As I learned how to read, I found animal stories. They soon became one of my favorite genres. There were three in particular that really caught my attention. Jim Kjelgaard, Marguerite Henry, and Walter Farley.
Jim Kjelgaard introduced me to the world of the man and his dog. He created worlds of wonder where dogs loved men and boys and the impossible was possible. Big Red was the first one. A poor boy who loved Irish Setters works at a kennel and falls in love with a purebred dog. There is no way at all believable or imaginable that he will get a dog. As the story unfolds, the reader is drawn into the boy’s mind and his world. The reader cheers the boy on wanting what he wants, loving the dog he loves. Other stories told of tame dogs gone wild. Desert Dog tells of a dog that was dropped off in the middle of nowhere. The reader wanders with the dog as he fights for his life. It is truly an inspiring tale. To read some of his stories online, go to http://jimkjelgaard.com/. Jim Kjelgaard wanted boys to desire reading. He wrote for that junior high boy who doesn’t want to read. So, if you have a boy in that situation, see if you can tease him into reading using Mr. Kjelgaard’s books. They also work well for young girls.
The next series of animal stories I found was Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series. Again a poor boy (not as dirt poor as in Big Red) dreams of owning an animal, this time a horse. Alec is shipwrecked with a wild black stallion. The story takes you through their time on the island and how Alec works at befriending the Black. The two become inseparable–or so the reader thinks! The series follows Alec and the Black and then children of the stallion. Again, the underdog is the one the reader cheers and applauds. Children are encouraged to dream and reach for the stars.
The final animal series that caught my attention as a child was Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague. Two children find a pony and work with her. The three books follow the brother and sister and Misty and her foal through several adventures. The underdog is the hero, and children see everyday life on the island of Chincoteague. Marguerite Henry wrote several other horse stories about famous horses. She wove the same love of horses into those stories as she did into her Misty books. You can learn more about the Misty books and the real world of Chincoteague at http://www.mistyofchincoteague.org/misty.html.
Know a child who loves animals? Want a good read yourself? Want a look back into time when kids roamed the streets without fear? Take a look at these fun children’s stories.