After collecting picture books and more picture books about dogs, I decided to find seven junior fiction books to complete the set. In this list, I haven’t included well-known stories, such as The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith and The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford. Instead I have chosen more recent books with dogs at the heart of them.
Written and illustrated by Jill Murphy
Alfie is a young deerhound. He loves his boy Charlie, and cheese, and he’s very good at digging holes. But poor Alfie has got lost and he’s scared-of thunderstorms and being hungry and never seeing Charlie again…
Meanwhile, Charlie doesn’t know what to do-but one thing is for sure: he’ll never stop looking for his dear hound.
Can Alfie ever find his way back to Charlie-and his great big squashy beanbag in the kitchen?
Books about dogs often have the ‘lost dog trying to get home’ storyline and Dear Hound falls into this category. Alfie the deerhound becomes lost in the woods after getting a fright. Fortunately he is befriended by two foxes, Fixit and Sunset, who help him to survive in the wild for several months. Meanwhile Alfie’s boy, Charlie, is desperately searching for him and refuses to give up hope of finding him. This is a wonderful story about the bond between dog and human. I also have a dear hound called Alfie, which makes this book extra special for me.
Although Jill Murphy is best known for The Worst Witch series, she has written and illustrated a number of picture books, including those about the Large family (such as Peace at Last). I love her illustrations, which always have an expressive quality to them.
Written by Michael Morpurgo and illustrated by Michael Foreman
For Best Mate, being rescued from drowning as a young puppy is only the start of his adventures. From unwanted burden to favourite companion, and from pet to champion race dog, this remarkable greyhound proves that it’s not just cats who have more than one life. Cast aside, kidnapped, adopted or living rough on the streets, Best Mate can always find a way to survive. But will he ever find a real home?
This book, which has the alternative title, Born to Run, reminds me of Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. Like Beauty, this is a touching tale of the ups and downs experienced by a pet. The story follows a greyhound though his life from abandoned puppy (rescued by Patrick and named Best Mate) to champion racer (renamed Brighteyes by Becky) to Joe’s companion (renamed Paddywack). It also tackles issues around greyhound racing, particularly once a dog is no longer winning. A highly recommended read.
Michael Morpurgo, the third British Children’s Laureate, has written many memorable children’s books. These often explore the topic of war and conflict (Private Peaceful and A Medal for Leroy) or have animals at the heart of the story (The Last Wolf and The Fox and the Ghost King). War Horse and Shadow (about a sniffer dog working with the army in Afghanistan) combine both of these themes.
Good Dog McTavish
Written by Meg Rosoff and illustrated by Grace Easton
The Peachey family are always late, they never agree, the house is always a mess…and everything’s going to the dogs.
Enter McTavish, a rescue dog with a difference-he’s on a mission to rescue them!
This was a really enjoyable read! The Peachey family have been in disarray since Ma Peachey resigned from being a mother and took up yoga! Betty, the youngest and most sensible Peachey, decides the family needs a dog and so they head to CHUM (Cuddles Home for Unclaimed Mutts) to find one. McTavish is chosen and taken home, where he proceeds to whip the Peacheys into shape, using Plan A, B and C. As he says, “with a little more work and a consistent routine, they [will] turn out to be a most satisfactory family after all”.
Meg Rosoff has won numerous awards for her junior and young adult fiction. Her first book, How I Live Now, won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize and has been turned into a radio adaption and a film.
Just a Dog
Written by Michael Gerard Bauer
Mr Mosely isn’t a pedigreed dog, but he is just the dog Corey and his family want: he is loyal, protective and loving. And he is much more than that. He might well be the one thing that holds them all together.
This book reminded me of Marley and Me by John Grogan. A bitter-sweet story with some funny moments, it is about a much loved family pet. Corey recounts his memories of Mr Mosely, starting with his arrival at their house. Each chapter consists of something significant about him: what he looked like, how he was named and what he was afraid of. We follow Mr Mosely through his life with the Ingrams. Like Marley and Me, you will need a box of tissues to hand when you read the last few chapters.
