J Animal Story

THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY by Sheila Burnford

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When a Canadian family travels to Europe for six months, they must leave their three pets–an old bull terrier, a young Labrador retriever, and a Siamese cat–in the care of a friend who lives several hundred miles East of the family’s home.  While the bull terrier and the Siamese cat settle into life with their new caretaker, the Labrador is restless.  He knows that he is far from home and longs to be with his family again.  So, when the opportunity presents itself, he leads his two companions to escape from their caretaker and journey across the Canadian wilderness toward home.  But with bears, porcupines, and other hazards to face along the way, all three animals may not make it home alive.

The Incredible Journey is the book on which the film Homeward Bound was based.  The book is less humorous than the movie, but it is filled with the same adventure and heartwarming moments.  The imagery is dense and the reading level may be above the interest level.  But the book would make a great family read aloud for families who have pets or love animals and have children in grades 2-5.

If you liked The Incredible Journey, you might like Babe, the Gallant Pig by Dick King Smith.

THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE by Kate DiCamillo

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Edward Tulane is a finely crafted china rabbit who belongs to a girl called Abilene.  He is very proud of his craftsmanship and his fancy clothes and spends most of his time thinking about how wonderful he is.  Although Abilene loves him, Edward doesn’t love anyone but himself.  When Abilene’s grandmother tells a story about a witch who cast a horrible spell on a selfish man because he didn’t know how to love, Edward doesn’t think the story has anything to do with him.  But when Abilene takes him along on an ocean voyage and he falls overboard, Edward realizes that the witch’s curse may have affected him as well.  So begins Edward’s incredible journey through the ocean and on land as his adventures teach him how to love.

Winner of a Christopher Award for “affirming high values of the human spirit,” this simple novel reads like a fairy tale. Although on the reading level for 3rd-4th graders, it would make a great read-aloud for younger children in grades K-2 as well. 

If you liked The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, you might also like The Velveteen Rabbit, which has a similar tone and message.  If you are up for a longer read,  you may enjoy The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

BAD KITTY FOR PRESIDENT by Nick Bruel

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When Old Kitty retires as president of the Neighborhood Cat Club, all of the kitties, from both the Left and the Right sides of the street are vying for his position.  After the primaries (a rigorous round of baby-kissing), Kitty is nominated to represent the Right in a fierce contest with the Left’s candidate, Big Kitty.  After both Kitty and Big Kitty fail to get an endorsement from Old Kitty, they begin their campaigns in earnest.  But will a snazzy website and mudslinging TV ads be enough to win Kitty the election?

Bad Kitty for President is a great read for election year.  One of the more educational of the Bad Kitty books, the story includes a fairly detailed description of the election process, including definitions of key election-related terms.  And of course, the story is hilarious, narrated as though the author is speaking to the cat, advising and admonishing her as her devious mind comes up with new schemes.  I am convinced that all cats are as devious as Bad Kitty.  I highly recommend the Bad Kitty series to 3rd-4th grade readers who enjoy humor and/or animal stories.

LOST: A DOG CALLED BEAR by Wendy Orr

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Logan’s dog, Bear, has always been his best friend.  The two of them love playing together on Logan’s parents’ farm.  But when Logan’s parents separate and sell the farm, Bear will have to move to a house in the mountains with Logan’s dad while Logan and his mom go to live in the city.  Logan and Bear are both so upset with the prospect of losing each other, that Logan’s parents agree to let Bear move to the city with Logan.  During the drive, however, Bear escapes from the car and gets lost.  In a new city, Logan doesn’t know where to begin to find his lost friend.  Meanwhile, Hannah has always wanted a dog.  When a lost dog finds its way into her dad’s pick-up truck, Hannah finds herself at the Rainbow Street Animal Shelter.  In the process of trying to find the lost dog’s family, Hannah discovers an opportunity to volunteer with many animals in need of love.

This first book of the Rainbow Street Shelter series is sweet and uplifting.  The series will likely appeal to 2nd-4th graders who love animals and stories about animals.

I, FREDDY by Dietlof Reiche

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Freddy the Golden Hamster was born in captivity in a pet shop, and his great grandmother often told him of the Golden Hamster Saga—the desire of every Golden Hamster to reach Golden Hamster utopia in the Middle East.  Freddy’s brothers and sisters may be content to wait for this utopia until the Eternal Hibernation, but Freddy is determined to find happiness on his own.  He is determined to escape.  After learning a few endearing tricks from watching monkeys on the nature channel, he endears himself to little Sophie and her dad, Gregory, and finds himself on his way to a new home.  Once there, however, he realizes he has a new problem to worry about.  Gregory and Sophie are great, but Mom is his mortal enemy.  Freddy continues to use his great intellect to dodge problems, to learn to read, the escape from his cage, and to communicate with humans.

This is the first of Freddy’s adventures in the Golden Hamster Saga.  He is a funny, clever narrator and a lot of fun to read.  These books are on a 3rd-4th grade interest level.

If you liked I, Freddy, you might also like Mousenet or Babe, the Gallant Pig.