Owney, the mail-pouch pooch

Mona Kerby

Book - 2008

In 1888, Owney, a stray terrier puppy, finds a home in the Albany, New York, post office and becomes its official mascot as he rides the mail train through the Adirondacks and beyond, criss-crossing the United States, into Canada and Mexico, and eventually traveling aroud the world by mail boat in 132 days.

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Location Call Number   Status
Children's Room jE/Kerby Due Oct 2, 2023
Picture books
New York : Frances Foster Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2008.
1st ed
Physical Description
unpaged : ill. (chiefly col.), col. map ; 29 cm
Includes bibliographical references.
Main Author
Mona Kerby (-)
Other Authors
Lynne Barasch (illustrator)
Review by Booklist Review

On a cold, rainy night in the fall of 1888, a mutt wandered into the post office in Albany, New York, found a pile of bags, and fell asleep. So begins the amazing, mostly true story of a dog the postal workers named Owney. First, Owney helped deliver the mail in Albany, riding on the mail wagons. Then, he started hopping trains, guarding mail, and collecting depot tags as souvenirs for his collar. Before long, he had been across the country, in towns big and small, making friends everywhere. As the years passed, Owney received plenty of press; when he was eight years old, he was even given a trip on a steamship and went around the world. Today, his body (preserved after death by a taxidermist) is at the Smithsonian. Kudos to Kerby who, the author's note makes clear, did plenty of research for this kid-friendly history. Although there's only one full-size picture of Owney (on the cover), the ink-and-watercolor paintings, ranging from two-page spreads to vignettes, are varied and interesting.--Cooper, Ilene Copyright 2008 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by School Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Horn Book Review

(Primary) This book breathes new life into the story of a dog who, though front-page news in the 1880s and 1890s, is not so well known now. Originally adopted by the employees in the Albany (NY) post office, stray dog Owney slept on and guarded the canvas mailbags. When Owney started hopping on mail trains and traveling the country, the Albany workers placed a metal tag on his collar, and soon other post offices attached their own tags. At the end of a mail boat voyage around the world, Owney wore more than two hundred new tags and other remembrances on his jaunty dog harness. So beloved was he that his body has been preserved and is on view at the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum. Children, many of whom will have sent Flat Stanley through the mail, will enjoy imagining the life of one scruffy puppy that traveled the world more than a hundred years ago. Watercolor-and-ink sketches warmly illustrate the mixed-breed terrier and showcase the varied architectural styles that housed post offices around the country. The author's note adds interesting details but doesn't answer the one question every child will ask -- how did he die? A quick visit to the National Postal Museum's website will supply the answer (he died of a gunshot), though the exact circumstances remain a mystery. From HORN BOOK, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

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) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.