Lurcher dog lying down listening to a story being read

Animal books

This Read a Book Day, we have plenty of recommendations for you from our very own team here at Blue Cross.

From horses to mice – we have just the animal book for you to get cosy with. 

Blonde woman in Blue Cross vet nurse scrubs with two dogs

Sophie Bones: Veterinary Nurse

Favourite book: Cinderella

What’s it about?
Cinderella is a classic rag to riches story which sees a young girl go through the heartbreak of losing both parents, only to be left with an evil stepmum and two cruel stepsisters. Cinderella makes the best of a bad situation and befriends all the animals of her household, who go on to be her best friends and help her through some difficult circumstances – as well as getting her ready for the ball where she meets her Prince Charming!

Why Sophie likes this book:
I remember having this read to me when I was younger, and it is still my favourite Disney story to this day. 

In the story, it shows no matter how people treat you or how bad things may be, animals of all kinds are always there for you, even if it is a small mouse. 

There is also a very sassy cat in this book called Lucifer, who I love - even though he is supposed to be a baddie. I love how cats can be so independent and have various moods and split personalities, and I think Lucifer really shows this. I have a huge soft spot for the naughty and fractious cats now!

Aimee Brannen – Editor

Woman posing for a selfie with her dog, a black Labrador

Favourite book: James Herriot’s children's book series

What are they about?
All of James Herriot’s books revolve around animals and their role in people’s lives from a vet’s perspective. Charming, funny and inspiring – a great read for want-to-be vets and animal lovers alike.

Why Aimee likes these books:
One of my first memories of reading was diving into the vet-turned-author James Herriot’s children’s book series. I loved all the different stories, from those about horses to dogs. It helped inspire me to want to become a vet – a dream sadly shattered by my career’s teacher when I was 14, due to my mediocre science grades. But I always hoped that I would one day work with animals in some way, an aspiration now fulfilled in my role writing about the many wonderful pets that come through Blue Cross doors. Not quite the route my five-year-old self expected, but a very happy second best.

Blonde woman with sunglasses on her head and sea in the background

Sue Malin – Education Marketing Officer

Favourite book: Kipper’s Birthday by Mick Inkpen

What’s it about?
Kipper wants to bake a cake to share with all his friends for his upcoming birthday the next day, but he’s also sent out invites at the wrong time, causing confusion! A great book to teach children that sometimes things can go wrong but the outcome will often turn out fine in the end.

Why Sue likes it:
Kipper’s Birthday is my stand-out book. It was my son’s favourite bedtime story and we read it together so much that at the age of three he knew all the words and relayed all the ingredients for the very strange birthday cake that Kipper made!

Izzy Hocking: Graduate Veterinary Surgeon

Woman smiling and posing in Blue Cross vet scrubs

Favourite book: War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

What’s it about?
War Horse follows the story of Joey the horse and his journey from a farm horse to the frontlines in the First World War. It tells the epic lengths an owner will go to, to bring his horse home safely. Displaying the beautiful bond between horse and human.

Why Izzy likes this book:
It was my utter favourite throughout my whole childhood - my signed copy still has pride of place on the bookshelf! I probably first read this book when I was about seven and was already animal mad and set on being a vet by then. 

Since working as a vet at Blue Cross and finding out about the charity’s work with horses in the First World War, it feels like things have really come full circle.

What I loved about the story is how it tells of all the humans who have an impact on Joey’s life, both good and bad, with so many different stories interwoven. The story shows both the best and worst of humanity, and shows you animals have feelings and, if you’re kind to animals, then usually they’ll be kind to you too. Joey is the ultimate action hero, and, as an animal-obsessed child, I loved him even more for being a horse!

Blonde woman with glasses looking into camera and smiling

Diane James: PBSS Manager

Favourite book: Marley and Me by John Grogan

What’s it about?
A newly married young couple called Jenny and John are young and in love with not a care in the world. Then life changes as they bring into it an adopted puppy called Marley, a mischievous yellow Labrador retriever.

Throughout the book Marley is part of the family’s life events, both sad and happy. It shows the journey our pets take with us as we travel through life and how they support us through it all.

Why Diane likes this book:
I absolutely could not put this book down and have read it many times since - it gets me every time. I laugh, I cry, and I smile to myself as I read it. 

It demonstrates Marley and all dogs' unconditional love. We see disappointment and success and an acknowledgment that all good things must, someday, come to an end. It touches the very heart of anyone who reads it.

Not to end on a spoiler, but it’s why we have the wonderful Pet Bereavement Support Service.

There are some paragraphs in it that I can criticise but, you know, most dog owners make the same mistakes, often out of love and a lack of understanding. So, I ask that if you read it, read it with love, as that’s how the writer intended it. 

