Animal Companions: Happy 50th Birthday Koko the Gorilla

Koko, a western lowland gorilla, took the world by storm during her lifetime as an ambassador for all gorillas and an icon for interspecies communication. She became an international celebrity, with a vocabulary of more than 1,000 signs and the ability to understand 2,000 spoken English words before her death in 2018. But perhaps more famously, Koko the gorilla showed empathy that was astonishing. Koko adored cats, and even ended up having her own, a cat Koko name All Ball that she loved and played with and held and babied. Sadly, All Ball passed away, and Koko mourned, whimpering and signing the word for “sad.” But it wasn’t just animals Koko felt a connection to; one human she bonded with was comedian Robin Williams, whom she also mourned after hearing about his passing. You can learn more about Koko’s life here:

On July 4, 2021, Koko would have turned 50, and to celebrate and remember the empathetic and loving gorilla, we are highlighting some animal companions in children’s literature that are important to and caring towards main characters — who frankly couldn’t manage life without them. From cats and dogs to flamefoxes and dragons and so much more (both alive and ghostly), this small list is filled with interspecies bonds and the support animals can supply for their humans.

Abe, Julie
Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch. 2020 (Middle Grade).
Eva Evergreen is determined to earn the rank of Novice Witch before she turns thirteen. If she doesn’t, she’ll lose her magic forever. It’s normally a simple test, but Eva only has a pinch of magic. She summons heads of cabbages instead of flowers and gets sunburns instead of the rain she calls for. And to make matters worse, whenever she overuses her magic, she falls asleep. When she lands in Auteri, the residents expect a powerful witch, not a semi-magical girl. Eva, along with Ember, her flamefox companion, who’s loyal, mischievous, and a bit of a troublemaker, must come up with a plan to aid Auteri and prove Eva’s worth.
S. Ab33ev

Beaton, Kate
The Princess and the Pony. 2015 (Picture Book).
Princess Pinecone knows exactly what she wants for her birthday this year: a big horse, a strong horse, a horse fit for a warrior princess. But Princess Pinecone gets a pony that’s a little…different. One that’s a bit too small, a bit too round — and one that happens to have an unfortunate and embarrassing problem when it gets too excited. Princess Pinecone is determined though and works hard to turn her pony into warrior material by training the pony for battle. The bond along the way makes Princess Pinecone realize that she may have gotten the perfect pony after all.
Q. SE. B3833pr

DiTerlizzi, Angela
Illustrated by: Brendan Wenzel
Some Pets. 2016 (Picture Book).
Come one, come all, to the pet show! With dogs and cats, horses and chickens, hamsters and chinchillas — and many, many more — this book celebrates animal companions of all shapes and sizes. See who will be taking home the coveted Best in Show ribbon as you’re introduced to all sorts of pets: some that sit, some that stay, some that fetch and even some that play. What kind of pet is the perfect companion for you?
Q. SE. D634sop

Little Badger, Darcie
Elatsoe. 2020 (Teen).
Elatsoe lives in a slightly stranger America, one that still has homework and best friends and pistachio ice cream but has instead been shaped dramatically by magic and monsters and knowledge and legends. Elatsoe can raise the ghosts of dead animals, a skill passed down through generations of her Lipan Apache family. Her beloved cousin has just been murdered in a town that wants no prying eyes. But she is going to do more than pry. Along with her ghost dog Kirby, who died of old age but Elatsoe brought back so she’d never have to miss him, Elatsoe works to uncover the gruesome secrets behind the murder and protect her family.
S. L7195el

Lacy, Josh
The Dragonsitter. 2012 (Children’s).
It had sounded so easy: Edward was going to look after Uncle Morton’s unusual pet for a week while he went on holiday. But Uncle Morton didn’t leave any instructions, and soon the fridge is empty, the curtains are blazing, and the postman is fleeing down the garden path. Written in epistolary form as Eddie sends emails to his (unresponsive) uncle, this chapter book explores ways in which some pets (especially unusual ones) may be a handful, and how humans can learn to corral their companions.
S. L1164d

Maas, Sarah J.
Throne of Glass. 2012 (Teen).
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince and given an opportunity: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin in exchange for her freedom. Celaena’s opponents are thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire and she must beat them all in order to gain her freedom. This book is the first in a fantasy series with many different animal companions that play important roles to the story and the humans they travel alongside: Fleetfoot the excitable dog; Abraxos the wyvern that seems to act more like a lovable dog than the fierce beast he is; Farasha the horse whose name means butterfly but acts the complete opposite; and many more.
S. M112t

