Great Illustrated Books

Owney, the Mail-Pouch Pooch

By Mona Kerby

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008
Pages : 40
Suggested Ages: 4-9
ISBN: 9780374356859

In October of 1888, a stray brown and white terrier wandered out of the rain into the post office in Albany, New York, and sacked out on a pile of canvas mail pouches. He stayed, hopping aboard the mail wagon each day for a ride to the train depot. One day he hopped aboard the train and rode it all the way to New York City, and didn't return for seven months. After that, the postal workers tied a note to his collar: "Dear Railway Postmen: Owney guards the U.S. Mail. Will you let us know where he has been? Please attach your depot tag to his collar." Owney came back from his next trip so loaded down with tags that the men bought him a harness so they could spread out the weight over his body.

The dedicated dog hopped trains all over the U.S., guarding the mail and the men in blue wool uniforms. In 1895, his friends gave him the trip of a lifetime—around the world by mail boat, which lasted 132 days and gained him 200 new tags, trinkets, and ribbons. Sweet, soft watercolor illustrations highlight a story that may seem too far-fetched to be true, but it is. At the back of the book are two sepia-toned photos of Owney on a train and wearing his medals.

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If you love this book, then try:

Barasch, Lynne. Hiromi's Hands. Lee & Low, 2007.

Blake, Robert J. Togo. Philomel, 2002.

Kennedy, Edward Moore. My Senator and Me: A Dog's-Eye View of Washington, D. C. Scholastic, 2006.

Kimmel, Eric A. Stormy's Hat: Just Right for a Railroad Man. Farrar, 2008.

Tunnell, Michael O. Mailing May. Greenwillow, 1997.

Turner, Pamela S. Hachiko: The True Story of a Loyal Dog. Houghton Mifflin, 2004.

Yaccarino, Dan. Go, Go America. Scholastic, 2008.

Yorinks, Adrienne. Quilt of States. National Geographic, 2005.

Critics have said

Barasch's watercolors bring this historical dog to endearing life.
Miami Herald
Readers will be captivated by Owney's journey from hungry and homeless to beloved guardian of the mail trains... sure to develop a loyal following among lovers of dog stories.
Starred, School Library Journal
Ever alert and increasingly covered in tags attached at his many stopovers, this small dog makes an engaging centerpiece.
Kirkus Reviews
Kudos to Kerby who...did plenty of research for this kid-friendly history. . . . The Ink-and-watercolor paintings, ranging from two-page spreads to vignettes, are varied and interesting.
Watercolor-and-ink sketches warmly illustrate the mixed-breed terrier and showcase the varied architectural styles that housed post offices around the country.
Horn Book
This is a versatile little doggy number: it could also serve as a readaloud . . . or it could serve as an offbeat springboard to explorations of travel or even the postal system.
Bulletin for the Center of Children