Kelly Grellier: Director of Rehoming Services

Woman looking into camera smiling

Favourite book: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

What’s it about?
Hope Jahren is a geophysicist and through Lab girl she takes you on an incredible journey through her early life as a struggling scientist. Using the lifecycle of plants, trees and their complex relationship with insects, Hope weaves science into a poetic and intoxicating portrayal of her life; as she fights as a woman to be heard in the world of science, her visceral description of her battles with manic episodes and her obsessive pursuit of scientific discovery.

Why Kelly likes this book:
You may wonder why I choose this book and where pets fit in. On Hope’s journey, while lost on the outskirts of a town between California and Georgia, she comes across puppies for sale and buys her first dog of her own who she names Reba.  Reba, like Hope, spent the best part of her puppyhood in a laboratory and is there for Hope throughout her struggles and conquests.  

For me, this relationship epitomises the importance of pets in our lives and the uncomplicated comfort they provide.  Hope describes the five most important people in her life; her lab partner Bill, her husband, her two children and her dog.  

Woman laughing looking into camera with her lurcher in front of her

Kerry Taylor: Education Manager 

Favourite book: Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy by Lynley Dodd

What’s it about?
A lovable dog who’s a bit mischievous – these books follow Hairy Maclary’s adventures. With lots of fun rhyming and lovely illustrations, this is the perfect children’s book.

Why Kerry likes this book:
Growing up, my parents would sit me down and read the Hairy Maclary books over and over again. I remember the giggles and jokes we had about all the adventures Hairy Maclary had with his friends - many of them a little naughty! We didn’t have a dog growing up because we didn’t have the time, and I used to flick through the stories dreaming that one day I would own a dog like Hairy Maclary and we would get up to lots of mischief together. 

30 years on and I have my own two children who I share these stories with. We love the rhyming and try to remember or guess the next word, often getting it wrong. The only difference from all those years ago is we now have our very own Hairy Maclary called Diddy. 

Who would have thought that my wishes would have come true! Diddy, our scruffy, grey lurcher is the spitting image and, sometimes, just as cheeky. As soon as I saw him it took me straight back to reading these books as a child and I knew straight away he was the dog for us. My girls and I love to create our own Diddy version of Hairy Maclary stories and imagine what he would get up to if he was a character in a story. 

Claire Stallard: Behaviour and Training Development Manager

Claire Stallard - Behaviour and Training Development Manager at Blue Cross with white Staffordshire bull terrier

Favourite book: Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

What’s it about?
Black Beauty tells the inspiring story of a young colt taken from kindness and comfort and placed into a life of hard work and unfair labour. At the hands of unkind humans, Black Beauty has to learn about his inner strength and his unbreakable spirit that can’t be tamed.

Why Claire likes this book:
One of my favourite books as a child was Black Beauty - I read it when I was about 10 years old. I love the fact it was written from Black Beauty’s perspective and I found myself immersed in his world and fascinated by the people and horses that he encountered along the way. 

The most memorable character for me was Ginger, a horse who Black Beauty develops a strong friendship and bond with. Ginger had been very badly treated, and this had a huge impact on the way she felt about people and life in general. Her story was so very tragic and sad, and to this day I can still remember how it made me feel – the experiences she had were completely out of her control as a working horse. 

I found Black Beauty hugely inspiring and, thinking about it now, it may very well have helped influence my choice of career – I already had a love and affinity for animals at that point, but Anna Sewell helped me to appreciate that we all have a huge responsibility for the wellbeing of the animals in our care, and that they all deserve our understanding, compassion and kindness.

If you haven’t read Black Beauty, or think it’s just for children, then I urge you to read it – it’s an insightful book that is still relevant today and helps remind us that animals are capable of experiencing complex emotions, and deep, meaningful relationships with people and each other. 

Woman looking just off camera with trees in the background

Carole Cole: Head of Corporate Partnerships

Favourite book: The Famous Five by Enid Blyton

What’s it about?
The Famous Five follows the adventures of four friends and their dog; Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy the dog. Together they solve mysteries, explore, and find buried treasure in the series of books written by Enid Blyton.

What Carole likes about this book:
My favourite character is Timmy the dog, from The Famous Five books. 

I loved the adventures as a child and wanted to be George (Georgina) who ‘owned’ Timmy. Timmy was a key part of the group and played a massive role in all their adventures – of which there were many! 

I reread all the books as an adult when I introduced them to my eldest niece. The only problem I have found with them as an adult is that they are not long enough!

Caroline Reay: Head of Veterinary Services

Caroline Reay - Head of Veterinary Services at Blue Cross wearing Blue Cross uniform

Favourite character: Basil Brush by ‘Basil Brush’

What’s it about?
Being a famous TV personality, Basil Brush spanned the decades, entertaining children far and wide. You can read all about his rise to fame and the years that followed in his memoir called ‘Basil Brush – My Story’.

What Caroline likes about Basil Brush:
Don't know whether anyone will remember this character, but one of my childhood favourites was Basil Brush because he was cheeky and funny and a bit naughty. I still like naughty animals to this day – even if that means that they sometimes bite!

— Page last updated 26/08/2020