In a previous post, I talked about being a sucker for a good dog story. The truth is I’m a sucker for animal stories of all kinds. I’m especially a fan of stories about animal friends like Sheila Burnford’s The Incredible Journey, Kathi Appelt’s The Underneath, and Mo Willems’s City Dog, Country Frog. Of course, you can make any relationship work in fiction. It’s the true stories I enjoy the most. Here are some favorites.
- Buckley, Carol. Tarra & Bella: The Elephant and Dog Who Became Best Friends. Putnam, 2009.
- Retired from the circus, Tarra became the first resident of the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee. Other elephants moved in and developed close friendships, but Tarra remained a loner until the day she met a stray mixed-breed dog named Bella and they have been inseparable ever since. Illustrated with color photographs.
- Houston, Dick. Bulu: African Wonder Dog. Random House, 2010.
- After Anna and Steve Tolson moved from England to an isolated home in Zambia to found a wildlife education center, they wanted dog, but are warned that no pet would be safe there. In spite of this, they adopted Bulu, a Jack Russell terrier-cross puppy, who readily adapts to life in the bush and proves a courageous, scrappy survivor. He also finds his calling as a foster parent to many orphaned baby animals, including warthogs, monkeys, elephants, baboons, and bushbucks. It’s impossible to not love Bulu.
- Kerby, Johanna. Little Pink Pup. Putnam, 2010.
- When Pink, the runt of a large litter of piglets, is pushed aside by his siblings. The Kerby family, fearing for Pink’s survival bring him into the house and their dachshund, Tink, adopts him as one of her pups. He learns to prefer dog food to pig food and soft blankets to scratchy straw. Illustrated with color photographs.
- Larson, Kirby and Mary Nethery. Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival. Illus. Jean Cassels. Walker, 2008.
- Bobbi and Bob Cat are the best of friends. Abandoned during the Katrina evacuations, they spend four months wandering devastated, debris-strewn streets before being rescued by the Best Friends Animal Society. At the shelter, the Bobbies show distress when separated but remain calm when together. Workers discover that Bob Cat is blind and that Bobbi serves as his seeing-eye dog. A national news appearance results in the animals’ shared adoption in a happy new home. A remarkable, touching story.
Owen & Mzee’s StoryThe devastating 2005 tsunami brought together the orphaned baby hippo named Owen and a 130-yr-old giant tortoise named Mzee. The two adopted each other and became inseparable friends. Owen and Mzee captured the world’s imagination and their story inspired three excellent children’s books.
- Bauer, Marion Dane. A Mama for Owen. Illus. John Butler. Simon & Schuster, 2007.
- Of the two illustrated stories, this one is warmer and more soothing in its approach to the subject and probably most suitable for sharing with preschool audiences.
- Hatkoff, Isabella and Craig and Paula Kahumba. Owen & Mzee: The Story of a Remarkable Friendship. Illus. Peter Greste. Scholastic, 2006.
- This book takes a photo-essay, traditional nonfiction approach that appeals to both older and younger readers. The team followed up with Owen and Mzee: The Language of Friendship (Scholastic, 2007).
- Winter, Jeanette. MAMA: A True Story, in Which a Baby Hippo Loses His Mama During a Tsunami, But Finds a New Home, and a New Mama. Harcourt, 2006.
- Winter’s stark, minimalist approach to the story packs a lot of emotional power. Using just two words throughout the text, Winter brilliantly and beautifully conveys the bond between a mother and child.