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

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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

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

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

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MALE ANIMALS AND THEIR DOGS

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

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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

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I thought this one was about a girl until the very end. Such a shame, as it could so easily have been about a girl!

 

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