When I started at my job in 2002, no one asked for books about horses or dogs. There were a few in the collection, like Henry's Misty of Chincoteague and Burnford's The Incredible Journey, but nothing new or exciting. About five years ago, students started asking for books about both animals, and I started to look for a few. What I've seen in the last two years is an increase in the number of struggling readers we have, and many of these want shorter, simpler books. Random House's Dog Diaries series has been VERY popular, so I've been buying all of those, and invested in a selection of Horse Diaries books, based on what eras in history are covered in our curriculum.
I like the inclusion of historical facts at the end of all of the books, as well as the occasional recipe and photograph. There is also information about the type of dog or horse in the book. These will all do well with my readers. If they do really well, I'll buy the rest of the horse series.
My one objection is that there is a Gibraltar Library Binding insignia on the backs of the books; I have some actual Gibraltar Bound books from the 1960s that do wear like iron. These books are bound in horrible paper-over-board format that will hold up maybe five years. At less than $10 each, we'll get our money's worth out of them.
All book descriptions from http://www.randomhouse.com/kids/horsediaries/
Hart, Alison. Risky Chance (Horse Diaries #7)
September 13th 2011 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Born in California at the start of the Great Depression, Risky Chance is a gray thoroughbred who was born to race. Life at the track and being spoiled by his jockey's young daughter, Marie, is all Chance could ask for. He loves nothing more than running fast and winning. But after an accident, Chance discovers a side of horse racing that has little to do with glory.
Like Black Beauty, this moving novel is told in first person from the horse's own point of view and includes an appendix full of photos and facts about thoroughbreds, horse racing, and the Great Depression.
Kendall, Jane. Tennessee Rose (Horse Diaries #9)
August 7th 2012 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Alabama, 1856. Tennessee Rose is a dark bay Tennessee Walking Horse with a rose-shaped marking on her forehead. She loves dashing around the plantation in the running walk that her breed is famous for, then coming back to her comfortable stall and her friend Levi, the slave boy who is her groom. But as the Civil War approaches, Rosie begins to question plantation life. Is slavery fair? Could Levi be free? This includes an appendix full of photos and facts about Tennessee Walking Horses and the Civil War.
Sanderson, Whitney. Darcy (Horse Diaries #10)
January 8th 2013 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Ireland, 1917. Darcy is a light gray Connemara pony with silver dapples. She's fast and tough, whether she's pulling a load of peat from the bog or riding around the rugged countryside with Shannon McKenna, her human family's eldest daughter. But when Mrs. McKenna needs a doctor, Darcy discovers a skill that will change her and her family's life forever. Like Black Beauty, this moving novel is told in first person from the horse's point of view and includes an appendix full of photos and facts about Connemara ponies and Irish history.
Hapka, Catherine. Jingle Bells (Horse Diaries Special Edition)
September 23rd 2014 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Wisconsin, 1915. Jingle Bells is a strong Clydesdale gelding. He enjoys his work on the farm, pulling the hay wagon in the summer and a sleigh in the winter, and he loves his human friend, Kari. But when Kari’s older brother comes home for Christmas with a new Model T Ford, will the family still need Jingle Bells?
(This would make a great Christmas present for a horse obsessed 3-5 grader!)
I also have more students wanting holiday related books. This is new, and I have so little. Dash has a decent amount of information about Thanksgiving!
Klimo, Kate. Dash (Dog Diaries #5)
July 22nd 2014 by Random House Books for Young Readers
A dog's-eye view of the Mayflower voyage and the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth Colony!
English springer spaniel Dash and his furry friend Mercy--a mastiff--travel with their master, John Goodman, in search of the New World. Taken from the pages of history, this Dog Diary follows the story of the colonists whom we now call Pilgrims, from their sixty-six-day voyage at sea to the celebration of their first harvest with the Wampanoag Indians who become their friends and advisors. With realistic black-and-white illustrations by Tim Jessell and an appendix including information about the Mayflower, Plymouth Colony, springer spaniels and more.