Dogged Devotion: Dog Stories in Children’s Literature

Melody Eisler, Silverdale Branch Manager, recently shared an excellent Central Kitsap Reporter article about therapy dog and unofficial KRL librarian, Jangle. Jangle is a  black Labrador retriever whose handler happens to be Silverdale’s  Youth Services Librarian, Miss Greta. You can meet her at the Silverdale Branch for these fabulous events:

Family Storytime on Tuesdays at 11:15.

Dog Tales from 2-5 on Thursdays

And every month on the 3rd Saturday, from 1:30-3, she’s here with additional therapy dogs Boomer and Jagger and Norma Jean for any kid to read to.

Thinking about sweet Jangle, and my own loveable dog, Lula, who is also a black lab (but kind of the opposite of a certified therapy dog), I started to reflect on all the wonderful dog stories that are so prolific in children’s literature.

Common themes such as the bond between child and dog, heroism and sacrifice, and the connection to nature and wild places appeal to adults and children alike. The titles that stay with me the longest are those that evoke the most emotion. You know, the emotional roller coaster dog stories that follow an arc of loneliness, then acceptance, the amazing bond of friendship , and then suddenly the dog …. dies.

Why are there so many dog stories where the dog dies? Dogs and other pets play an important role in children’s lives. They provide companionship and unconditional love, their life spans are much shorter than our own, and death is a fact of life. These stories teach us important lessons about friendship, loss, grief, and coping. Dog stories are cathartic and like the dogs they depict, they provide therapeutic value to children dealing with, well, life.

Below are a few of my favorite dog stories for school aged children. Note – this list is not a comprehensive list and not every dog dies.


Shiloh by Phyllis Naylor

Shiloh by Phyllis Naylor

Marty Preston hides a beagle, Shiloh, from his abusive owner and  resolves to keep Shiloh a secret in order to keep him safe.



Ginger Pye by Eleanor EstesGinger Pye by Eleanor Estes

When their puppy, Ginger, is kidnapped, siblings Jerry and Rachel Pye must put the clues together to find him. Estes’ heartfelt and excellent writing style make this book stand out.


A disabled dachshund and his motley crew disrupt the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. This book is the hilarious and a tearjerker at the same time.




Love that Dog

Love that Dog by Sharon Creech

A boy, initially reluctant to write poetry, writes about his dog. His poems become more complex and become a means to deal with a painful loss in his life.




Because of Winn Dixie

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

An ugly dog named Winn-Dixie helps a young girl cope with difficult life changes and make a home in a new town.




Henry and Ribsy

Henry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary

Henry must keep his dog, Ribsy, out of trouble or he can’t go on a fishing trip with his dad.  Humorous close calls keep Henry on his toes.




Jacket (1)Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

The quintessential dog story, this classic epitomizes the bond between boy and dog, the natural world, courage, heroism, and sacrifice.




Dangerous Images

It’s Banned Books Week! Of the various celebratory weeks that we have in libraryland, this is my favorite.  I think it’s knowing that the library is about freedom in a very fundamental way, plus being able share some of my favorite books (turns out a lot of my favorite books have been banned or challenged) with our community.

This year’s Banned Books Week focuses on comics or graphic novels that have been subject to censorship efforts, and so, in the spirit of the week, here are two of my favorite graphic novels that have been banned or challenged.

Maus by Art Spiegelman, in two volumes:  Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History and Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began, is a memoir of the Holocaust told by the son of two survivors.  It’s haunting, it’s bold, and it’s thought provoking.  It stands out as one of the few works of sequential art that has crossed into literary culture, it won a Pulitzer in 1992, and has been adopted as part of many a college course.  It is also a book that is criticized for being anti-ethnic for its depictions of various ethnic groups as animals (in fact those are the grounds on which it has most often been challenged.)  I often suggest this book paired with other Holocaust memoirs such as Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz or Elie Wiesel’s Night.

On a completely different note, but no less affecting and challenging, is Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. The series, originally published as comics and then gathered into graphic novel format, tells interwoven stories of seven mystical siblings called the Endless.  One of the things I love about the series is that it essentially about the power of stories and storytelling.  The lavish art sets the mood in each book and the intricate world-building draws you into a completely realized world.  It’s modern day myth-telling that has won awards as well as been “challenged and banned in libraries since its publication.”  Most commonly it has been questioned for its themes and tone.  If you’re a Charles De Lint or Stephen King (especially the Dark Tower series) fan, you might try this series.

These are just two of a great many books that have been challenged or banned over the years.  If you’re interested in finding more, the American Library Association’s resource page is a great place to start.  And remember, if you find something that we don’t have in our library listen to Neil Gaiman who said, “I discovered that librarians actually want to help you: they taught me about interlibrary loans.


Did You Like The Maze Runner Movie? We’ve Got a Book For You!

