There is nothing quite like a good dog story. Dogs are loyal and love unconditionally. They help their owners through tough times. They follow their kids everywhere and love them well. The problem is, so many of these books end with a dead dog. I will freely admit that I love a good cry at the end of a well-told story, but sometimes you just want to read about a dog who survives to love on. You want to close the book with warm fuzzies instead of cold, wet tears. If you or your child can identify with this sentiment, the following list of dog stories is for you.
Have you ever read Lassie Come-Home? I did and while it felt dated and the English dialects made it hard to read, the story of a lost dog traveling miles to find his true owner is classic. Beverly Cleary’s Ribsy follows this story line, without the hard to understand dialects. It also adds in the classic humor of Beverly Cleary (think Ramona), is easy to read, and is entertaining to boot.
Beverly Cleary’s books are perfect for new readers, but entertaining enough for the more experienced reader as well. And, if your child loves Ribsy, there are many more Henry books (in which Ribsy plays a major role) and Ramona books (one of my very favorites) to add to their TBR list. Also, if audio books are up your alley, I have enjoyed the Ramona books in the audio form and think Ribsy would probably be a good listen as well.
Readers age 6 and up
This is the story of the Pye family and their dog Ginger. Jerry, who plans to grow up and become a rock man, bought Ginger with his own money. Known for her many tricks, Ginger steals the hearts of all who know him, that is until someone steals him. If you haven’t read any of Eleanor Estes’s stories, you are in for a treat. Written in the 1940s and early 50s, I feel the stories have aged well and are able to entertain and be enjoyed by today's children. While her book, The Moffats, is my very favorite, Ginger Pye is a fun little novel, and a Newberry Award winner to boot. Written
Readers age 7 and up
Of the recommendations on this list, this one is probably my favorite. It is a historical fiction novel that tells the story of Hobie Hanson and his dog Duke. Hobie’s father is fighting in World War 2 overseas, and Hobie and his family are doing everything they can at home to help. Hobie eventually makes the hardest decision, and decides to donate his dog, Duke, to the war effort.
This is a story of a boy and his dog, courage and sacrifice. I love the details this book contains that give you a feel for what it might have been like to be a kid during this time in history. There are two other books in this series (Dogs of World War 2), Dash and Liberty; each book focuses on a different part of World War 2 from a child's perspective in the USA, and each one tells the story of a child and their dog. Liberty is the only one I have not yet read, but I loved Duke and Dash and would heartily recommend them to your child.
Readers age 8 and up
Shiloh is the story about a boy, Marty, who finds a young beagle. The problem is the beagle is owned by a man who drinks to much, has a gun and abuses his dog. When Shiloh runs away to Marty, Marty hides him and will do just about anything to save his new friend. There are four books in the Shiloh series, so if your child connects with the first one, they will have three more titles to add to their TBR (to-be-read) list.
Readers age 8 and up
I wasn’t sure about this book when I first started reading it. Written in 1958, I didn’t know if it would hold up. However, it won me over by the end. Along Came a Dog tells the sweet story of an unlikely friendship between a dog and a hen. It is a story dog lovers will appreciate, and I think all readers will find themselves rooting for the nameless dog, protector of the little red hen.
Readers age 8 and up
Mountain Dog is a novel in verse about a boy, Tony, who moves from the city to the Sierra-Nevada mountains to live with his great uncle when his mom is sent to prison. With his world turned completely upside down, the connection with his Uncle’s dog, Gabe (a search and rescue dog), helps Tony transition and begin to thrive. As Tony learns how search and rescue dogs are trained and helps his uncle with the training, the reader learns along with him. The book jumps back and forth from the boy’s perspective to the dog’s.
Novels in verse, like this one, are great picks for reluctant readers as they are relatively quick reads. That said, like any well-told story, they are great picks for avid readers too.
Readers age 8 and up.
Because of Winn Dixie is a favorite at our house, and my dog lover, reluctant reader son would consider it one of his favorite books ever. It is the story of ten year old Opal and the dog she finds at the local supermarket. She names the dog Winn Dixie. She soon discovers that Winn Dixie is a very special dog, and it is because of Winn Dixie that her life begins to change for the better.
Honestly, in my opinion, you can’t go wrong with a Kate DiCamillo book she is one of my all-time favorite authors.
Readers age 9 and up
Dogs of War is a graphic novel that tells the story of three dogs and their contributions to three different wars. The first story is set during World War 1, the second during World War 2 and the third during Vietnam. The third story is the most graphic as far as blood, but it is not extreme. It also covers Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which is a big topic. I was surprised by how much this book made me think. A relatively quick read, this could be a good one for parents to read with their kids and discuss some of the deeper topics presented together. It is also a great way to learn a bit of history and how dogs made an impact in three different wars.
Readers age 9 and up
Reminiscent of classics like White Fang and The Call of the Wild, Snow Dog is the story of a husky pup who watches the black wolf kill his mother and two brothers. It is the story of how he learns to survive on his own, and eventually it is the story of how his path intersects with man. Written in the 1940s, this book is it’s own kind of classic. There is violence depicted, but it is animal violence and nothing is too graphic. It is a great book if your child loves nature and tales of survival in the great outdoors.
A great plus, if your child enjoys this book, the author has written many, many more. Most seem to have a dog as the main character, perhaps one of the better known ones is Big Red which was made into a Disney movie in 1962. I can’t vouch that the dog does not die at the end of his other works, but Snow Dog’s ending is quite satisfactory.
Readers age 10 and up
This list is obviously not comprehensive. If you look closely, you will find so many stories of man's best friend on the library shelves. As I was prepping for this post, I kept pulling more books out to read. Eventually, I decided there was no way I was ever going to read all of them and decided it was time to post what I had. That said, I would love to know your favorite dog stories. Especially the ones that didn't make this list!
(PS Reader age recommendations are just that, recommendations. I list them, oftentimes pulled right off of Amazon, to give you a general guide.)
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