Even if you're not an animal lover, this one has that gotcha factor: after all, who could resist the pathos of Disney's Dumbo? And this is the story behind that very Disney tale, without all the candyfloss. The story follows Modoc as a baby elephant in a German circus, and the boy who loved him and would not be separated from him, even stowing away on the ship transporting the elephant to India. A typhoon destroys the ship and Modoc saves the boy by having him ride on his back in the sea, since, extraordinarily, the world's heaviest mammal, can float. The adventure takes on a mystical turn when Modoc and the boy find India to be an elephant nirvana, of sorts, as Indians revere and protect elephants. Eventually, though, the evil elephant owner catches up with them, and Modoc is transported to the U.S. where he becomes an abused circus performer. Once again, the boy (all grown-up) must find his Modoc and rescue him.
Part of the charm of the story is the enthusiasm of the author, who, with his somewhat childish writing style, manages to come across with such heartwarming sincerity that, if you don't have a Kleenex nearby, you will soon be looking for one.
Recommended by Betsy Schroeder