Martin, Ann M.
Rain Reign. 2014 (Middle Grade).
Rose Howard has Asperger’s syndrome, and an obsession with homonyms (even her name is a homonym). She gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Rain was a lost dog Rose’s father brought home, and now Rose and Rain are practically inseparable, often home alone together, as Rose’s father spends most evenings away. Just as a storm hits, Rain goes missing. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search.
S. M3633ra

McQuinn, Anna
Illustrated by: Rosalind Beardshaw
Lola Gets a Cat. 2017 (Picture Book).
Lola wants a cat, but Mommy says taking care of a pet is a lot of work. So Lola does her homework. She finds books about cats and pet care at the library, and she and Mommy learn as much as they can, taking what they learn and practicing all of it on one of Lola’s stuffed kitties they pretend is real. When the time comes, Lola is allowed to pick out her new friend at an animal shelter. With patience and care, her kitten settles in at home. A picture book about the importance of understanding how to properly take care of an animal companion.
SE. M244lg

Pau Preto, Nicki
Heart of Flames. 2020 (Teen).
This is the second book in a trilogy that follows four animages, people with magic that allows them to communicate with animals: Veronyca, who has finally become a Phoenix Rider, but instead of training wants to fly and defend the villages of Pyra; Tristan, a newly promoted Master Phoenix Rider with very different ideas on protecting their people and the empire compared to his father the commander; Sev, an animage in hiding who’s spying on the empire but is having difficulty maintaining his cover; and Val, Veronyka’s sister who’s determined to regain the empire she lost sixteen years ago, even if it means starting the war herself. Controlling families, webs of lies unraveling, and secrets being revealed abound in this series that begins with Crown of Feathers — with phoenixes, little birds, and other animals helping the animages along the way.
S. P28crhe

Reynolds, Aaron
The Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter. 2020 (Middle Grade).
Rex Dexter has a dream: to have a dog. Any pooch would be preferable, but a chocolate Labrador is the pinnacle, the dream of all dreams. So when Rex’s parents surprise him with a box on his birthday, a box with holes and adorable scratchy noises coming from inside, Rex is excited, ecstatic, and can’t wait to open the box. Only to find a chicken. One hour and fourteen minutes later, the chicken is dead, Rex is cursed, and wild animals are haunting Rex’s room. Rex’s uninvited guests are a chatty, messy bunch, and they need Rex to solve their mysterious deadly departures from the Middling Falls Zoo before it happens again.
S. R332in


Man’s Best Friend: Animals and Humans in Children’s Literature

Humans and animals have a special bond — what wouldn’t you do for your beloved pet? Even though most of us have dogs or cats (or maybe snakes, horses, or ferrets), the human-animal relationship can go far beyond those everyday pets. April is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month, and the SSHEL S-Collection is focusing on the positive aspects of the connection between humans and animals, from the domestic to the wild. Many of us have favorite literary animal-human duos, like India Opal Buloni and Winn-Dixie from Because of Winn Dixie or Fern and Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web, but there are many, many others in fiction and nonfiction to read about and love.

To find books about pets, try a subject search of “juvenile” with a keyword search of “pets” (feel free to insert your favorite pet, whether hedgehogs or toucans). If you like nonfiction, you can use a subject search of “juvenile literature.” If you’re looking for stories or novels, try “juvenile fiction.”

You might also have success combining your subject search of “juvenile” with a keyword search of “human-animal relationships.”

If you just want to browse, information about pets is typically located in the 636 section of libraries organized by the Dewey Decimal System. Information about non-domesticated animals can be found in the 590s.

For Beginning Readers

Brown, Peter.
Children Make Terrible Pets. 2010.
When a young bear finds a child alone in the forest, she decides to name him Squeaker and keep him, even though Mama Bear reminds her that wild children do not make good pets. This silly reversal of the traditional pet-owner relationship keeps readers giggling and guessing.
[SSHEL S Collection SE. B812chi]

Dempsey, Sheenah.
Bruno and Titch: The Tale of a Boy and His Guinea Pig. 2014.
Titch the guinea pig is ecstatic when he is finally adopted by Bruno, but the two soon find they are an odd couple — Bruno likes to run wild and get messy, but Titch would rather take a nice, quiet nap. Can the two build a solid friendship despite their differences?
[SSHEL S Collection SE. D3994br]

Fletcher, Susan.
Dadblamed Union Army Cow! 2007.
In this Civil War tale based on a true story, a devoted cow refuses to leave her farmer when he joins the Union Army, instead following him south to fight.
[SSHEL S Collection Q. SE. F637d]

