Thursday, February 08, 2007

Wow! Take a Bow, All You Readers: More Favorite Dog Tales

Judging from your comments, dogs and princesses are approximately tied with witches and wizards for reading time among the K-8 group. Here are some of their favorite dog stories submitted for your reading pleasure.

One anonymous poster suggested an older book, The Dog Who Wouldn't Be, by Farley Mowat, also known for his short novel Owls in the Family. This oldie reminded me of another classic series of dog stories by Fred Gipson, beginning with Old Yeller, followed by Savage Sam and Little Arliss. The first two of these gritty stories of early Texas life were made into a (less-than-usually sentimental) Disney movie, available as Old Yeller.

Reader "Gandalin" also suggested the classics Call of the Wild, by Jack London (also available in DVD as Call of the Wild,) and White Fang. You can watch Call of the Wild with your choice of leading men, Charlton Heston or Clark Gable. If Clark is your fave, you can get his version combined with his White Fang. "Gandalin" also suggests another great boy and dogs story, Where the Red Fern Grows, available in four versions on DVD as Where the Red Fern Grows.

Another oldie is The Incredible Journey, by Sheila Burnford,the story of two dogs and a cat who travel hundreds of miles across Canada to return to their home. The most recent movie version can be found under the title Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. If you have a long auto trip with kids between ages two and twelve in your future, this film would be a great one to take along: it gives new meaning to the the concept of "Are we there yet?"

Speaking of classic boy and his dog stories, I must mention My Dog Skip, by Willie Morris, also available in the movie version, also titled My Dog Skip. For older high school readers, Morris' last book, Taps: A Novel, is a serious coming-of-age story set in Mississippi during the Korean War in which a dog plays a major role. I do stress that this book is for older teens and adults.

Another "Gandalin" favorite was Big Enough Anna, the true story of Anna, the runt of the litter, who proved that she could take over for the lost lead dog in a 2,500-mile trans-Arctic sled expedition.

A second anonymous reader suggested Wanted--Mud Blossom. Mud is the rambling hound belonging to the very unique Blossom family in the series by Betsy Byars.

For younger readers, "id/brownie" reminded me of a two-book series by Mark Teague which begins with Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School. Ike is a pampered only pet who is not above pestering the neighbor's cats, howling at odd hours, and helping himself to Mrs. LaRue's delicious chicken pie at will, until he finds himself incarcerated at the Igor Brotweiler Obedience School. Although the place is your better-than-average canine spa, Ike types pitiful letters home describing his life as a prison-striped inmate. "They are bad dogs, Mrs. LaRue; I do not fit in," he writes. Mark Teague's illustrations are a hoot, with the color drawings of the posh school set off against black-and-white illustrations of Ike's supposed travails. After his pleas fall on deaf ears, Ike makes his escape and takes a first-class flight back home, where he arrives just in time to save the absent-minded Mrs. LaRue and get all the chicken pie he deserves. The sequel is Detective LaRue: Letters from the Investigation.

Finally, there were some interesting comments on whether the "Carl" series by Alexandra Day, beginning with Good Dog, Carl, starring a kindly and doughty Rottweiler, was politically correct, given the er, regrettable behavior of some of his family. The consensus seems to be that Carl is a credit to his breed and has earned his place in the DoggyLit Hall of Fame.



  • Whaat? After three entire posts and comment-threads on this topic, no one has yet mentioned either the Silver Chief books by Jack O'Brien or Jim Kjelgaard's many dog/outdoor/adventure stories?

    It's been so long since I read any of the Silver Chief books that I only remember the first one: Silver Chief, Dog of the North, about a Canadian Mounty and the half-wolf-half-dog that he befriends and names Silver Chief.

    Kjelgaard's writing ranged over a wide variety of settings, but always focused on the bond between man and dog, often with a secondary theme of conflict between wild life and domestic life, somewhat like Call of the Wild. Sample titles include:

    Big Red, Irish Red, and Outlaw Red -- three stories of Irish Setters in the wild country of the Bitterroot Mountains

    Snow Dog and Wild Trek -- two stories about a wilderness fur trapper and the half-wild dog he befriends

    Desert Dog -- about a greyhound turned loose in the deserts of the Southwest

    A Nose for Trouble and Trailing Trouble -- adventures of a forest ranger and his dog, a bloodhound named Sam. This one doubles as a good introduction to the idea of working dogs such as bloodhounds.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:39 PM  

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