Owney, the Mail-Pouch Pooch

( 1 )

Overview

One rainy night in 1888, a stray dog wandered into the U.S. Post Office in Albany, New York. Workers found him the next morning asleep on a pile of mail pouches. The dog seemed to like the post office and the smell of the mailbags and the men’s wool uniforms. When no one came to claim him, they named him Owney and made him their pet. However, Owney’s loyalty and sense of adventure soon made it clear he wasn’t just an average mutt. Over the course of nine years, Owney guarded the mail—not only in Albany but on ...

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Overview

One rainy night in 1888, a stray dog wandered into the U.S. Post Office in Albany, New York. Workers found him the next morning asleep on a pile of mail pouches. The dog seemed to like the post office and the smell of the mailbags and the men’s wool uniforms. When no one came to claim him, they named him Owney and made him their pet. However, Owney’s loyalty and sense of adventure soon made it clear he wasn’t just an average mutt. Over the course of nine years, Owney guarded the mail—not only in Albany but on mail trains that traveled all over the United States.

Accompanied by lively pen-and-watercolor illustrations, this is a delightful true story of a special dog whose faithful service earned him a trip around the world. Owney can be seen in the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum.

Owney, the Mail-Pouch Pooch is a 2009 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Barasch’s watercolors bring this historical dog to endearing life.” —MiamiHerald

"Readers will be captivated by Owney's journey from hungry and homeless to beloved guardian of the mail trains... sure to develop a loyal following among lovers of dog stories." Starred, School Library Journal

"Ever alert and increasingly covered in tags attached at his many stopovers, this small dog makes an engaging centerpiece." —Kirkus Reviews

"Kudos to Kerby who...did plenty of research for this kid-friendly history. . . . The Ink-and-watercolor paintings, ranging from two-page spreads to vignettes, are varied and interesting."—Booklist

"Watercolor-and-ink sketches warmly illustrate the mixed-breed terrier and showcase the varied architectural styles that housed post offices around the country." —Horn Book

"This is a versatile little doggy number: it could also serve as a readaloud . . . or it could serve as an offbeat springboard to explorations of travel or even the postal system." —Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books

Children's Literature - Hazel Buys
Four-legged heroes abound in stories about dramatic rescues. The heroism of the watchful and loyal friend is less well known. Owney, a real dog, is such a faithful friend, committed to his self-appointed job of guarding the mail. Owney arrives unbidden one October night in 1888 at the Albany, NY, post office. He adopts the postmen, takes on the job of guarding the mail pouches, and is soon accepted into the routine of the post office. But he is also a traveler and begins to ride the rails on the mail cars. Soon, he is wearing depot tags from all across the country on a special strap his post office friends fashioned for him. Owney's fame spreads and he participates in conventions and events across the country. When he gets older his friends at the post office give him a trip around the world by mail boat. On his return, one hundred and thirty-two days later, he wears two hundred new tags, trinkets, and ribbons. Owney is recognized at the San Francisco dog show in 1896 and attends the National Association of Railway Clerks in 1897. He retires shortly thereafter and spends his final days in peace and quiet at the Albany post office where his mail career began. The story of Owney is told with charm and supported by research into his life and career. The loose, impressionistic illustrations integrate well with the fluid, movement-filled events of his life. This book would be a good addition to an early elementary study of nineteenth century life in the United States. Reviewer: Hazel Buys
School Library Journal

Gr 1-4- Using actual events involving a stray dog who found a home and career at the Albany, NY, Post Office in the late 1880s as her inspiration, Kerby gives children a fictionalized glimpse at a charming and capable canine. Readers will be captivated by Owney's journey from hungry and homeless to beloved guardian of the mail trains. The author does an excellent job of introducing readers to the late-19th century and the system used by the postal service to send mail both nationally and internationally via horse-pulled wagons, trains, and steamships. Children will be astounded at the number of tags on Owney's harness, demarking the stops he makes along the route. They will also find it interesting that the real-life Owney is preserved through taxidermy at the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum in Washington, DC. Barasch's ink and watercolor illustrations complement the narrative with period details. A pair of sepia-toned photographs at the end of the book adds to the authenticity of the tale. It is sure to develop a loyal following among lovers of dog stories.-Maura Bresnahan, High Plain Elementary School, Andover, MA

Kirkus Reviews
Going back to contemporary sources, Kerby retraces the travels of a stray terrier who became the semi-official mascot of the U.S. Postal Service in the 1890s and who, aboard ship and train, escorted mailbags to hundreds of destinations around the world. She sticks largely to facts-finding that accounts of how he got his name differ, she doesn't try to explain its origin, for instance-but does tuck in occasional invented details to smooth the narrative. Although the text notes that his preserved body is still on display at the U.S. Postal Museum in Washington, D.C., it neglects to mention that he met his end by violence. Ever alert and sporting a harness increasingly covered in tags attached at his many stopovers, the small dog makes an engaging centerpiece in Barasch's watercolor sketches. His tale has been told several times for younger audiences, most recently in Irene Kelly's A Small Dog's Big Life (2005); still, dog lovers will lap up this latest iteration. (photos, research note, sources) (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374356859
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 4/29/2008
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 428,722
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD730L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.85 (w) x 11.25 (h) x 0.49 (d)

Meet the Author

MONA KERBY has written many acclaimed books for children. She lives in Westminster, Maryland. LYNNE BARASCH is the author/illustrator of several picture books, including Radio Rescue, an ALA Notable Book. She lives in New York City.

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