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17 March 2013


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Daisy Whitney's forthcoming When You Were Here has a dog, Sandy Kofax. Dog does not die.

Lisa Jenn Bigelow's Starting From Here has a dog. I do not know on the status of survival though!


If it can be magical animals, the Companions (without spoiling anything, they're white horses with human intelligence) in Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar series were one of the things that attracted me to the series when I was younger. Arrows of the Queen would be a good starting point.

Also, Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern books. The ones with Menolly would probably be best if the goal is more animal-like animal companions. The first book starring her is Dragonsong.

Both series have Companion and dragon deaths, but, not that I can remember, the ones bonded to the main characters. I tend to avoid animals books with deaths in them, because I end up sobbing for hours after the deaths, but I was able to handle the Pern and Valdemar books just fine.


@LG: I don't know if SF/F is a go, either (though I hope so, as some of my recs were fantasy, too), but GREAT CALL on McCaffrey's Harper Hall books. I love those little fire lizards.


I came over to say Starting From Here by Lisa Jenn Bigelow, but I see Kelly beat me to it! The dog lives very happily throughout the book.


My first thought are the Tamora Pierce series (although they're definitely fantasy). Tons of animals throughout: magic, non-magic, cats, dogs, birds, and tons of horses.

Speaking of horses, it's been ages since I read any of them, and don't remember much, but what about the Misty of Chintegue (I am nearly positive it's spelled wrong, but you know what I mean) books and the others by that author? I seem to remember a dozen or so on the library shelf.


RL Fevers' Theodosia series features her beloved cat, Isis, who is JUST FINE. ALWAYS. In the last book there's a monkey, but the monkey will be fine. Trust.

I have a shelf on GoodReads for this: nothing bad happens to the dog. It's a work in progress and includes cat, fish, birds, turtles and anything else that can be loved, but I update it religiously.
I also have a shelf of "animal triggery af" and "Dead Dogs in Books for No Damn Reason" should you need to know what to avoid or want to get your rage on. But let's stay positive.

In the 2nd book of Maureen Johnson's Suite Scarlett series, "Scarlett Fever", Mrs. Amberson adopts a small dog and not only does it not die but it basically is given everything a dog could ever dream of and lives the life of Riley.

As someone for whom this topic is hugely important, I can think of no better advice than having a cadre of friendly readers who, if you are interested in a book that has a companion animal in it, will leap in and pre-read for you and report back.


I am the messenger by markus zusak has a very old dog at the beginning who is miraculously still alive at the end (not really a spoiler). I don't know of I'd consider him a forefront character though.

Kate F

LG OMG I HAD FORGOTTEN THOSE BOOKS!! I was so scandalized by the vague sex scenes in one of those Herald books when I was 11 or so.


Yeah, Lackey's books introduced teenage me to a lot of relationship variations I'd never even thought about before. I think the Last Herald Mage books were the first time I read anything with a gay main character, and then there was I Pay Thee Not in Gold's threesome. Oh yes, and at least one book that might be considered to have bestiality in it. I keep forgetting that her books have things that might be red flags for some people, maybe because her fade-to-black stuff just doesn't register with adult me anymore. I wonder if my mom would have had issues with these books, had she known. Well, she did let me read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander, so who knows?


Hey, thanks all! She reads pretty much everything (including this blog!), so I'm sure she'll find some recs in the above.

And yeah, Lackey introduced me to a lot of sex and relationship stuff, too!


Not knowing the age range of the children for whom you're looking, below is a mix of MG & YA books. The YA books would be okay for older MG. This list, by it's nature (i.e., the fate of the animal(s) in each story) contains spoilers.

I second the recommendations for (1)RL Fevers' Theodosia series. Love Theodosia and her cat Isis and (2)Because of Winn-Dixie.

The Penderwicks books by Jeanne Birdsall- the girls have pets but they aren't main characters but do get involved in the family's highjinks.

The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford - a cat and two dogs traverse the Canadian wilderness trying to get home to their owners - and survive. I LOVED this story as a kid, especially since it had a Siamese cat in it who was the brains of the trio.

Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes - Ginger Pye is the very smart dog that ten-year-old Jerry Pye buys for a hard-earned dollar.

Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor - I've read only this book, the first in the series, so I don't know the ultimate fate of Shiloh only that he's alive at the end of this book.

Ability to talk with animals (what animal lover wouldn't want that?):
- Cat Girl's Day Off by Kimberly Pauley - Natalie Ng’s family all have incredibly cool superpowers (e.g., chameleon-like ability to disappear, laser vision, etc.). Natalie's power? The ability to talk with cats. She tries to hide her power until she needs to use it to solve a crime.

-The Immortals Quartet by Tamora Pierce - Daine has wild magic that allows her to talk with animals and birds, among other things.

Other Tamora Pierce books with animals/pets as key players (who survive):
- Protector of the Small Quartet
- Beka Cooper Trilogy
Unfortunately, I can't list my favorite, The Song of the Lioness Quartet, since Faithful the cat doesn't make it through the last battle (well at least as that incarnation of a cat on earth that is).

Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe - Before it's too late, Harold the dog and Chester the cat must find out the truth about the newest pet in the Monroe household -- a suspicious-looking bunny with unusual habits...and fangs!

The Last Free Cat by Jon Blake - Not far in the future, cat breeding is strictly controlled and cats are only for the rich in their private estates. When beautiful, sleek Feela turns up in Jade's backyard, she cannot resist taking the cat in.

Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley M.M. Blume - Cornelia, eleven-years-old and lonely, learns about language and life from an elderly new neighbor who has many stories to share about the fabulous adventures she and her sisters had while traveling around the world.

Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri - Cole has gotten into trouble one time too many and his Cole's mother has had all that she can take. Next thing he knows she's taking him to Philadelphia where his father, a guy he's never met before, lives. His dad runs an urban stable where he works to get neighborhood kids interested in helping care for and ride the local horse population rather than getting into trouble on the streets.

How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor - Georgina Hayes is desperate. Ever since her father left and they were evicted from their apartment, her family has been living in their car. Georgina has her heart set on improving their situation. When Georgina spots a missing-dog poster with a reward of five hundred dollars, the solution to all her problems suddenly seems within reach. All she has to do is “borrow” the right dog and its owners are sure to offer a reward.


How did I forget this one?

Hotel for Dogs by Lois Duncan - so much better than the movie made a couple of years ago. The Walkers are moving to a new town, and staying with an aunt who's allergic to dogs. Too bad for Andi and her brother Bruce, who love dogs -- and happen to meet a stray that needs help. Soon, Andi hatches a plan, turning the abandoned house down the block into a hotel for dogs. But as more and more tenants move in, the secret gets too big to keep.

Graphic Novels:

Fashion Kitty by Charise Mericle Harper - After a stack of fashion magazines falls on Kiki Kitty's head while she is blowing out the candles on her birthday cake, Kiki turns into Fashion Kitty, a feline superhero who saves other kitties from fashion disaster.

Sidekicks by Dan Santat - When Captain Amazing feels he is getting too old to be a reliable superhero, he tries to hire a new sidekick, but his pets have different ideas.

There is a series of books for young MG about a girl who helps out at a veterinarian office (maybe her family's?) but I can't remember the name of the first book or the author right now. This in itself isn't any help but I'm hoping someone else has a better memory than me.


In Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff (fantasy for older YA or adults) the main character teams up with a Griffin - both make it through to the end.


The books by Erin Hunter has dogs, cats, and bears in them.


i second Bunnicula! Love Bunnicula!

Aren't there a few different paperback series about girls who start a club because they want to be veterinarians, and each book is about a different animal? I feel like this was a 90s mini-trend or something, I remember loving them. If someone can come up with names, you could cherry-pick the safe ones.


Oddmonstr: That's AWESOME! Thanks for the link! I need to remember to check the tags at GoodReads and LibraryThing in cases like this.

And holy cow, Eliza, that list is AMAZING! The things I miss by avoiding the animals: I really want to read Cat Girl's Day Out now.

Thanks, all, so much: this is super!


Leila - You're welcome. I love coming up with lists of books to recommend. Here are a couple more:

I remembered the veterinarian series. I knew it was by an author famous for completely different books. It's the Vet Volunteers series by Laurie Halse Anderson (yes, of (i>Speak fame). The vet volunteers are a group of ordinary kids with the special job of helping animals at various vet clinics. From saving puppies in PA to helping manatees in FL, the vet volunteers work with all kinds of animals and have great times with their best friends.
Caveat: Now I haven't read these books, they take place in various veterinarian offices and are written by Ms. Anderson who is known not to pull her punches in her YA books, so there is possibility of animal deaths. The children's librarian on duty at my branch today wasn't familiar with the series but maybe your librarian is or the folks here or over at GoodReads.

Whittington by Alan Armstrong - Whittington, a feline descendant of Dick Whittington's famous cat of English folklore, appears at a rundown barnyard plagued by rats and restores harmony while telling his ancestor's story.

Freddy the Detective by Walter R. Brooks - not a pet story but this is the first book in the hilarious series with Freddy the pig (a detective) and all his barn yard pals. From Wikipedia: "Freddy the Pig is the central figure in a series of 26 books written between 1927 and 1958. Freddy is introduced as "the smallest and cleverest" of the pigs on the Bean farm. One of the ensemble to begin with, he becomes the central character shortly into the series. Freddy's interests drive the books as he becomes a detective, politician, newspaper editor, magician, pilot, and other vocations or avocations. A recurring villain is the slimy but dignified Simon, who leads a gang of criminal rats. Human characters include Mr. and Mrs. Bean, who own the farm, the population of local Centerboro, and human villains."


Hah! I...may have been the friend that the writer is referring to, because I just asked a couple of people about this over the weekend. I'm taking notes from your post and the comments! (I did read Plain Kate two years ago, which was wonderful but a bad choice, because my best friend had just died and I cried so hard I thought I was going to throw up.)


Haha, okay, it is DEFINITELY me because I got down to Jessica's comment. Thank you for asking on my behalf, Jessica! I am definitely not a child but love children's books and YA books and will get/read basically anything recommended here (aside from what I've read already, like the Tamora Pierce books!).


@Mia: Wow, I can't even IMAGINE reading Plain Kate while already dealing with serious grief: I read it on a totally happy-go-lucky day, and I still cried so hard I thought I would throw up.

I'm so glad that you saw this, and that the recommendations will be helpful: I've written a bunch down for myself, too!


Two more (and that's it, I promise) neither of which I've read but have been hearing good things about and have added them to my TBR list. One new (2013) and one old (1963 and 1964 Newbery winner). One cat, one dog.

Let's give the cats some love.
It's Like This Cat by Emily Cheney Neville. GoodReads:"Dave Mitchell and his father disagree on almost everything. Dave's father thinks that a dog could be very educational. So Dave gets Cat." Because of Cat, Dave meets a new friend Tom and Kate,a potential girlfriend. Apparently it's a great walking tour of NYC and a slice of life in the early '60s. Plus, it's time to give cats equal time. Winner of the 1964 Newbery.

Road Trip by Gary and Gito Paulsen. GoodReads: "Dad and Ben haven't been getting along recently and Dad hopes a road trip to rescue a border collie will help them reconnect. But Ben is on to Dad's plan and invites Ben's thuggish buddy, Theo. The family dog, Atticus, comes along too and the story is told by Ben and Atticus. When their truck breaks down, they commandeer an old school bus, along with its mechanic, Gus. Next, they pick up Mia, a waitress escaping a tense situation. Only sharp-eyed Atticus realizes that Theo is on the run—and someone is following them."

Mia - so glad that you've read Tamora Pierce. She's the best. I'm so glad she was honored this year with the Margaret A. Edwards award.


Love, love this discussion. After reading ”No More Dead Dogs,” I thought about how every book can be classified by whether or not the dog dies (or no dog at all).
Let me add two outliers. “Bel Ria, Dog of War” by Sheila Burnford (better known as the author of ”Incredible Journey”). The dog doesn’t die. No, he doesn’t. All his people do, though. One after the other.
“The Dragonfly Pool,” by Eva Ibbotson is special because the dog dies, but you won’t mind, I promise. You may cry, but they will not be entirely sad tears, for a little dog who dies an unlikely hero at a ripe old age, and is beautifully honoured.


Okay, I know that yesterday I promised no more but then I thought "horses." What about horses? They seem to have a better survival rate than cats or dogs.

