Does every kid go through the animal books phase?
From ages three to ten, we lived in a little two-bedroom place. My room had a big, beautiful oak tree outside the window, but my parents' room had no such obstructions to light, so I would go lay on their bed to read. And somewhere in those years, I really got into animal stories.
Lassie Come Home, The Trouble with Tuck, Lad: A Dog, Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller, Socks, The Cat That Overcame, The Cat Who Came for Christmas, The Cat Who Went to Heaven, Misty of Chincoteague (yet for some reason I never could get into Black Beauty) . . . There were dozens of these books, and I read many of them two and three times over.
In fact, I was reading Old Yeller in church one Wednesday night. My mom required me to go Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and Wednesday nights, but on Wednesdays I was allowed to bring homework or a book to read. That particular night we had a guest preacher, and he saw me reading and threw a fit. My mother and our regular pastor had it out over that one. She told him, "That's my daughter and I'll decide whether she can read in church or not!" Pastor Morrow was a big guy, but he backed up quick when Mom got in his face. He apologized to me, which was kinda weird for a seven-year-old. But after that I didn't have to go on Wednesdays any more either.
That was a bit of a digression, but it's funny the memories we attach to some books, and that's my singular memory of Old Yeller.
Animal books often have sad endings, or happy-sad endings. Either way, I seemed to always end up blubbering over them. Even when I'd read them before and knew what was coming. Which is, I suppose, a testament to great writing.
And yet animal books are also something we eventually leave behind. They seem to be the purvey of childhood (Marley and Me notwithstanding). Thinking about it now, I'd like to maybe go back and read a couple of these again, see if they still impact me the same way.