What can be better than to spend one’s youth with an animal companion, or to have a special, even if momentary, connection with an animal? Here are some books that show this is really a good and interesting way to grow up, in a variety of happenings.  Here are some examples.

   In this series of four books, with a fifth that fits the storyline, Monica Dickens (a granddaughter of Charles) has written stories featuring a ranch owned by a retired British colonel who has set up this ranch to help retired and injured horses. Helping him run the ranch are a young teen relative, Callie; and two other teens (Dora and Steve). 

Young British teen Velvet Brown dreams of owning a horse and being the best rider around the countryside. One day in town she sees a horse being auctioned off. The owner obviously just wants to be rid of this particular horse, a piebald. Velvet amazingly manages to win the horse.  With the help of her family, and someone who works for her father, Velvet indeed learns to ride the horse well. Then her big dream begins; or seems possible. She wants to be part of a horse race. However, no girls are permitted in this race. What can Velvet do now?!

In their small town in Sonoma County, California,  11-year-old Weston and his 9-year-old sister, Wendy, search for something interesting to do during a summer. Suddenly they find some abandoned  animals and work to help them. Soon they want to help lots of animals they find, but will some people try to stop them? What can they do about that?!

12 year old Davy and his cousin Anderson (often irksome), are intrigued by lights they detect in a forest. They venture into the woods to find out what’s there. The boys make a discovery, are caught near a forest fire, and then desperately attempt to accomplish what they are determined to do!  

Young siblings Maureen and Paul have been saving their money to buy a particular horse they have seen at an annual local round-up of one of two groups of wild horses on Assateague Island (shared by the states of Maryland and Virginia). After being rounded up the caught horses are sent on a run and swim to nearby Chincoteague Island where some will be sold. This annual even happens so the wild horse herds won’t overcrowd the island. The horse the siblings are interested in, with its tell-tale white patch, has avoided capture for some years. By chance, this time, however, this horse is among the horses that are captured. The young people are all set to bargain to buy this horse, but then they find out she has her little colt with her. Will the young people be able to get enough money to buy the mother horse, and the baby too?! 

After visiting his uncle in India, young Alec is on his way home to New York by way of England, in a cargo ship. An unusual fellow passenger is a wild horse. The boy secretly makes friends with the animal by leaving a lump of sugar at the horse’s makeshift stall every night. After several days of travel, the boat is caught in a storm and is destroyed, but not before the boy manages to try to free the horse before abandoning ship. Suddenly Alex is drawn into the water while tied to the animal. For days the boy and horse, tied together, swim near each other. Then, the horse suddenly changes course, and Alex, bewildered, must follow. But then he sees that the horse has found an island. Can they both make it to the island; exhausted as they are; and then can they strive to learn to live and coexist together on the island; not knowing if there are other survivors, or if they will be ever be rescued!

A  young teen is happy living near her granddad’s farm where she can ride her very own horse whenever she wants to. Then suddenly she’s very upset when she hears of her family moving miles away. What can she do? Can she convince her granddad to let her live with him? She must strive to get his attention which is all but taken up by a neighbor woman.

A young woman who’s an artist, and handicapped, discovers a horse who is lame. The young woman so wants to help the horse. Will she and her family be able to?

A horse’s life story, told from the viewpoint of the horse.

A classic story that led to many sequels by various authors. Joe, a boy, and his dog are happy living their lives, but then the boy’s father has money difficulties and must sell the pure-bred dog. After being sold, the dog escapes and comes back home to Joe. The dog is sold again, but again finds his way back to Joe. Sold a third time, Lassie faces a giant challenge when she strives to get back home this time. Her new owner is in another nation! Can she do it?! 

  In addition to picture books and comic books, there is a series of chapter books, also considered novels for young readers, published by Whitman many years ago. These books feature a German Shepherd dog called Rin Tin Tin, and a boy named Rusty. Rusty became an orphan when his group’s wagon train was attacked. A nearby fort with an early American cavalry troop patrolling the frontier took in the boy to live with them. Rin Tin Tin, a stray German shepherd dog, lives at the fort too. The boy and dog become inseparable companions. Both the boy and the dog in these novel chapters have many adventures in the early western United States territory.  

 In this sequel to MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN, and ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN, this story features an endangered bird who was saved by Sam, a teen, who lives with his younger sister on their grandfather’s land in the Catskill Mountains in New York State.  The bird became Sam’s pet, but then a forest ranger took the bird away, saying it was illegal for the boy to have such a pet. Through the books MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN and ON THE FAR SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN, the bird, a falcon named Frightful, is part of the story, then there’s FRIGHTFUL’S STORY in which she strives to get back to Sam. 

A girl, temporarily handicapped, visiting her grandmother, is entertained with stories by a local storekeeper. One particular story intrigues her – a legend about a white lark that few people believe exists. Then one day the girl suddenly discovers something the white lark reveals to her. 

Two dogs and a cat, separated from their family, are determined to travel across country, to get back to their owners. Told from the viewpoints of the animals.

A young girl just recently comes to live with her grandmother in a remote country place, and comes to love and care about the nature that’s all around her. One day a young man happens to come into the area. He asks her where a white heron, said to be around there may be found. The girl notices that the man carryies a gun. Should she tell him where the elusive bird can be seen? The decision she makes will be a turning point in her life. The way her life turns out, at the time the story was written, in 1886, will be a hardship. Readers might consider – if a girl of today in this situation had to make such a decision, what would it be, and how would her life turn out because of it? Such an ending is telling for our present time.  


Carolyn M Johnson on Blogger
Carolyn M Johnson
librarian/writer / author of MG novel manuscript / published author of Net-based schooling aids for students / published author of nature-related travel articles / published poet (e.g Modern Haiku) / published puzzle for Highlights' Puzzlemania / a variety of other manuscripts in progress