Mona. OWNEY, THE MAIL-POUCH POOCH. Illustrated by Lynne Barasch. New York: Frances Foster Books, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2008.
was a real dog that was first found in 1888. For almost ten years,
he rode the mail trains all over the country. He even took a trip around
the world as the guest of the U.S. Postal workers. Newspapers
recorded his travels. Owney was
the most famous dog of his day.
OWNEY, THE MAIL-POUCH POOCH: I made a three-minute video to show you what Owney might have seen when he
was alive and riding the mail trains. I used historical footage
that is available free at the Library of Congress
by Thomas Edison. (Also posted at Google Video and TeacherTube.)
Teachers, when using my OWNEY book in your classroom, learning will be enhanced
if you connect it to a curricular objective. Teachers in
grades K-4 can use Owney in units on community helpers,
transportation, oral speaking, geography/history of
states and countries, measuring distances, writing--personal
letters and/or reports, and using technology to communicate.
Color the Owney coloring sheet and attach some trinkets to his collar that represent where you live.
2. Draw a trinket for
Owney that he would like to wear.
3. Design a stamp that
represents where you live.
4. At an office supply, buy some luggage tags and design a tag for Owney. See
example at the bottom of this page.
5. Study Owney's
tags at the National Postal Museum.
1. Study the National Postal Museum list of the places Owney traveled.
a train route that Owney might have taken when he traveled to
different places in the United States and Canada. Remember that
Owney usually (but not always) started and ended his trips
New York. What other towns did Owney pass through?
3. Locate some cities that Owney visited. Find one interesting
fact and one picture for each.
4. Use the world map and plot out Owney's round-the-world-trip.
5. Send me an email and tell me where my book has been read and I'll put
on his map.
6. Practice U.S. Geography at http://www.yourchildlearns.com/mappuzzle/us-puzzle.html.
read an article in our local paper, The Carroll County Times,
about mail going by wagons. I called the National Postal Museum
in Washington D.C.
They sent me a book called Mail on the Move where I read about this lucky dog named Owney.
His story intrigued me. I then ordered a booklet from them called
Owney: Mascot of the Railway Mail Service.
I wrote what I thought was a short story suitable for a picture book.
QUESTION 2. How long did it take to get it published?
It took nine years from the first time I wrote it to the time it
became an actual book.
QUESTION 3. How many different versions do you have of the story?
I have written the story all kinds of ways--as a chapter
book, as a fiction story, as a nonfiction story. I have at least 33 different
versions saved on my computer.
QUESTION 4. Why did you write it so many times?
Several reasons--because no publisher accepted it...because two publishers
asked me to revise it...because I thought it was important to keep trying,
and then because dear Frances Foster of Farrar, Straus and Giroux
bought the story, and she helped me make it better.
Isn't Lynne Barasch a good illustrator?
and Awards for Owney
Street College, Best Children’s Books of the Year List, 100th
Anniversary Edition, 2009.
One of the most comprehensive annotated book lists for children, aged infant-14.
The Committee reviews over 4000 titles each year for accuracy and literary quality
and considers their emotional impact on children. It chooses the best 600 books,
both fiction and nonfiction, which it lists according to age and category.
"This appealing and informative story, based on historical records, offers teachers
and parents an excellent vehicle for teaching... Motivating children
to learn about public sector workers and services doesn’t get much
better than this." ~ Rutgers University Project on Economics and
Recommended as a great illustrated book at James Patterson's ReadKiddoRead.com--A site dedicated to making kids readers for life. "An Author's Note and bibliography
provide more information about this remarkable pup."
Reviews from Professional Selection Sources
"Sure to develop a loyal following among lovers of dog stories." ~ School Library Journal Starred Review, April 2008.
"Dog lovers will lap up this latest iteration." ~ Kirkus Reviews, April 2008.
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." ~ Horn Book, July/August 2008.
"The amazing, mostly true story of a dog the postal workers named
Owney...Kudos to Kerby." ~ Booklist, April 2008.
is a versatile little doggy number: it could also serve as a read
aloud...or it could serve as an offbeat springboard to explorations
of travel or even the postal system." ~ Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books, June 2008.
the Sources I Used
possible, I like to find the same facts in at least two completely
independent sources. After all, humans make mistakes. I did my best
to verify all the facts, but listen--telling the story of a dog isn't
easy, especially one that lived over a hundred years ago. Owney didn't
talk and he never wrote his own autobiography.
a. I went to the National Postal Museum to see the
display about Owney. I read books written by the historians at the
b. I visited the National Archives to read the articles
in Owney's file.
c. I read old newspaper articles about Owney from
the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times.
I found these in an online source called ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
Here is a sample.
d. I called the public library in Owney's hometown--the
Albany Public Library in New York and talked with the town librarian,
e. I spoke with Virginia Bowers, the city historian
of Albany, New York.
Did I hit any trouble spots?
Yes. And if I ever come to your school on an author
visit, I might tell you about them. back to top
Sources You Can Read (Links checked on 2-22-08 mk.)
Northern New York Historical Newspapers <http://news.nnyln.net/>are
provided by the Northern New York Library Network to enhance access
to the region's unique local history. On this site, articles about
Owney are in the Ticonderogo Sentinel and the Ogdensburg Advance.
On page 20 of the book, OWNEY, THE MAIL-POUCH POOCH, I named some of the cities
that Owney visited. I found them in different newspaper reports.
Can you figure out possible routes that Owney might have traveled?
Use this train map. (Copy and paste the address in your browser
and it should work.) <http://www.trainweb.com/cgi-bin/photos/showpic1.cgi?/maps/natlmap97.gif+maps/index.htm>
Visit the National Postal Museum <http://www.postalmuseum.si.edu/>. Search for Owney. You'll be able to find pictures of medals that Owney received
and other information about him.
For a sample of some of the old newspapers that I found in the
Historical ProQuest database--The Washington Post or The New York
Times, ask your public librarian if they subscribe to the source.
I Made the Owney Video
Who did the drawings?
illustrator, Lynne Barasch, drew the book illustrations. I borrowed
some of her drawings to use in the video.
Where did Owney's photographs come from?
you search Owney at the National Postal Museum on the web, you'll
see some photos taken of him when he was alive.
Where did the old video footage come from?
the best library in the world--the Library of Congress. On their
website, they include lots of videos and photographs and sounds.
Many of the films I used were taken by the famous inventer, Thomas
Is the dog in the old black and white film clip Owney?
he was a dog that was a vaudeville actor in the late 1930s.
So how do you make a movie like this?
fun. I used a program that comes on Windows software called "Movie Maker." First, I opened it up and inserted all the photos, sounds, and film clips I
wanted to use. Then I clipped and cut and pasted until I liked
it. I did it over and over. I worked on that 3 minute video for
about a month.
Buy the Owney book
are some places where you can buy my Owney book: