15 Books About Animals That Are Total Tearjerkers

15 Books About Animals That Are Total Tearjerkers

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Spoiler alert! There are plenty of upsetting children’s stories and touching coming-of-age novels, but nothing makes us cry harder than a story of man’s friendship with animals. With many tragic stories ending in the animals’ death (ah who are we kidding, they all die), there is a tragic lesson and moral to learn from each book. Here are 15 books about animals that are total tearjerkers.

the yearling
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1. The Yearling

When poverty-stricken farm boy Jody adopted an orphaned fawn, he did not expect to gain a true companion. As the years went by and the boy’s family became even more hungry, the boy’s mother ordered him to take his pet deer into the woods and shoot him. When Jody refused, his mother shot his pet, only severely wounding him and giving the boy no choice but to put the deer out of its misery. Whoever said that mothers know best is a stinkin’ no-good liar.

marley and me
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2. Marley & Me

When a high-energy Labrador retriever puppy came into Grogan’s life, he wondered if he’d made a big mistake. Marley’s clumsiness and high-strung personality was eventually overlooked once the owners realized that she didn’t have a bad bone in her body. Marley eventually died at an old age, devastating the family and inspiring Grogan to write a heart-warming story about his beloved dog. Don’t let Owen Wilson ruin this for you. Read the book and have a good cry.

old yeller
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3. Old Yeller

This heroic dog cannot keep saving this family every time they are in distress. When a young boy first acquired a stray puppy, he loathed the dog (for God knows what reasons). Once Old Yeller saved the family from a bear, a gang of wild hogs, and a wolf, the boy finally came around and grew to love Old Yeller (geesh, that’s all it took?) Unfortunately, when Old Yeller went to protect the family from a wolf (again), the dog caught rabies, giving the boy no choice but to kill Old Yeller. Poor dog, he tried so hard.

charlotte's web
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4. Charlotte’s Web

Who knew your guardian angel could be a spider named Charlotte? When a runt pig named Wilbur learns he is about to be slaughtered by the farmer, his buddy, Charlotte, does everything she can to reassure him and save his life. She weaves messages in her web for farmers to read about what a wonderful pig Wilbur is. Finally, Wilbur’s life is spared but his reliable friend, Charlotte, isn’t so lucky. This story will have you walk into a web of sudden impulses to bawl like a baby.

gorilla in the mist
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5. Gorilla in the Mist

This biography tells the brutal story of Dian Fossey and her mission to protect gorillas from poachers in Rwanda. Fossey develops a close bond with an intelligent gorilla named Digit as well as the other gorillas in the group. When Digit is killed and beheaded by local hunters, Fossey goes on an angry rampage, burning down the poacher’s villages and staging fake executions to show the consequences of killing gorillas. Eventually Fossey is murdered in her sleep by one of the poachers and she is laid to rest in the jungle next to Digit (lovely story,eh?).

my dog skip
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6. My Dog Skip

Despite what the film portrayed, in the book, Skip was a fox terrier instead of a Jack Russel. Like a typical boy-and-dog story, Skip accompanies a lonely boy as he grows into a young teenager, then befriends the entire town. Of course, the story turns into a piddling mess when the dog dies and leaves us crying like blubbering babies. All good things must come to an end.

i'll always love you
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7.  I’ll Always Love You

This absurdly sad book tells the story of a young boy grieving the loss of his childhood dachshund, Elfie. His parents offer to buy him a new puppy, but the boy flat out refuses, stating that he’s not ready to “replace” Elfie. The boy goes on a grieving memory path about his wonderful dog and whispers, “I’ll always love you” (is someone cutting onions in here?).

where the red fern grows
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8. Where The Red Fern Grows

Young Billy really wanted redbone coonhounds, and saved up whatever money he could, then walked miles to adopt two adorable puppies. He named them Old Dan and Little Ann. The trio became extremely loyal to each other and went on to win many prizes in the country fair for best hunting dogs. The story ends with Old Dan’s death after being brutally attacked by a mountain lion. Little Ann dies a few days later from a broken heart. If you ever want to teach your kids a lesson that life is tough, this is your book.

the tenth good thing about barney
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9.  The Tenth Good Thing About Barney

What’s sadder than a boy’s beloved cat dying and his family planning for its funeral? A boy is told by his parents to think of 10 good things about Barney, but he can only think of nine. Prepare for full-on waterworks as you journey through this book to help find this boy’s 10th reason why his cat was a great friend. Sniffles for everyone!

fox book
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10. Fox

A one-eyed dog and a magpie with broken wings (you’re getting sad already, aren’t you?) become friends and support each other. The magpie rides on top of the dog to feel the wind rushing past him and relives his old flying days. The dog uses the magpie to help him see and the two are tight until a jealous fox tries to destroy their bond. If you ever wanted to irrationally develop hatred for foxes, this is the book to read.

dewey cat
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11. Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched The World

A stray kitten named Dewey Readmore Books (yes, that is his name) seeks shelter in a library one bitterly cold winter. He’s barely alive when the librarians take him in, but grows up to be a healthy, loving cat who inspires many. This uplifting book turns into a real tearjerker toward the end. He dies. Sorry, but you knew that was coming.

velveteen rabbit
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12. The Velveteen Rabbit

This book is guaranteed to make mothers sob — perhaps more than their children. The tale of “The Velveteen Rabbit” is the story of a stuffed, toy bunny that believes he will become a real rabbit if he is truly loved by his child-owner. When the boy discards the rabbit for newer, fancier toys, the rabbit feels abandoned and tries to regain his affection. Better keep a Kleenex nearby. You’re going to need it.

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13. Shiloh

Author Phyllis Reynolds Naylor was inspired to write this book after an encounter with an abused dog in her hometown. That alone should tell you this book is going to be a real downer.  In “Shiloh,” an 11-year-old boy goes to lengths to protect a beagle from its abusive owner by hiding the dog, only to be forced to hand it back to its “rightful owner,” (and making the rest of us sob harder).

black beauty
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14. Black Beauty

This is the story of a beautiful horse that goes through many owners — some abusive and some loving. If there was ever a book to shed light on mistreatment of horses, it’s this one. “Black Beauty” woke us up.

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15.  Bambi, a Life in the Woods

You’re thinking of the Disney movie aren’t you? Would you believe us if we told you that the original book is much sadder? In the 1923 version, Bambi does suffer the loss of his mother at the hands of hunters but also loses many of his animal friends as well. In the end, Bambi comes to a realization that man is not always all-powerful when he stumbles upon the dead body of a hunter shot by another hunter. Let’s admit it, we’re not too broken up over the hunter’s death.