This month’s picture book favorites are fictional animal stories that were inspired by real-life events. They serve as a reminder that friendship and the devotion that comes from loving and being loved isn’t exclusive to humans. I hope you’ll find these books and read them for yourself. They touched my heart and the stories behind them gave me a greater appreciation for the wisdom of animals. Enjoy!
“Ida, Always” written by Caron Levis and illustrated by Charles Santoso (Copyright 2016, Atheneum Books for Young Readers) is a story inspired by the relationship of real polar bears named Gus and Ida, who were visited by more than twenty million people while they lived together in New York’s Central Park Zoo. This fictional tribute shows readers the happy life of two bear friends who enjoy tossing a ball, swimming and splashing, and sitting together on their favorite rock. Each day, they are cared for by loving zookeepers and visited by many people, while the familiar sounds of “their city” surround them. Each night, they go to their caves, always to meet again in the morning. Things change when Ida becomes sick, with no hope of getting better. As they spend their remaining days together, Gus comes to know that Ida will always be with him through the sights, sounds, and memories they have shared.
“This Way, Charlie” also written by Caron Levis and illustrated by Charles Santoso (Copyright 2020, Abrams Books for Young Readers) is another heartwarming book by this perfectly paired writer and illustrator. It is the tale of two unlikely friends, a blind horse named Charlie and a nervous goat named Jack. When Charlie is brought to the Open Bud Ranch to “heal, rest, and grow,” Jack, who is a loner, watches him struggle from a distance. Eventually, Jack finds the courage to approach Charlie, and begins leading him around the ranch. As the days go on, they become inseparable friends, helping each other find their way through the challenges of life. Each beautiful illustration, created with “digital brushes and love,” adds to the warmth and depth of this sweet story. The real Jack and Charlie lived at Wild Heart Ranch Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Oklahoma. For more information about Wild Heart Ranch, please visit wildheartrescue.org.
“Where’d My Jo Go?” written by Jill Esbaum and illustrated by Scott Brundage (Copyright 2020, Sleeping Bear Press) is the story of a little dog named Big Al and his trucker friend and companion, Jo. It is based on a newspaper story the author read about a real-life trucker whose little lost dog patiently waited for two days before finally being found. Told in verse, the story gives the point of view of both the dog and his friend as they realize they’ve been separated and try to find each other again. Thankfully, just like in the newspaper story, these two friends are reunited for a happy ending.
If you have a favorite picture book about animals that was inspired by a true story, I’d love to hear about it.
Happy Reading 😊