The Sniff books are also about life with a dog. Written by Ian Whybrow and illustrated by Tony Ross, they are brilliant. I would have included Sniff on my list, but I couldn’t get a copy from any of my local libraries. The antics that Sniff gets up to are hysterical. In fact, I was laughing so much at the incident involving a Christmas tree and an army of plastic soldiers, I was unable to continue reading out loud to my niece. If you can get your hands on any of the books (Sniff Bounces Back, Nice One Sniff and Sniff the Wonderdog), read them. You won’t regret it!
Written by Tom Watson and illustrated by Ethan Long
Introducing everyone’s new best friend: Stick Dog!
Join this loveable wet-nosed hero and his hilarious friends as they go on an epic quest for the perfect burger.
I really enjoyed this book. It is a light, easy and funny read. Stick Dog is a stray, who lives in a pipe under the highway. He has a comfy couch cushion to sleep on and some tennis balls and frisbees to play with. And he has four friends: Poo-Poo (so named because he is a poodle), Karen (a dachshund), Stripes (a dalmatian) and Mutt (yep, a mutt!). The story is basically about the dogs’ search for a burger, which of course isn’t as straightforward as it might have been!
There are seven books in the Stick Dog series. Tom Watson has also written a number of books based around Stick Cat. Both will appeal to children who have enjoyed reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
One Dog and his Boy
Written by Eva Ibbotson and illustrated by Sharon Rentta
Hal’s parents refuse to let him have a dog-until they discover the Easy Pets Dog Agency. They don’t tell Hal that the clever puppy he chooses is not his for life, but only for the weekend.
Hal and Fleck must find a way to be together.
I have loved this book since the moment I started reading it some years ago. It is a beautiful story about a boy who longs for a dog. However, his parents won’t let him have one until they discover The Easy Pets Dog Agency. There you can hire a dog for any occasion, so Hal’s parents decide to rent one for the weekend… but they don’t tell Hal that the dog will be going back. Hal chooses Fleck, a “Tottenham Terrier” and the two bond during their time together. When Fleck is taken back to the agency, both pine for the other. Hal makes plans to get Fleck back and they run away together, accompanied by a girl and four of the dogs from Easy Pets. And that’s when the adventures begin…
I have a fondness for Eva Ibbotson’s books. They fall into two categories: funny, magical, supernatural stories about ghosts and witches (such as The Great Ghost Rescue and The Beasts of Clawstone Castle) and historical stories (such as The Dragonfly Pool and The Star of Kazan). Both types are highly recommended. She also wrote adult historical romances, which were later repackaged for young adult readers (Pauli, 2010).
A Dog’s Life
Written by Ann M Martin and illustrated by Antonia Miller (cover)
My name is Squirrel. I was born in a wheelbarrow.
There were five of us puppies in the beginning, but only my brother and I survived. So we set off on our own to see the world.
Life as a stray has been hard-but filled with adventure!
I’ve been adopted and I’ve been abandoned. I lost my brother, but found new friends. I’ve been in scrapes, but I always survived.
This is the story of my life.
This book is exactly as it is described in a Kirkus review: “heart-wrenching as well as heart-warming” (Kirkus, 2010). It is a touching, uplifting story about a stray called Squirrel. Like Best Mate, she shares her life with different humans, but always ends up back on the road or in the woods, either alone or with her friend, Moon. Some people show her kindness; others don’t. But through it all, the quality of her character shines through. I absolutely loved this book, even though, at times, it was hard to read. This was because of the emotions evoked by what happens to Squirrel. This book is definitely one of my favourite children’s books (along with One Dog and His Boy).
Ann M Martin is well-known as the author of the Baby-Sitter’s Club. She has also written another dog book: How To Look for a Lost Dog. That one is currently on my to-read list.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this list of books about dogs. Maybe you’ve been inspired to seek some of them out and read them. If you have, let me know what you think of them in the comments below.
This post (and the two about picture books) are for Ellie, who has always loved dogs, especially Harry and George.
All images taken by the author. All quotes taken from the blurb and contents of the book.