5 Middle Grade Books to Read on National Dog Day

Today is the greatest of all days – National Dog Day! In celebration of man’s (and woman’s) best friend, I thought it would be fitting to highlight five great books that feature beloved canine companions. I loved these stories as a kid and have very fond recollections of reading them over and over again.

My dog Bella reading a book for National Dog Day

My dog Bella wondering why I’m interrupting her book

1. Old Yeller by Fred Gipson: Confession time: I was actually obsessed with the movie adaptation of Old Yeller long before I ever realized there was a book. It also had the distinction of being the first movie to ever make me cry. Although both the book and movie will break your heart, you won’t be able to help loving the titular “ugly yeller dog” for his bravery and loyalty.

2. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls: Of all the books on this list, I’d say Rawls’ best encompasses the friendship and joy that comes from having a dog – or in this case, two. Set in the Ozarks, the story follows a young boy named Billy whose dearest wish is to save enough money to buy two coonhound puppies. He trains them as hunting dogs, and together the trio enjoy many ramblings and adventures.

3. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster: The sheer imaginativeness of this book makes it perfect for any fantasy lover. When a young boy named Milo finds a magical tollbooth in his room, he climbs in and is transported to a variety of magical worlds, where he encounters all sorts of whimsical creatures. My favorite of these is Tock, a “watchdog” who has an enormous clock built into his torso and whose job is to police people to make sure they aren’t wasting time.

4. The Howliday Inn by James Howe: Howliday Inn is one of those delightful books that’s written for kids but is equally entertaining to adults. I absolutely loved its humor and clever references, and I was especially fond of Harold, the book’s sheepdog protagonist. When Harold and his feline friend Chester are left at a kennel while their human family’s away on vacation, the duo sets out on an investigation to get to the bottom of strange noises and mysterious disappearances of the kennel’s other inhabitants.

My dog Maya reading a book for National Dog Day

My dog Maya deep in literary thought

5. Henry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary: My memory of this story’s a little fuzzy, as I haven’t read it in about 20 years; however, I remember having a lot of fun with it. The book is about a boy named Henry who’s trying to prove to his father that he’s well-behaved and responsible enough to be taken along on a big fishing trip. Unfortunately, staying out of trouble isn’t so easy when you’re surrounded by rambunctious neighbor kids and have an adventurous dog, Ribsy, to try to keep in line.

Bonus: How Fletcher Was Hatched by Wende Devlin: Although this is more of a children’s story than a Middle Grade read, it was my favorite dog book as a little girl. Devlin’s kooky picture book features a hound dog who decides to capture the attention of his distracted owner by getting his beaver friend to build a giant egg that he can hatch out of. It’s totally crazy and totally fun, and I read it non-stop in elementary school.

I’d love to hear from you – what dog books did you love as a kid? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