This is a great week to celebrate -- I recently wrote and published a new children's book, and the timing couldn't be better. It’s Children’s Book Week, and next week is Be Kind to Animals Week. (Additionally, Monday, April 30 was Adopt a Shelter Pet Day).
From Lassie and Max the dogs, to Dewey and Skippyjon Jones the cats, animals have played a role in books, TV, and movies for generations. Do you remember your favorite animal book, TV or movie from childhood?
Mine was “Follow My Leader,” written during the 1950s but still a part of school libraries during the 1960s and 1970s when I grew up. The primary human character, Jimmy, becomes blind after a firecracker incident. He learns to rely upon a German Shepherd guide dog named Leader, who breaks down Jimmy’s emotional walls as well as helps escort him in this new reality of blindness.
For eons, animals have helped people, being used for hauling, protection, hunting, and rodent control, among so many other situations. These days, animals are used for therapy, in military service, as guide animals, and search and rescue animals, as well as companionship. Children especially respond well to dogs, cats, and other animals. Reading about animals is also a joy for many children, and so this week we celebrate kids, books, kindness and pets in honor of Children's Book Week and Be Kind to Animals Week.
As a writer of inspirational pet stories for children and adults, it’s my joy to share the wonder of animals, especially companions like dogs and cats. And, it’s my special pleasure to announce the publication of my newest children’s book “Jeremiah Finds a Home,” the story of my rescued, adopted Shih Tzu, Jeremiah. He lived in a puppy mill for three years, was rescued by Hearts United for Animals in 2016, and was adopted by me and my husband in late 2017. Although it took time for him to adjust to his new home and very own family, Jeremiah is a joyful dog who makes us all smile. My goal is to teach children and families about puppy mills, the importance of rescue, and the joy of pet adoption. The book is available on Amazon, and you can learn more about the story (told non-graphically) on my website.
There is much cruelty in the world, toward people, including children, and to pets. Kindness must be taught and modeled to kids. We as adults can, and should, do it. Pets do showcase kindness, and exposing children to therapy pets and read-to-the-dog programs at schools and libraries will help instill kindness as well. Books can also be a catalyst of kindness through subtle messages woven into the story. Just as Leader the dog in “Follow My Leader” showcases kindness toward the blind boy, Jimmy, or Lassie to Timmy, children learn compassion, kindness, friendship and other great lessons from pet books (and movies – think of how the animals helped each other in the “Homeward Bound” story).
As we celebrate children, books, pets, and kindness these next few weeks, model positive traits to your kids and read to them stories that showcase those characteristics, too. We can all impact the lives of children and the lives of animals in positive, caring ways.
What was your favorite animal book, movie or TV show and why? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
My pets are characters in many of my stories. In the new book about Jeremiah, the Shih Tzu, the story is told from the dog's point-of-view. Mary, my cocker/ springer mix, has two books about her, including visiting a ranch and encountering different animals there.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.