Hopcraft, Xan.
How it was with Dooms. 1997.
Xan grew up in Kenya with his family and a pet cheetah, Dooms. This true story describes the wild life of a boy and his cheetah.
[SSHEL S Collection and CCB Q. S. 599.74428 H77h]

Jackson, Ellen B.
Abe Lincoln Loved Animals. 2011.
Abraham Lincoln is famous for a lot of things, like for being president, for ending slavery, and for having his face on the penny. But did you know that Abe Lincoln was a great lover of animals? Read about his pets and the other animals he encountered throughout his life, including a turkey he officially pardoned from being served up as Christmas dinner.
[SSHEL S Collection Q. SB. L736jac]

Knowles, Ruth.
Christian the Lion. 2009.
Many people have seen the viral video about Christian the Lion and his human friends, but Knowles tells his story in detail: When two friends find a lion cub for sale in a department store, they take him home to raise him as their own. When the cub outgrows them, they release him into the wild to join his pride.
[SSHEL S Collection S. 599. 7570929 K763c]

Medina, Meg.
Mango, Abuela, and Me. 2015.
Abuela has a hard time with English, and Mia has a hard time with Spanish. Mia finds Mango, a bilingual parrot, to help them communicate.
[SSHEL S Collection SE. M4689m]

Novesky, Amy.
Mister and Lady Day: Billie Holiday and the Dog Who Loved Her. 2013.
Billie Holiday is well known for her voice, but few know about her love for her many pet dogs, including Mister, her favorite, who helped her persevere through tough times.
[SSHEL S Collection Q. SB. H732n]

Pericoli, Matteo.
The True Story of Stellina. 2006.
Matteo Pericoli and his wife Holly tried to find a zoo or nature preserve to raise the baby bird they found in a busy street, but when they couldn’t, they brought Stellina home and gave her an extraordinary life.
[SSHEL S Collection and CCB S.636.6 P417s]

Robertson, M.P.
Hieronymus Betts and His Unusual Pets. 2005.
Most kids have dogs, cats, or guinea pigs — not Hieronymus Betts! He loves all his strange animals, and he’s on a quest for the grossest, stinkiest, slimiest pet he can find.
[SSHEL S Collection SE. R547h]

Rumford, James.
Dog-of-the-Sea-Waves. 2004.
Told in both English and Hawaiian, Dog-of-the-Sea-Waves tells the story of Manu, one of the first Hawaiians, who is very lonely until he rescues and befriends a strange-looking dog on the beach…one with flippers!
[SSHEL S Collection Q. SE. R865d]

Winter, Jeannette.
The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps. 2011.
Jane Goodall loved chimpanzees so much that when she was 26, she moved to Africa to live with them and observe their lives. She even named the chimps and considered them her friends. Goodall, who devoted her life to protecting her animal friends, changed the way the world thought about primates.
[SSHEL S Collection and CCB S. 590.92 W7344w]

For Intermediate to Advanced Readers

Campbell, Jeff.
Daisy to the Rescue: True Stories of Daring Dogs, Paramedic Parrots, and Other Animal Heroes. 2014.
The over fifty stories presented in this collection explore not only how animals have gone to extreme lengths to save humans, but why — can they feel empathy? Can they be altruistic? Campbell includes both anecdotal and scientific evidence.
[SSHEL S Collection S. 590 C1529d]

Cowcher, Helen.
Desert Elephants. 2011.
Every year the Desert Elephants of Mali travel over 300 miles in search of water. The people of the countries they pass through work to protect the elephants in an example of harmony between species.
[SSHEL S Collection S. 599.67 C838d]

Davies, Nicola.
Talk, Talk, Squawk!: A Human’s Guide to Animal Communication. 2011.
Do you ever feel like your pet is trying to tell you something? Maybe they are! Learn all about how different animals communicate with each other, and with humans, through vibrations, electricity, smells, and noises.
[SSHEL S Collection S. 591.59 D2883t]

Downer, Ann.
Wild Animal Neighbors: Sharing Our Urban World. 2014.
Because the human population is growing, animals are running out of natural habitat space…so they’re sharing ours! Scientists and animal activists study why and how wild animals survive in urban areas and what the future of animal-human cohabitation might look like.
[SSHEL S Collection Q. S. 591. 756 D75w]

Ihimaera, Witi Tame.
Whale Rider. 2003.
Kahu has a special gift of speaking to whales, and she must use it to save the animals beached in New Zealand while her grandfather, chief of the Maori, struggles to find a male successor.
[SSHEL S Collection S. Ih3w]

Keenan, Sheila.
Animals in the House: A History of Pets and People. 2007.
Did you know there are almost 400 million pets in the United States? Read Animals in the House to find some of the most interesting pet-owner stories throughout history.
[SSHEL S Collection S. 636.088709 K25a]