How about one with a regular horse and killer water horses?
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater - Nineteen-year-old returning champion Sean Kendrick competes against Puck Connolly, the first girl ever to ride in the annual Scorpio Races, both trying to keep hold of their dangerous water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.

What about rats? Not Ben, but the classroom rat?
Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynne Jonell - When Emmy discovers that she and her formerly loving parents are being drugged by their evil nanny with rodent potions that can change people in frightening ways, she and some new friends must try everything possible to return things to normal. The fun thing about the art by Jonathan Bean on the top of each page is that it turns into a flip book if you quickly flip through the pages.


Elephants. Let's not forget them. They're all kinds of awesome. Who said an elephant couldn't be a pet?
Tua and the Elephant by R.P. Harris - this book is geared for the younger end of the MG crowd but a lovely story of lost souls finding each other. In Chiang Mai, Thailand, nine-year-old Tua releases an abused elephant from its chains, but it will be a challenge to get the elephant to refuge without getting caught.


You are killing me! (In a good way, of course, as you're almost single-handedly creating an AMAZING resource! :) Feel free to continue as long as you'd like!)


Okay, just remember that you said that I could keep adding to this list!

Wild Girl by Patricia Reilly Giff - When twelve-year-old Lidie leaves Brazil to join her father and brother on a horse ranch in New York, she has a hard time adjusting to her changed circumstances, as does a new horse that has come to the ranch.


As opposed to The Wild Girls, which covers completely different subject matter, but is VERY, VERY GOOD.

Carry on!


Leila - YES!! The Wild Girls is awesome! I just checked out your review. Like you, I got the book based on a recommendation for a trusted source but wasn't that keen for some odd reason. Once I began it, I couldn't put it down. Hmmm, maybe it's time to revisit it this summer.


Oh, YAY! I'm so glad to hear from someone else who loved it the way I did: I feel like it's one that deserved way more attention than it got.


A few classics:

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren - Escapades of nine year old Pippi, the daughter of a buccaneer captain, who lives with a horse and a monkey--but without any parents--at the edge of a Swedish village.

Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater - Do not let the recent horrible movie adaptation keep you from reading this charming book. The unexpected delivery of a large crate containing an Antarctic penguin changes the life and fortunes of Mr. Popper, a house painter obsesses by dreams of the Polar regions.

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson - After inheriting her uncle's homesteading claim in Montana, sixteen-year-old orphan Hattie Brooks travels, with her cat Mr. Whiskers, from Iowa in 1917 to make a home for herself and encounters some unexpected problems related to the war being fought in Europe.

A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck - During the recession of 1937, fifteen-year-old Mary Alice (with her beloved cat Bootsie and prized Philco radio) is sent to live with her feisty, larger-than-life grandmother in rural Illinois and comes to a better understanding of this fearsome woman. The humor and charm in this book can not be overstated. This is a sequel A Long Way From Chicago - a novel told in stories. A boy recounts his annual summer trips to rural Illinois with his sister during the Great Depression to visit their larger-than-life grandmother. Though each book may be read as a stand alone, why deny yourself the enjoyment of both books. Grandma Dowdel is one of my top 10 best characters written (adult or children's books).

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell - Surprise, right? A horse of nineteenth century England tells his life story from his early home through many masters and experiences, both good and bad. No, Black Beauty doesn't die but he does go through some cruel owners and there is animal cruelty portrayed in the book, which some may find more disturbing than death. However, Ann Sewell wrote this book to bring certain practices to the public's attention and to stop the cruel practices.

Still trying to find some adult books, but as of right now, my memory is failing me.

Hugh Willard

I have the first book in a new series coming out next week on Kindle and other ereaders (paperback to follow soon thereafter). It's entitled A Day of Heroes: The Goodwill Vultures Club (published by Peak City Publishing) The second will be out this summer. The whole series will focus directly on animal companions. Here's a link to the FB page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Goodwill-Vultures-Club/607054569308668?ref=hl&_fb_noscript=1


I can't believe it's taken me this long for include the following book, one of my all time favorites.

