Animals in Literature

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Sammy in the Sky

Sammy in the Sky is a first person narrative of a young girl coming to terms with her aging and sick dog and trying to comprehend his death. When Sammy dies, the family keeps his spirit alive by celebrating his love of chasing bubbles, by holding a special celebration.

Why use this book?

  • Highlights the strong connection and relationship people can have with an animal, known as the human-animal bond.
  • Addresses pet loss in a positive and realistic manor. Often the first loss children experience is that of a beloved pet. Books can provide an opportunity to discuss and deal with emotions about loss and grief in a healthy way.

Animal Welfare Considerations:

  • The girl is seen hugging Sammy in a few illustrations. While this is a common portrayal in many picture books, most dogs (even your family pet) are probably not comfortable being hugged. Dogs do not express affection by hugging and might feel restricted or constrained when hugged which can cause anxiety or stress in some dogs. This may lead to aggression or biting if dogs are feeling trapped. T
  • Sammy is shown wearing a bonnet and having bandages stuck on his nose and paws, while playing with the girl. Animals do not appreciate wearing costumes/clothing. Costumes can be tight and restrictive and impact how the animal naturally moves. Have a discussion your students about how being dressed up might make an animal feel. (Instead of dressing an animal up consider a themed collar or a festive bandana.)

Ask your students:

  • How did the girl react to the death of Sammy?
  • What do you do when you feel sad? What helps you feel better?
  • If you could say something to the girl to console her, what would you say?
  • What do you think the mother meant when she said “He’ll always be with us” at the end of the story?
  • What made blowing bubbles in the field a ‘special celebration’? Why did the family want to celebrate Sammy?


  • Special Celebration – The family decides to go to Sammy’s favourite field and blow bubbles (chasing bubbles was one of Sammy’s favourite activities) as a special celebration of Sammy. Having a special celebration of a pet’s life can help with the grieving process. As a class, brainstorm a list of other ways families can celebrate the life of a pet. Plant a tree, make a scrapbook/collage, share favourite memories, donate to an animal shelter, etc.
  • Sympathy Card – Have students design a sympathy card for someone who has recently lost a pet or for the girl in the story. Students can choose to include a poem about a pet or suggestions on how to feel better.
  • I Wonder, I Wish, I Hope – Sometimes it can be hard to put words to how we are feeling. If a student has recently lost a pet, give them an opportunity to write and/or draw about what they wonder, wish, and hope as they are dealing with their loss.
  • Animal Life Spans – In pairs, have students create a list of ten animals and then have them research their life spans. Finally, ask students to order the animals according to their life spans from least to greatest.

Resources Related to Book:


Barbara Walsh, 2011


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