Loizeaux, William.
Wings. 2006.
Nick is determined to save an abandoned baby mockingbird he names Marcy. As Marcy grows, Nick confronts some tough issues in his life, including the death of his father. Eventually, Nick and Marcy learn valuable lessons and each discovers how to spread their wings, even when it is difficult.
[SSHEL S Collection S. L836w]

Love, Ann.
Talking Tails: The Incredible Connection Between People and their Pets. 2010.
Animals and humans have always had special relationships; this book explores examples of unique animals who impacted the humans in their lives.
[SSHEL S Collection S. 636.088 L9411t]

Markle, Sandra.
Animal Heroes: True Rescue Stories. 2009.
We often hear about people who rescue animals from dangerous situations, but sometimes it’s the animals who are the heroes! All the stories in this collection are true and highlight an amazing animal who helped a human in danger.
[SSHEL S Collection S. 636.0887 M3419a]

Marrin, Albert.
Oh, Rats!: The Story of Rats and People. 2006.
Why is everyone so scared of rats? Humans and rats can get along perfectly well, even though sometimes they have disagreements about rules of general conduct. This book addresses the misconception that rats are vermin, arguing instead that they are intelligent and emotional creatures.
[SSHEL S Collection and CCB Q. S. 599.352 M349o]

Martin, Ann M.
Rain Reign. 2014.
Rose, a teen with Asperger’s Syndrome, loves her dog Rain more than anything. When Rain goes missing during a storm, Rose confronts her limitations in order to save her canine best friend.
[SSHEL S Collection S. M3633ra]

Miller, Marie-Therese.
Distinguished Dogs. 2007.
Sometimes dogs are our pets, but other times they are our co-workers. Dogs can have jobs just like people; some dogs work in law enforcement, in therapy situations, or as soldiers.
[SSHEL S Collection S. 636.7 M612d]

Patent, Dorothy Hinshaw.
The Horse and the Plains Indians: A Powerful Partnership. 2012.
The indigenous peoples of the North American plains didn’t always use horses in their daily lives—once upon a time, dogs were the preferred work and companion animal. In the 16th century, the Spanish introduced horses to the Plains Indians and an important bond was formed.
[SSHEL S Collection S. 978.00497352 P272h]



Every Dog Has Its Day: Dog Adoption Stories

May is finally here and that means summer, and summer break, are fast approaching. With beautiful weather making an appearance outside and a vast stretch of unoccupied time looming on the horizon, some kids might already be developing strategies to convince their parents to add a new, furry member to the family. Whether you are considering adopting a dog into your family, or have already rescued a furry friend long ago, check out these great stories of finding and adopting the perfect dog for a loving family. For more stories of adopting and rescuing shelter and stray dogs, try searching the keyword phrase “Dog adoption” with the phrase “Juvenile literature” for nonfiction books and “Juvenile fiction” for fictional stories. And if dogs aren’t your favorite potential pet, try searching “Cat adoption” instead for stories about cats or “Pet adoption” for stories of animals of all shapes and sizes!
Picture Books
Boelts, Maribeth.
Before You Were Mine. 2007.
A young boy imagines what his rescued dog’s life might have been like before he adopted him.
[SSHEL S Collection and Center for Children’s Books SE. B6333b]

Chall, Marsha Wilson.
Pick a Pup. 2011.
After observing different types of dogs in his neighborhood, Sam and Gram go to the local pet shelter to choose a puppy.
[SSHEL S Collection Q. SE. C351p]

Frasier, Debra.
Spike: Ugliest Dog in the Universe. 2013.
When Spike, the winner of the Ugliest Dog in the Universe contest, is abandoned by his owner, Joe, the boy next door, is determined – against all odds – to adopt him. Things look grim until Spike foils a neighborhood catnapping plan and saves the day!
[SSHEL S Collection Q. SE. F864s]

Graham, Bob.
“Let’s Get a Pup!” Said Kate. 2001.
When Kate and her parents visit the animal shelter, an adorable puppy charms them, but it is very hard to leave an older dog behind.
[SSHEL S Collection and Center for Children’s Books Q. SE. G76717l]

O’Connor, Jane.
Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy. 2007.
Nancy wants to adopt a special puppy so that she is no longer the only fancy member of her family, but after a day of puppysitting a papillon, she realizes that being fancy is not always the most important thing.
[SSHEL S Collection Q. SE. Oc53f]

Stephens, Helen.
Fleabag. 2010.
A stray dog and a lonely boy become fast friends at a neighborhood park, but everything changes when the boy’s family decides to move away.
[SSHEL S Collection Q. SE. St441f2010]

