Thursday, August 26, 2010

What's your favorite MG animal story?

I grew up on a farm, so I was always around animals. Big animals, little animals, gross animals, you name it. Animals. I saw more animals in a day than I saw people. (I didn't mind this, but I was always an introvert!)

What I got additionally that people in the city perhaps didn't get was the particular type of ruthlessness a farm breeds into people. Animals on a farm are there to produce. Eggs, babies, you name it. On most of the farms I knew, if there were animals on it there was a reason for them being there.

That's why some of the stories that had animals and the airy-fairy happy endings didn't ever cut it for me. I went through them; my school librarian knew of my animal love affair and kept us stocked with all sorts. But it never rang true to me if, against all odds, the animal survived. Because I knew that that would not have happened in real life.

Then I got my possum** and all my attitudes changed: at the exact same time I read Where the Red Fern Grows for the first time.

I was so physically sick after that book I couldn't get up for two days. It played so perfectly in my head; I knew that story, having begged and begged for my own dog, my own pet, for so long. And to read of a boy getting his wish, having it jerked away from him by the hands of fate. Ugh. Excruciating.

When I got up, I loved that book. LOVED that book. Here's a short list of my top animal books, in order, from when I was just a squeaker:

1. Where the Red Fern Grows
2. Summer of the Monkeys
3. Rascal
4. A Dog called Kitty
5. The Black Stallion (Extremely unlikely that a boy would make friends with a wild black Arabian stallion but hey, I was a horse crazy nut and I took it where I could get it)

Here's what I'd love to hear from you: what were your favorite animal books, growing up? List them! It could be I haven't read them and then...I have some new books to buy! It's all in the name of research, baby!

- Jen K Blom, animal lover extraordinaire.

** Yes, I had a possum. Yep, his name was Ike. Yep, he's the fellow in my book, POSSUM SUMMER; it's my final tribute to his cinnamon-grey, furry, funny little self.


  1. I always loved Charlotte's Web, Watership Down, The Wind in the Willows, and Animal Farm. I know Animal Farm isn't really MG but I still read it when I was little and loved it, even if I didn't get the symbolism until much later!

    I also love the Tao of Pooh, which doesn't really count, and also Where the Red Fern Grows, which does!

  2. OOOOHHHHH good books all! I totally spaced those, how could I do that!

    You know, I've never read Wind in the Willows. *makes note*

    Thanks, Matthew!

  3. Where the red fern grows made me bawl! i loved charlotte's web, too. i know it doesn't really count but i always loved dickon and his animals in The Secret Garden. there was just something so magical and practical about the way he charmed them!

  4. Heya, Aspiring! Gaaaah, now I'm really starting to feel inadequate! The Secret Garden isn't one I've read, either! (My bookstore is gonna be so happy with me!)

    And as far as I'm concerned, it counts fine! Animal books cross the spectrum. Like "The Art of Racing in the Rain". Brilliant. BRILLIANT book.

  5. I never read A Dog named Kitty, and I had a dog with that name! I'll have to find that book.

    I'll have to admit I didn't like, and still don't like books that make me cry, so while I remember Black Beauty vividly, it's not a book I'd want to reread.

    I loved a very old book from the 30s called Rusty the Cocker Spaniel. I think my mother bought it at a yard sale or something. I haven't ever tried to find it again, but now after reading your post I might.

    There was another old series called Silver Chief-Dog of the North. It was one of those classic adventure series back when kids' books had adults as the protagonists. In the Silver Chief series, I think the MCs were Canadian Mounties.

  6. I have read Silver Chief!! I loved that book! Oh, how could I forget the great Canadian stories! Like Buck. I loved Buck.

    Now I'm all interested to see what you think of this Rusty the Cocker Spaniel. If you find it, can I borrow it?

    I don't like to cry, except when I read animal books. Does that make me weird? It must, because people cry when they read mine!

  7. I know a dog named Kitty, but I've never read the book. I've read Charlotte's Web and The Black Stallion. And I LOVE The Secret Garden and The Art of Racing in the Rain.

    Sadly, I don't know that I've read the others, but I'll put them on the list of books to read with the kids.

  8. Alison - See, so we all learn a bit here! Hooray! I'm glad you loved the Art of Racing in the rain too. Did you cry? I was SOBBING the entire last chapter! Best kind of sobbing!

  9. Oh yes, I cried. I sat on the couch, sobbing. The kids were coming over to check on me. In the end, I had to leave the room so I could finish the book.

  10. Okay, NIGHTSHADE CITY would have to be my number one! Ha, ha! :)

    I of course loved Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. I also adored The Mouse and His Child and Charlotte's Web. All wonderful stories that I can't wait to share with my kids when their just a bit older!

    Great post (as usual), Jen!!!!

    xoxo -- Hilary

  11. Rascal! What a flash back. So many favorite books:
    The Dog That Wouldn't Be
    Call of the Wild
    White Fang
    Kazan the Wolf Dog
    Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
    Ring of Bright Water
    The Yearling
    I could go on...

  12. Where the Red Fern Grows devestated me, too. I remember finishing it on one of those nights where I was reading under the covers with a flashlight. I turned the flashlight off and just sobbed. Fifteen years later, I read it out loud to the class of fifth graders I was teaching and could barely get through the ending. Powerful story.

    I also loved the book Solo's Journey, by: Joy Smith Aiken. It's kind of the cat version of Watership Down, and I don't know how many times I read it. And a small confession: I remember filing my fingernails to points to try and be more catlike (yes, I was that girl). Of course, Sounder and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh would have to make my list. Also Tailchaser's Song, by: Tad Williams. I was into cats.

  13. I loved The Mouse and the Motorcycle written by Beverly Cleary

  14. Toes by Tor Seidler is my favorite MG animal book. It's the story of a kitten born with seven toes on each paw. Funny and deep. One of the very few books I read more than once.

    Among the classics, The Call of the Wild comes to mind, and of course, Charlotte's Web.

  15. My brother and I kept rescued baby possums when we were kids, Jen! Baby possums are SOOO cute. They would hang by their tails from our extended fingers and ride on our shoulders. But after four months or so...fuhgeddabouddit! :)

  16. Misty of Chincoteague and all the Chincoteague books by Marguerite Henry. Made me want to move to a rugged coastal island and herd wild horses. (It's a good thing I didn't. I have a tendency to fall off horses, wild or otherwise.)

  17. I love Charlotte's Web and James and the Giant Peach (do insects count?).


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!