Ask any pet owner, and they’ll tell you that they frequently have one-sided conversations with their companion animals—often on such topics as whether one’s furry friend is a good boy or girl. It’s just a short hop from such discourse to imagining what one’s pet is really thinking—and in these books, all recommended by Kirkus Indie, readers can enjoy stories told from the points of view of charming and sometimes-heroic dogs and cats:

Darlene Dziomba’s 2022 mystery, Clues From the Canines, focuses mainly on Lily Dreyfus, a socially awkward animal shelter worker, as she investigates the death of a man she just started dating; he recently adopted a German shepherd named Burrow. Most of the tale is told from Lily’s close-third-person POV, but some sections are narrated by a Newfoundland named Nero Woof, owned by Lily’s close friend Mickey (whose own nickname is a reference to Mickey Spillane). Whodunit fans will appreciate the hat tips, and our reviewer particularly enjoyed Nero’s sections: “The gentle giant’s cheerful tone is a welcome change from the staccato voice of the [third-person] narrator.” Here, for example, Nero prepares to meet with Burrow: “I know the drill, I’ve been through it lots of times, we each sniff, then we usually get some play time. I won't be too exuberant but it’s hard. I’m a big guy; I have lots of enthusiasm.”

Scout of the Oregon Trail, a 2023 middle-grade historical novel by Todd Crickmer, tells the story of a stray dog in 19th-century St. Louis who’s adopted by a family with three kids on a 2,400-mile trek to Oregon City by steamboat and wagon train. “I promised myself I would be the best dog any family could have,” notes Scout, who goes on to perform many brave deeds to defend his new family from danger. The book is full of engaging historical facts for young readers, but the sweet-natured canine, who narrates the tale, is the primary draw: “Scout’s love for and devotion to the Churchill family leaps from almost every page—he’s a dog every young reader will crave for their own,” writes Kirkus’ reviewer.

Lest we forget, felines also make excellent fictional characters, and Lisa Erixon’s 2022 YA novel, No Ordinary Cats, features several. The story initially follows two house cats after they’re adopted by a family who lives on a farm; their new humans give them new names—Riser and Dilly—and the animals, as they roam the outdoors for the first time, have adventures. Dilly decides to live with a group of strays in the woods, and a cat they meet, Angel, becomes Riser’s companion. Angel later has two kittens as the result of an encounter with a stray, and Riser adopts the youngsters as his own: “Her family had become his family. And he promised himself he would do whatever was necessary to protect them.” The third-person narrative sticks closely to the cat characters and “captures the animals’ devotion to one another through the generations,” according to Kirkus’ reviewer, who notes the tale’s combination of charming moments and “tear-jerking losses, some peaceful and some decidedly less so.”

David Rapp is the senior Indie editor.