Stuve-Bodeen, Stephanie.
A Small, Brown Dog with a Wet, Pink Nose. 2010.
Amelia will stop at nothing to convince her parents to let her adopt a very special dog.
[Center for Children’s Books SE. B6319s]

Swaim, Jessica.
The Hound from the Pound. 2007.
When lonely Miss Mary Lynn MacIntosh decides to adopt Blue, a basset hound from the pound, she gets far more companionship than she ever expected.
[SSHEL S Collection Q. SE. Sw13h]
Intermediate Fiction
Cleary, Beverly.
Henry Huggins. 1950.
When Henry adopts Ribsy, a dog of no particular breed, humorous adventures follow.
[SSHEL S Collection and Center for Children’s Books S. C581h]

DiCamillo, Kate.
Because of Winn-Dixie. 2000.
Ten-year-old India Opal Buloni describes her first summer in the town of Naomi, Florida, and all the good things that happen to her because of her big ugly dog Winn-Dixie.
[SSHEL S Collection and Center for Children’s Books S. D547b]

Howe, Peter.
Waggit’s Tale. 2008.
When Waggit is abandoned by his owner as a puppy, he meets a pack of wild dogs who become his friends and teach him to survive in the city park, but when he has a chance to go home with a kind woman who wants to adopt him, he takes it.
[SSHEL S Collection S. H8388w]

Kehret, Peg.
Ghost Dog Secrets. 2010.
Sixth-grader Rusty, determined to help an injured dog that is chained outdoors in frigid weather, calls animal control then takes matters into his own hands, aided by his best friend and a ghost collie that leads Rusty to an even deeper secret.
[SSHEL S Collection S. K261gh]

Lucky Dog. 2014.
A collection of stories about the Pawley Rescue Center, where rescued dogs find their way into hearts and homes.
[SSHEL S Collection S. 808.83 L964]

MacLachlan, Patricia.
White Fur Flying. 2013.
A sad and silent nine-year-old boy finds his voice when he moves next to a family that rescues dogs.
[SSHEL S Collection S. M221wh]

Martin, Ann M.
Everything for a Dog. 2009.
In parallel stories, Bone, an orphaned dog, finds and loses a series of homes; Molly, a family pet, helps Charlie through the grief and other after-effects of his brother’s death; and lonely Henry pleads for a dog of his own.
[SSHEL S Collection S. M3633e]
Bial, Raymond.
Rescuing Rover: Saving America’s Dogs. 2011.
Discusses the welfare of dogs around the world, highlighting both regions where dogs are abused, neglected, and exploited, and the people and organizations seeking to improve such situations and rescue dogs from poor living conditions.
[SSHEL S Collection S. 636.0832 B47r]

Gutman, Bill.
Adopting Pets: How to Choose Your New Best Friend. 2001.
Pet Friends books are a practical way for children and their parents to learn about all types of pets, what makes them special, and what you’d rather know about their care before you bring them home. Adorable animal drawings illustrate the sometimes baffling behaviors of common pets. This wonderful series of practical how-to guides will educate all young pet lovers.
[Center for Children’s Books S. 636.70887 G985a]

Howey, Paul.
Freckles: The Mystery of the Little White Dog in the Desert. 2003.
True story of an abandoned dog that’s rescued from the desert and becomes a therapy dog working with the homeless, abused and otherwise at-risk children.
[SSHEL S Collection S. 636.7 H839f]

Jackson, Emma.
A Home for Dixie. 2008.
For as long as she could remember, Emma had wanted a dog. Instead, she got a fish, a hamster, and even a guinea pig. And although Emma loved all these pets, it was not the same as having a dog. Meanwhile, an abandoned puppy was brought to an animal rescue. This is the uplifting story of how Emma adopted Dixie, enhanced by adorable photography and bonus information on how to support your local animal shelter, and even adopt a rescued dog of your own.
[SSHEL S Collection S. 636.70832 J1337h]

Kehret, Peg.
Shelter Dogs: Amazing Stories of Adopted Strays. 1999.
Tells the stories of eight stray dogs that were adopted from animal shelters and went on to become service dogs, actors, and heroes.
[Center for Children’s Books S. 636.7 K261s]

Laidlaw, Rob.
No Shelter Here: Making the World a Kinder Place for Dogs. 2011.
Discusses the welfare of dogs around the world, highlighting both regions where dogs are abused, neglected, and exploited, and the people and organizations seeking to improve such situations and rescue dogs from poor living conditions.
[SSHEL S Collection S. 636.70832 L141n]