Old Yeller
Fred Gipson
1956

A boy and his dog. When we think Old Yeller, we often think of the movie, but it’s on this list because before and since the book has had a life and an impact of its own. There’s no especially great commentary to come up with for this one – stray dog wanders into the farm life of a hard-working family; dog loves boy, boy grows to love dog; dog puts its own life at risk to defend the family; tragic ending – we all know it, but I am loathe to give it away just in case. A boy’s love, a good dog, growing up and the hard hard beauty of the world. That’s Old Yeller.

Gipson sets Old Yeller in Texas at the end of the American civil war, but it could be anywhere, anytime. One of those standard, timeless stories that no one ever forgets, just enough hardship and emotional strife to make the perfect Disney film. And a reminder that the most simple stories are often the most lasting.

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