Title: Owney, the Mail-Pouch Pooch
Author: Mona Kerby
Illustrator: Lynne Barasch
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level: 4.8
Concepts: services, economic role of government
Review: By chance one rainy night back in 1888, a starving stray dog found his way into the Albany, NY post office through an open door in the back. Although somewhat perplexed to discover a sleeping dog on top of the mail pouches the following morning, the postal workers let the dog stay, cared for him, and named him Owney. Owney really liked the various smells and activities of the post office, and he became the workers’ faithful mail guard, rat catcher, and companion. Not content to just rest on his mailbags, Owney also had an unusual habit of chasing after trains and leaping into the mail cars. He traveled all over the country, and thanks to a clever system with dog tags and a growing national reputation, he always returned to Albany.
This appealing and informative story, based on historical records, offers teachers and parents an excellent vehicle for teaching about a subject that children may otherwise find abstract or uninteresting: the economic role of government. The book may even inspire children to take a field trip to the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, which houses Owney’s preserved body and displays a bronze statue of Owney at the front door with a sign to rub Owney for good luck. Motivating children to learn about public sector workers and services doesn’t get much better than this.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children