There’s nothing like a story about an underdog to grab the hearts and imaginations of a reading public.
Two of today’s recommendations are about dogs in World War I and how their companionship made the war a little more bearable, a little more human for the regiments and friends they accompanied.
Stubby the War Dog: the true story of World War I’s bravest dog by Ann Bausum is almost the ultimate “boy-and-his-dog” story. It’s about a stray mutt adopted by recruits training at the Yale University stadium. Stubby eventually singles out one of these enlisted men for himself and the two become fast friends for life. After basic training, Stubby (a Boston terrier cross) is smuggled across the Atlantic to Europe where he accompanies James Robert Conroy for the duration of World War I. Becoming the mascot for Conroy’s regiment, he provides companionship for all and invaluable service running messages and warning soldiers of incoming shells. Recommended for middles grades 5-8.
Rags, hero dog of WWI: a true story by Margot Theis Raven is recommended for younger kids, grades 1-4, and that tells a similar tale of the bond between an American soldier and a stray pup he finds in Paris. Rags also perform acts of bravery and service to his regiment, just like Stubby. But it’s his loyalty to Private James Donovan that remains steadfast until Donovan’s death and beyond that he best remembered for. It’s a sad story but it’s the nature of war that is captured here so poignantly.
A Canadian story to know about is, Bunny, the Brave War Horse: based on a true story by Elizabeth MacLean. Obviously not about a dog, this stalwart horse (named Bunny for his long ears) survived the war living through numerous attacks, appalling conditions of wet, cold, mud and starvation while still providing an element of companionship for the men he had to work with particularly Constable Thomas H. Dundas. This is a story of hardship and endurance, recommended for grades 2-5.
Lest we forget.