The movie adaption of James Dashner’s bestselling book The Maze Runner premiered last week. In this post-apocalyptic young adult novel, Maze Runner DashnerJames wakes up in an elevator with no memory other than his name. When the elevator doors open, he is greeted by a group of teenage boys who have been living in the Glade, an open area surrounded by a complicated and deadly maze.  Like James, they have no idea where they came from, what the Glade is, and most importantly, how to get out.

The Maze Runner joins the list of many young adult books that have been adapted into movies recently, including The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and dystopian blockbusters The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Divergent by Veronica Roth.  (Be sure to check out KRL’s readalike lists for John Green and The Hunger Games.)

Whether you loved the movie or the book, we have a list with similar titles to keep you reading. By clicking on the titles, you’ll be taken to the KRL catalog where you can place holds.

Variant by Robison E. Wells

VariantFoster kid Benson is looking forward to starting fresh at Maxfield Academy, a private school which offered him an unexpected scholarship.  However, when Benson shows up to school, he quickly realizes that the Academy is not what it seems- there are no teachers in sight, surveillance cameras abound, and the school is surrounded by walls with barbed wire fence.

Lockdown: Escape from Furnace by Alexander Gordon Smith

In the future, teens who commit even the most Jacket.aspxminor crimes are sent to the Furnace Penitentiary, never to be seen again.  When Alex is framed for murder, he is sent to Furnace.  He’s heard it’s terrible, but is not prepared for the sadistic guards and horrifying things that happen to inmates in the night.  He’s determined to escape, but there’s a problem: Furnace is hundreds of feet below the earth, built into a rock crevice with only one way out.

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Long ago, the first inmates of Incarceron, a incarceronfuturistic prison that is alive, were imprisoned and its walls were sealed forever. The descendants of the prison still live inside, and a dark, brutal society has developed, watched and controlled by the living walls. Since it was sealed, no one has exited or entered. But when Finn, an inmate and Claudia, the warden’s daughter from the outside, simultaneously find a key, they discover they can communicate with each other.

Legend by Marie Lu

The Republic is one of two countries in what used to be the United States.  LegendPeople are oppressed and being killed off by plague and the privileged few in the military who control the country.  Day, a hero to the street people who fights injustice, is wanted for murdering a soldier during a raid.  June, a young military prodigy, is the one sent to finally stop Day from sabotaging the Republic.  She’s more than happy to take on the task, since the soldier was her brother.

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

Imprisoned in a military compound, Em and her companion Finn have tried and failed 14 times to escape.  all our yesterdaysTheir goal is to save the world by to travelling back in time to prevent a time machine from being invented and destroying the world.  When they finally get out, they still have big choice to make, because the inventor of the time machine is their beloved friend James.

Can’t get enough and want even more suggestions? Take a look at our teen Science Fiction booklist.

A special thanks to teen intern Morgan for her help with this blog post.

Early Literacy Kits Are Now Available!

Wouldn’t it be great if an early childhood learning specialist assembled a collection of books just for your young child?  What if all the titles in the collection were on an important development topic, included an adult resource book with suggestions for activities to explore that topic and even contained a related educational game to play together?  Great news!  The trained and experienced staff at Kitsap Regional Library has done just that.

Photo credit: Kitsap Regional Library
Check out one of our amazing new Early Literacy Kits.  Each kit comes packaged in a handy backpack and contains ten preschool books concentrating on a central theme, an adult activity guide with ideas for exploring that theme together, and a child tested game that reinforces this learning concept.  We have kits on school readiness, colors, numbers, letters and shapes, as well as kits that contain a collection of books from our popular booklist, “100 Books Every Child Should Hear Before Starting School“.  All of the books in these kits are picture book classics and modern favorites, guaranteed to delight your young child and aid in their educational development.  These kits are perfect for parents, preschool teachers, and child caregivers who know how important early literacy exploration is to the growth and development of young children.

Photo credit: Kitsap Regional Library
To get yours, place the words “early literacy kit” in the Basic Search option of our catalog and click “Go”.  You will retrieve a list of seventeen different kits, many with three or four copies each.  Read the descriptions of the kits by clicking on the titles and then click on “Place a Hold” to have your kit sent directly to the library nearest you for pick up.  It is easy, fun and a great way to start your child on the pathway to a lifetime of learning.

Are you Ready for an Earthquake?

Early this morning, a 4.0 magnitude earthquake hit Kitsap County. Thankfully this particularly quake was shallow and short, causing no reported injuries or damage. But in our quake-prone region, this is a wake-up call to make sure we’re prepared in case of a natural disaster. What can you do to be ready?


The Great Washington Shake-Out is asking organizations and families to organize earthquake drills on October 16th.  Visit their site to learn how to stay safe during a quake and recover quickly afterward.

For more detailed information about how to prepare your home and neighborhood, check out the Kitsap Department of Emergency Management website. Their section on Preparedness has helpful information like lists of emergency supplies and videos on how to secure your furniture. Learn about country programs to help you retrofit your older house with a seismic upgrade, what emergency management plans Kitsap has in place, and how neighborhoods can prepare together.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a guide to earthquake safety at home, as well as lots of information about earthquake science and safety.