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex - It's written and illustrated by Adam Rex so it's bound to be funny. How can you resist a girl named Gratuity (Tip for short), an alien named JLo, and a cat named Pig? When her mother is abducted by aliens on Christmas Eve (or "Smekday" Eve since the Boov invasion), 11 year-old Tip hops in the family car and heads south to find her and meets an alien Boov mechanic who agrees to help her and save the planet from disaster. For those that like audiobooks, this is a wonderful one featuring Bahni Turpin's talented narration.

For the very young set:
Lulu and the Duck in the Park by Hilary McKay - Lulu, who loves animals, brings an abandoned duck egg to school, even though her teacher has banned Lulu from bringing animals to school ever again.

Two books that were some of my favorites when I was a kid:

The Jenny the Cat books by Esther Holden, including Jenny the Cat, The Hotel Cat, Jenny and the Cat Club, etc.) She really captures cats and even though they're off having adventures, they never lose their felineness.

Paddington Bear by Michael Bond - masterful and oh so funny. I'm not sure that Paddington counts as a pet but he is a bear (from deepest darkest Peru), so I'm putting these books/stories into the category.

Serendipity & Me by Judith L. Roth - I haven't read this one but it was recommended to me by a young reader. A story in verse. Sara has always loved cats but she’s never been allowed to have a real cat of her own. So when a fluffy snowball of a kitten darts through their front door and into her life, Sara believes her dream might finally come true. But convincing her father to break his strict No Cats policy seems impossible. She has less than a week to persuade him that this kitten is exactly what their lonely, broken family of two needs to heal.

Adult book:
The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones - This was one of the One City One Book reads for March and April. I have to say that I was doubtful about it for the first 20 - 30 pages and then the characters and story just grabbed me. A great study in class, a mystery and also very funny (British humor). I love Smudge! She's great.
One late spring evening in 1912, in the kitchens at Sterne, preparations begin for an elegant supper party in honor of Emerald Torrington's twentieth birthday. But only a few miles away, a dreadful accident propels a crowd of mysterious and not altogether savory survivors to seek shelter at the ramshackle manor-and the household is thrown into confusion and mischief. The cook toils over mock turtle soup and a chocolate cake covered with green sugar roses, which the hungry band of visitors is not invited to taste. But nothing, it seems, will go according to plan. As the passengers wearily search for rest, the house undergoes a strange transformation. One of their number makes it his business to join the birthday revels. Evening turns to stormy night, and a most unpleasant parlor game threatens to blow respectability to smithereens: Smudge, the wayward youngest daughter of the house, decides that this is the perfect moment for her Great Undertaking.


@Eliza: I continue to giggle every time you add more to this list. Carry on!


Their Finest Hour and a Half by Lissa Evans. I think this is a book for adults or mature readers not because of the subject but because of the style: it follows multiple characters whose stories take a long time to come together. The dog part is delightful, and the dog finishes the book hale, hearty and happy.


I'm back to add another book to the list. While the animal in this book technically isn't a pet, I'd argue that the emotional connection between the characters and the animal is a strong as between a pet and its human.

Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate. Kek, an African refugee, is confronted by many strange things at the Minneapolis home of his aunt and cousin, as well as in his fifth grade classroom, and longs for his missing mother, but finds comfort in the company of a cow and her owner. I LOVED this book. I am not a huge fan* of this year’s Newberry Award book, The One and Only Ivan (dodges fruit), but this earlier book by Ms. Applegate deserves to be read widely. It’s a lovely, gentle, honest story but don’t confuse gentle with bland. Oh how I love Kek and his cousin.

To clarify re Ivan: It's not that I disliked the book. I thought it was fine. I just didn't love it like the legions of other readers out there. Also, Ivan definitely does not belong on this list.


An early Hilary McKay book makes the list.

Dog Friday by Hilary McKay - Ten-year-old Robin Brogan is determined to keep the dog he finds abandoned on the beach from being impounded by the police. Book contains lots of her trademark humor and hijinks. Fun MG summer read.


And now we can add Hilary McKay's newest book, Binny for Short to the list. A border collie named Max, a white kitten and chickens - all survive and are not hurt. Eleven-year-old Binny struggles to cope with her father's death and the loss of her beloved dog while she adjusts to a new home that might be haunted by her horrible Aunt Violet.

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