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
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.