and keep himself alive), but when as a big dragon he eats all the coal, he gets a bar of uranium from the nuclear plant. Nuclear power saves the day!

Kinda funny, in retrospect. Nuclear power: In. Out. And maybe in, again.

I wonder how many other children's books would raise an eyebrow today. When Christie was working on this piece, she mentioned Albert Payson Terhune ("Lad: A Dog," etc.). She knows I collect first edition Terhunes.

She didn't know that in his books the bad guys are always immigrants: Poles, Irish and Italians. And the bad dogs are always mixed-breeds, "curs" in the Terhune book.

Hmmmmm ... times change. Or do they?


Where the Red Fern Grows is the one that stands out in my memory the most. I couldn't get over that book for a week after I read it in elementary school.

Christie Keith

I considered Watership Down, but although it's ostensibly "about" animals, I don't think it is. Of course, that's true of many books, but the ones I chose for the list work on both levels, but this one doesn't seem to "work" as an animal book at all.

I could be wrong. I admit I never even got through it once. Like I said, it was a personal list more than a comprehensive one. I left off "The Red Pony," too, mostly because I HATE THAT BOOK WITH A BURNING PASSION and wish I'd never even heard of it, let alone read it. I'm the world's biggest wimp.


Arg! With you on "The Red Pony", Christie! I still remember the scene with the vultures and I read it...more than twenty five years ago.

They also had us read some horrible short story in intermediate school about kids who killed a kitten (with graphic descriptions). Oh God, those school collections were TRAUMATIZING. I was the sort of kid who would read the stories just because they were there, but when this one was assigned, I was done reading the collections "for fun". Bastards.


Oh, and I have another one, only in the Sci-Fi genre: Andre Norton's Iron Cage. I read it when I was about 9yo, and was hugely influenced by it. I just re-read it last summer, and it's still an awfully good book.


I read a book called Hurry Home Candy when I was young and can still remember the name almost 40 years later. An abandoned dog makes his way through the scary world. Well off to Amazon to buy it again. I also loved Hold the Rein free - horse book by Judy Van der Veer.

How about Old Cat by Barbara Libby. Its supposed to be a kids picture book but I believe is more for adults. The cover is worth the price. Always makes me cry.


I would also include Robert Lawson's Rabbit Hill, which won the 1944 Newberry medal. And make that three votes for The Plague Dogs.


Of course Where the Red Fern Grows, as well as all the Margeurite Henry and Walter Farley books.

I loved Cages- a book about a girl who works in an animal shelter- super sad.

There was another horse book- i think it was called Beauty, about a boy who has to go live with his grandpa at a farm and finds happiness through an old horse- also sad.


Missing from the list is Dodie’s Smith’s original “The 101 Dalmatians”. It is so much better than the Disney Travesity!

Interesting trivia -- did you know Dorothy Parker worked on the screen play for 101 Dalmatians?

Sorry, Parker fanatic over here..

Also, thanks for reminding me of Beautiful Joe. I pulled it off the shelf last night and am re reading it.

Raven's Mom

If you can find "War Horse" by Michael Morpurgo it's an excellent read. It's along the lines of Black Beauty but about a horse in World War I. Excellent book. I think I read it as many times as I ready Black Beauty. Those 2 books made a huge impact on me as a kid and how I treat animals.


My Friend Flicka is the first book of the trilogy -- the other two are Thunderhead and Green Grass of Wyoming. I mention it, because among my all-time favorites were the latter two, and the last includes some wonderful scenes of the friendship between a draught gelding and a lost Thoroughbred filly.

A book I'd add to the classics list: The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth. Although, mind, it's at least a two-handkerchiefer.

Anne T

i was very partial as a child to Marguerite Henry's "Cinnabar, the One O'Clock Fox".

Missing from the list is Dodie's Smith's original "The 101 Dalmatians". It is so much better than the Disney Travesity!

And my all time favorite, written and illustrated by Dorothy P. Lathrop, arguably one of the best illustrators of her time, "The Dog in the Tapestry Garden".

Christie, both these books fit your criteria. You can read them, enjoy, and don't have to worry about unhappy endings.

Gina Spadafori

In the original "101 Dalmatians," there are THREE adult Dals ... Pongo, Perdita and a third nanny one whose name I can't recall. Yes, I guess every proper British family needs a nanny!

Not related to dogs, "101" author Dodie Smith also wrote a lovely book called, "I Capture the Castle" (1948).

Dr Patty Khuly

God, The Red Pony. I sobbed when I read it. My boyfriend called while I was reading it and thought someone had died. That was last year.

I wish I'd never seen it on a must-read animal book. (Though the rest of Steinbeck's stuff doesn't make me cringe.)


There is a Beautiful Joe Heritage Society and park in Meaford, Ontario, a pretty little town on Georgian Bay. There is a statue of Beautiful Joe and a cairn, as well as a memorial for Sirius, the K-9 police dog killed during 9/11.


I also love Michael Morpurgo's writing. War Horse was stunning, and Britain's National Theatre is running a production of it using brilliantly-constructed life-sized puppets.



There's a sequel to 101 Dalmations, too: The Starlight Barking. It's a weird little fantasy/scifi story, in which, among other things, dogs fly.


Black Beauty has a wonderful comment about ignorance:

Only ignorance! only ignorance! how can you talk about only ignorance? Don't you know that it is the worst thing in the world, next to wickedness? -- and which does the most mischief heaven only knows. If people can say, "Oh! I did not know, I did not mean any harm," they think it is all right.

Sadly, these words are just relevant today, and the harm to animals is incalculable.

Kristy B

I loved and still love King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry.

Smoky the Cowhorse by Will James is an American Black Beauty.

The Great Dane Thor by Walter Farley is a good tale.

Song of the Wild By Allan W. Eckert is an interesting book. It has the happiest ending ever (for me).

P.A. Childress

I am so happy that you included THE UNDERNEATH by Kathi Appelt in your list of beloved books. I too enjoyed BLACK BEAUTY, MY FRIEND FLICKA, and even the early edition of LASSIE COME HOME. I still teach and work at the high school and enjoy books about animals at my advanced age of 72. I think, like you, that THE UNDERNEATH is a classic.


I'm late catching up on blog reading so maybe no one will see this comment, but an all time favorite of mine is _The Shy Ones_ by Lynn Hall, about a girl who is working part-time for a vet, finds a golden retriever injured by the side of the road, and nurses the dog back to health physically and mentally. I dug up a copy on half.com to reread just before adopting my rescue golden. It's a really sweet book.


I am currently looking for that book called Beauty. The one about the boy who goes to live with his grandpa and meets the old horse. Any info would be great!!

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