If you want to learn about the causes and effects of Seattle-area quakes in depth, Seattle Times science reporter Sandi Doughton has written a fantastic book, Full Rip 9.0. It is the complete and compelling examination of the Cascadia subduction zone, our Pacific Northwest area vulnerable to mega-quakes. Doughton takes a deeper look at the causes of earthquakes, the science behind predicting them, and how regular people prepare. Even with the serious topic and useful information, it’s surprisingly enjoyable reading.

For further reading on creating a plan to keep yourself and your family safe during an emergency, the library has many guides to disaster preparedness.

Too valuable to miss – you’ll jump out of your chair!

“Whaaaaat?! No Way!” ” You mean I can get lists of people in Kitsap county that are politically conservative, that shop online, that just moved, that started a business within the past 6 months, that have top credit ratings, that have grandparents or veterans in the household, that buy books or are charitable donors or quilt? You can if you have a library card. You can find neighbors, employers, markets and colleagues in your field. You can survey Kitsap, your own block, or the whole country.

I love showing people our ReferenceUSA database product, reference usa 2sometimes it actually makes people jump out of their chair — really! I’ve watched people move closer and closer to the edge of their seat, just reeling them in, tidbit by tidbit, as the full potential of this wonderful database to change their life sinks slowly in.

Once in a presentation to a group of civic leaders and business people, one person literally sprung to their feet shouting “You mean I can really …. with ReferenceUSA?”, interrupting my presentation — delightfully so. “Yes, yes you can!” I replied. Suddenly, everyone one in the room wanted a library card. “You just made this whole thing worth the time, you just saved me a whole bunch of money, you just made my life soooo much easier…” all are common responses to ReferenceUSA, when people realize KRL provides you with unlimited use from home or work, no charge, with your library card.

ReferenceUSA is  part of our collection, our way of empowering you to do more, be successful, save money.

Sometimes people complain they go home and spend all day on ReferenceUSA after I show it to them, they complain it’s totally addictive.

Do you want to have that problem, too? Go to, select Research & Learn in the green menu bar, you’ll find ReferenceUSA in the A to Z list, or under the Business resources.  Or better yet, make an appointment with me and I’ll take you for a test drive: email me at pbranaman@krl.og. I’ll have you jumping out of your chair in no time.

Elwha Restoration can Inspire Kitsap Volunteers

Chinook salmon have returned to the Elwha River, 102 years after their disappearance. When the Elwha dam was built a century ago, it blocked the previously robust Chinook run. The amazing recovery of the river’s ecosystem, a mere three years after the dam’s removal began, has surprised and delighted scientists and citizens alike.

Jumping Salmon 1 by Thomas Bjørkan. Flickr, Creative Commons License.

The incredible success story of the Elwha has inspired me to think about what I can do to protect and restore marine habitat where I live. You can volunteer to help with the Elwha restoration, but I also want to make a difference closer to home. There are so many opportunities right in our backyards for anybody to participate in “citizen science,” no degree or experience required.

Kitsap Watershed Stewardship Programs are coKBN1llaborations between the Extension, the county Public Works, and Washington Sea Grant. If you love to learn, these programs provide education and training so you can volunteers as a Beach Naturalist, Native Plant Advisor, Stream Steward, or Salmon Docent.

Don’t have that kind of time? Cornell and the University of 800px-Sea-Star-Ship-Harbor-Acadia-NP by Aldaron. Wikimedia Commons.Washington are partnering to save our sea stars from a poorly-understood wasting disease. Scientists need regular citizens to observe the sea stars at our local beaches. You can participate by filling out a sheet describing the state of sea stars at your beach.

SoundCitizen, an initiative of the Center for Urban Waters at UW-Taclogooma, is looking for water samples from natural sources. Even runoff from your own roof is helpful, so you don’t even have to leave the house!

Washington Sea Grant is a partnership between the University of SeaGrantLogoWashington and coastal communities. Waterfront property owners can submit samples to their State of the Oyster study. Report algal blooms and other disturbances with Canal Watchers or SoundToxins. Survey Kitsap beaches for                                                                the Marine Invasive Species Monitoring                                                                 Program  or the Plastics Project.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is seeking washingtondepfishwildlife-t_0volunteers for a variety of programs. If you love to fish, you can help out with the Coastal Rockfish Tagging Project. If you’re a hiker or photographer, help monitor Ecological Integrity. There’s an opportunity for nearly any interest or ability, and you can even get a free Discover Pass for participating.

And when you’re home relaxing after a day of improving our local waters, enjoy learning more about the project that sparked our interest. For more about the habitat, geography, and history of the beautiful Elwha, which now flows freely from the Olympics to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, take a look at the National Park Service page on the restoration project. You can also check out Elwha: A River Reborn by Lynda Mapes or Finding the River: An Environmental History of the Elwha by Jeff Crane.


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