Owney, The Mail-Pouch Pooch

Kerby, Mona. OWNEY, THE MAIL-POUCH POOCH. Illustrated by Lynne Barasch. New York: Frances Foster Books, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2008.

Owney 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.


Watch a movie
Blog Owney
Color Owney
Readers' Theater
Owney Jigsaw Puzzles

See below for more fun stuff!




If you can't see this Owney video at YouTube, then either (1) turn off your browser's active X control, or (2) try the links below.

FUN STUFF: Owney activities 

Owney Jigsaw Puzzles


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 Digital Collections, including films by Thomas Edison. (Also posted at Google Video and TeacherTube.)

Mona Kerby Video Interview about Owney. Filmed on November 18, 2009 by Orange County Department of Education. <http://vc.ocde.us/archive/default.htm?v=kerby-1>

Owney Book Trailer made by students at Park Hills Elementary students in Hanover, PA.
THE STORY OF OWNEY video created by the National Postal Museum.

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.


1. Buy an Owney book.
2. Do Readers' Theater.
3. Complete the Owney Crossword Puzzle (document) or online version.
4. Complete the Word Search.
5. Teachers, after reading aloud Owney, print and share these Owney Fan Club cards. (10 to a page)
6. Follow along and listen to me read aloud from Owney.
7. Read the author interview.
8. Learn about the historical sources I used.
9. Read a 2008 article about the book from the Carroll County Times newspaper.
10. Teachers, see Owney activities created for California Young Readers.

11. Copy Owney bookmarks for your students. Bookmark 2.


1. 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.


Listen to a podcast review of Owney by "Just One More Book."

Language Arts

1. Use a Project Organizer for writing a friendly letter.
2. Post a note on the OWNEY blog.
3. Start an email letter project with another class in a different part of the world.
4. Complete a worksheet on Owney.
5. Teachers, use Houghton Mifflin Reading (A Legacy of Literacy) Grade 2 Theme 4: Amazing Animals. ISBN 0-618-06525-3.


1. Study the National Postal Museum list of the places Owney traveled.
Map 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 in Albany, 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 a flag on his map.
6. Practice U.S. Geography at http://www.yourchildlearns.com/mappuzzle/us-puzzle.html.

List of Some of the Places that Owney Visited in 1888-1897
Map of the Train Routes in the United States
Map of the United States
Map of the World in Black and White
Map of the World in Color


1. Using the maps, estimate the number of miles that Owney might have traveled during his lifetime.
2. Using the maps, select two towns or countries and estimate how far apart they are.

Physical Education Lesson created by McDaniel College Dr. Andi Hoffman and her students Brett Bonneville, Rebecca Corbran, and Lauren Wildasin.

Other Stuff

Buy a toy Owney dog.

Author Interview

QUESTION 1. How did you find out about Owney?

I 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?

Reviews and Awards for Owney

Bank 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.

WINNER! California Young Reader Medal, Picture Book for Older Reader Category, 2010.See http://www.californiayoungreadermedal.org

Kansas State Reading Circle Recommended Primary Titles, 2009

Missouri Show Me Reader Award Nominee, 2010-2011. See http://www.maslonline.org/?page=1011_SM_Nominees

Pennsylvania Keystone to Reading Book Award Master List, 2009-10. See http://www.ksra.org/Resources/keystone_to_reading_book_award.htm

Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Awards Program Nominee, 2009-10. See: http://www.psla.org/association/committee/mediaselectionandreview/PYCRA2010/pycramaster09.pdf

South Carolina Book Award Nominee, 2010-2011. See http://www.scasl.net/bookawards/index.htm

Tennessee Volunteer State Book Award Nominee, 2010-2011. See http://www.discoveret.org/tasl/

WINNER! Vermont Red Clover Award 2010. See http://www.mothergooseprograms.org/lit_red_clover_overview.php

H.W. Wilson Web's Core Collection "A Most Highly Recommended Title."

Parents' Choice Silver Honor Award, 2008.--The Parents' Choice Awards recognize books that "meet and exceed standards set by educators, scientists, performing artists, librarians, parents, and kids themselves."

"Top Five" in Economic Role of Government Choice--for acclaimed children’s books that use enjoyable stories to teach an economics lesson. The selection of books is based on objective research criteria and on direct experience in teaching with the books. The award is given by the Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children.

"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 Children.

Rugters University Project on Economics and Children, Book of the Month Selection, February 2009.

Best Kid Books of the Year by Sue Corbett for the Miami Herald, 2008--"Kerby restores to fame the canine hero of the title, a real dog who traveled the rails guarding the mail at the end of the 19th Century. Barasch's watercolors bring this historical dog to endearing life."

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.

"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." ~ Horn Book, July/August 2008.

"The amazing, mostly true story of a dog the postal workers named Owney...Kudos to Kerby." ~ Booklist, April 2008.

"This 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.

About the Sources I Used

Whenever 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 museum.

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, Ellen Gamache.

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

Some Sources You Can Read (Links checked on 2-22-08 mk.)

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle <http://www.brooklynpubliclibrary.org/eagle> is a historical newspaper dating from 1841-1902. They have some articles about Owney.

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.

Read a 1937 article in Time about Owney <http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,758168,00.html?promoid=googlep>

See an Owney video made by the National Postal Museum: <http://www.postalmuseum.si.edu/exhibits/2c1f_owney_movie.html#1>

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.

How I Made the Owney Video

Question: Who did the drawings?

The illustrator, Lynne Barasch, drew the book illustrations. I borrowed some of her drawings to use in the video.

Question: Where did Owney's photographs come from?

If you search Owney at the National Postal Museum on the web, you'll see some photos taken of him when he was alive.

Question: Where did the old video footage come from?

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 Edison!

Question: Is the dog in the old black and white film clip Owney?

No, he was a dog that was a vaudeville actor in the late 1930s.

Question: So how do you make a movie like this?

It's 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

Here are some places where you can buy my Owney book:

The Korean Version of Owney, the Mail-Pouch Pooch
Korean Owney Korean Edition of Owney, Verso Page

Owney sightings--Send me pictures of Owney and I'll post them.

Here I am with the girls at Roland Park School in Baltimore on March 13, 2012.


Sherry Rowett, Prairie View Elementary School in Missouri, sends a photo of Owney resting in Chile!

Mrs. Turner and her students at Lonnie B. Nelson in South Carolina after our Skype visit in March 2011.


The terrific students of Clemens Crossing School, Howard County, Maryland, December 2010. Mona with Mrs. Marshall, the librarian.

Milton Academy, Massachusetts students spent a year long unit on Owney. Teacher Nancy Fenstimacher sent these wonderful photos in June 2010.

In January 2010, students at St. John's Lane Elementary School in Ellicott City, MD, read so many books that they "sent" Owney on a trip around the world!


Owney Readers at Chamberlin School in South Burlington, Vermont in November 2009.

writers left; readers right

Owney sighted at Crestline Elementary School in Alabama on December 11, 2008.

A Tag for Owney made by fifth-graders at Glenelg School in Maryland in November 2008.

Owney seen at Brunswick Public Library, Maine in summer 2008. Photo taken by my pal, Cindy Lord, author of Newbery honor book, RULES.

Owney at 2008 NCTE San Antonio Conference.

The USPS Owney stamp on sale July 27, 2011.

This photo of Owney is from the Library of Congress website.
Doesn't he look as if he is taking his guard job seriously?



Updated 3-19-12 mk