The best books about dogs for grades 3 and up

The Books I Picked & Why


By Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Book cover of Shiloh

Why this book?

Naylor won the coveted Newbery Award for Shiloh, for good reason. The story is heartwarming, beautifully written, and timeless. When 11-year-old Marty finds a young, starving beagle near his home in the West Virginia mountains, he is faced with a moral dilemma: keep a dog who is not his or return the dog to an abusive home. One of the many reasons I love this book is Naylor does an excellent job of creating characters that are multidimensional and so very relatable. Even the “bad guy!” This is the first in a series of three books about Marty and Shiloh. Give this book to your tenderhearted, reluctant reader.

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By Barbara O'Connor

Book cover of Wonderland

Why this book?

Barbara O’Connor is one of my very favorite authors for this age group. Her books are funny, sweet, and full of heart! She also does a great job of creating books set in the South without relying on tropes. In Wonderland, two very different girls team up to help a runaway greyhound find a more satisfying home. Mavis is brave and bold but has never had a best friend. Rose is timid and a worrier. She’s never really fit in with the other kids in the neighborhood. And then there’s Henry, a greyhound who’s run away from the Wonderland race track. Henry’s best days are behind him which could lead to his being euthanized. Alternating between the voices of Mavis, Rose, and Henry, O’Connor weaves a wonderful story of friendship, home, and redemption. Give this book to your reader who loves to laugh and to cry.

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Lassie Come-Home

By Eric Knight, Marguerite Kirmse

Book cover of Lassie Come-Home

Why this book?

There is absolutely no way I can create a list of best dog books for kids without including this classic that truly captures and celebrates the mysterious bond between a dog and its person. I have said many times that my book, A Dog’s Way Home, was a “love letter” to Lassie Come-Home, which I first read at age nine and have re-read many times since. Set in England and Scotland, the story follows the separation of young Joe and his loyal and beloved collie, Lassie. When Joe’s family falls on hard times, Lassie is sold to a rich breeder and taken away to the far north of Scotland. But no cage is as strong as Lassie’s love and devotion to her boy. We experience Lassie’s perilous journey back to Joe through her big, loyal heart. Give this book to your reader who loves to lose themselves in a timeless story of love and hope.

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Because of Winn-Dixie

By Kate DiCamillo

Book cover of Because of Winn-Dixie

Why this book?

Although Because of Winn-Dixie was not written eighty years ago, I think it is destined to become a classic like Lassie Come-Home. Kate DiCamillo is my absolute favorite author of books for any age, and this is my favorite of her books. When ten-year-old India Opal Buloni goes down to the local grocery store to buy groceries for her and her preacher father, she comes home instead with a scruffy, homeless dog she names Winn Dixie. And as the title says, it is because of Winn Dixie that all kinds of interesting things and people come into this lonely girl’s life. The book is populated by so many memorable characters—Gloria Dump, Sweetie Pie Thomas, The Dewberry twins, and the town librarian, Miss Frannie Block—created with great care and compassion. Give this to your reader who hugs books they love to their heart.

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Good Dog

By Dan Gemeinhart

Book cover of Good Dog

Why this book?

Although I rarely recommend books where the dog dies (I was greatly traumatized by classics Where the Red Fern Grows and Old Yeller), this one is the exception. Brodie was a good, good dog who was wholeheartedly devoted to his boy, Aiden. When Brodie finds himself in the perfect doggy heaven—lots of green grass to roll in and endless balls to chase—Brodie is gripped by a need to go back to Earth and his boy, who he senses is in terrible danger. Aided by a smart, happy-go-lucky pitbull and snarky cat, Brodie makes his way back to Earth and Aiden at the risk of losing his soul. I love this book because it stays firmly in the perspective of the dog (and other animals) with a masterful use of sensory details. Give this book to your reader who likes books that are suspenseful while also exploring deeper themes. 

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