A lot of books start something like this:

Ben had a dog called Scrumpy_600x714Ben and Scrumpy did everything together_600x693

image above from Scrumpy, by Elizabeth Dale and Frederic Joos

11-year-old Marley Dias, a black girl from New Jersey recently made headlines for saying that she is sick of reading about white boys and dogs.

I have seen quite a bit of backlash about that comment.

Top voted comments on NBC News' Facebook page

Top voted comments on NBC News’ Facebook page

Apparently, some people (almost always white), think that because there exist some number of books about black kids, black kids shouldn’t be complaining about the ratio, and just go read those instead. Which completely misses the point.

The fact is, children’s literature IS chock full of stories about white boys and their dogs. You really have to look quite hard to find anything different, in fact. Marley Dias is right.

CLASSIC BOOKS ABOUT BOYS AND THEIR DOGS

In the West, the story of the middle class white boy and his best-friend, loyal dog are very common. There is a long tradition of books about boys and their dogs.

WHITE FANG COVER

The-Call-of-The-Wild

Old Yeller

Where The Red Fern Grows

Shiloh

Henry and Ribsy cover

Lassie Come Home

Henry and Mudge

My Dog Skip

Thunder From The Sea

shadow-the-sheep-dog-1

The_Good_Dog_by_Avi

Sarge Gets A Timeout

Our Daft Dog Danny Pamela Allen

The duo seems even more so if you consider the most popular of the bunch, which can be measured in terms of screen adaptations. (Only the most popular books get adapted for screen.) Here are the family dog offerings on Australian Netflix at the moment, and I think I snapped all of them:

Max

IMG_0833

IMG_0838

IMG_0835

We do have an ensemble cast in Spy Kids, in which the dog is one of the gang:

IMG_0839

Hotel for Dogs is about a 16-year-old girl, though the story requires a younger brother.

IMG_0837

MALE ANIMALS AND THEIR DOGS

This isn’t a white boy with his dog, as such… but it looks damn creepy to me:

IMG_0836

When the boy isn’t a human, he is usually a boy, and the general rule applies to picture books as much as it applies to novels:

Just Me And My Dog

BOYS WHO WANT DOGS

A fairly common desire line: Boy wants dog. Boy works hard to get dog. Some of these stories are feminist, actually, in the same way that the Pixar movie Up is feminist, even while killing off the only female character right at the beginning of the story: A boy is allowed to show his nurturing side even in times when caring was a distinctively female attribute.

The Boy Who Wanted A Dog

The Dog That Nino Didn't Have

INVERSIONS

The boy-dog relationship is so familiar that ‘The Puppy Who Wanted A Dog’ is an instantly recognisable inversion of the trope.

The Puppy Who Wanted A Boy

Stephen King took the boy and his loving dog story and turned it into a horror story, which works so well precisely because it takes the original children’s literature trope and changes the genre completely.

Cujo

NON-ENGLISH SPEAKING BOYS AND THEIR DOGS

This duo is not limited to the West, either.

published 1935

published 1935

soviet children's book cover boys marching dog

CHILDREN OF COLOUR AND THEIR DOGS

What if you want to see a black kid’s relationship with his dog? Well, there’s always Sounder.

sounder

GIRLS AND THEIR DOGS

What if you have a canine loving girl and she would like to see herself reflected in literature? Well, girls and dogs have in previous eras and in other cultures been seen together quite often.

cover by R. Bernardi, 1908

cover by R. Bernardi, 1908

Andreini 1910 1

Andreini 1910

cover by N. Borifina, 1919

cover by N. Borifina, 1919

 

Andreini 1909

Andreini 1909

The 1940s gave us George and Timmy, though Enid Blyton felt she had to turn Georgina into an honorary boy.

George and Timmy Famous Five

The Journey of Natty Gann also stars a Tomboy and looks to be a female equivalent of White Fang. The story is a Disney original but there’s also a novelisation.

The Journey of Natty Gann

Set in 1935, the movie tells the story of a 15-year-old tomboy girl, Natty Gann (Meredith Salenger). Out of work because of Depression-era unemployment, Natty’s widowered father (Ray Wise) parlays his surefootedness into getting a job as a lumberjack. In order to get hired, he travels from Chicago to the state of Washington. He tells Natty that she will have to look after herself for the time being. Having no mother, Natty is left in the care of Connie (Lainie Kazan), the insensitive woman who manages the hotel Natty and her father had been living in.

After overhearing Connie reporting her as an abandoned child, Natty runs away to find her father on her own, embarking on a cross-country journey. Along the way she saves a wolfdog from a dog fighting ring. In return the dog, whom she calls Wolf, follows her as her protector in her attempt to return to her Father.

 

Dorothy had Toto, but you won’t find Toto on a lot of the covers. Here he is on this one, though:

Dorothy Toto

Notice that girl dogs tend to be little and cute, while boys tend to own larger working dogs:

Us illustrated and written by Cecil Aldin. The Story of a little girl and her black Scotch terrier.

Us illustrated and written by Cecil Aldin. The Story of a little girl and her black Scotch terrier.

I don't know the source of this illustration, which seems to date from the 1920s. Typically, the boy is associated with the dog; the girl with a cat; the toddler with a stuffed animal.

I don’t know the source of this illustration, which seems to date from the 1920s. Typically, the boy is associated with the dog; the girl with a cat; the toddler with a stuffed animal.

Scotty dogs are perhaps especially feminine:

SURPRISE: THE STORY OF MOLLY AND MOPS by Charlotte Smith

SURPRISE: THE STORY OF MOLLY AND MOPS by Charlotte Smith

Not many of the LHotP covers depict Jack, but he was certainly important to Laura and the family.

Not many of the LHotP covers depict Jack, but he was certainly important to Laura and the family.

This is the only version I can find of LHotP which highlights the special relationship between the girl and her dog.

This is the only version I can find of LHotP which highlights the special relationship between the girl and her dog.

Dogs continued to be important throughout Laura's life.

Dogs continued to be important throughout Laura’s life.

These days we do have the benefit of Kate diCamillo. This story ticks another box — it’s not about a well-off kid who lives in a middle class house and a good income. (Winn-Dixie has also been adapted for the screen.)

Because of Winn-Dixie

By Kay Thompson, illustrations by Hilary Knight. An adventurous and confident young girl lives on the top floor of a New York hotel with her nanny, a dog, and a turtle.

By Kay Thompson, illustrations by Hilary Knight. An adventurous and confident young girl lives on the top floor of a New York hotel with her nanny, a dog, and a turtle.

Star In The Storm

Though there's no girl on the cover (wouldn't want to alienate boy readers, now), this is about the relationship between a girl called Charley and her dog.

Though there’s no girl on the cover (wouldn’t want to alienate boy readers, now), this is about the relationship between a girl called Charley and her dog.

Here’s another book about other abled kids, and a girl and her dog.

One Golden Year cover

For one happy year, Caitlin and her mother raise and train a puppy to become a companion dog for the disabled. Albion, the loving, intelligent Golden Retriever, graduates from training and is given to a girl in a wheelchair who is Caitlin’s age.

This picturebook from Pamela Allen is about a girl who actually neglects her dog, but learns not to by the end.

This picturebook from Pamela Allen is about a girl who actually neglects her dog, but learns not to by the end.

Wolf Children is a Japanese animated feature about a girl and a boy who are half wolf, half human. The girl is the storyteller narrator. It follows both the boy and the girl as they navigate through childhood and make a big decision at adolescence.

In picture books we have the metafictive story This Book Just Ate My Dog, and the main character is called Bella and is wearing a dress.

This Book Just Ate My Dog