Reading The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford is warm and pleasant, like spending an evening curled up on a couch in front of a crackling fireplace.

While their family is overseas, three pets stay at the home of a family friend, John Longridge. The animals are Bodger, an old white English bull terrier, Tao, a feisty Siamese cat, and Luath, a golden brown Labrador retriever.

The cat and the bull terrier are friends, having spent many hours getting into mischief together. The retriever is aloof, trained to hunt with his master and not interested in the games the other two play or the affection they share.

John leaves on a fishing trip with his brother. Due to an accident of miscommunication, his housekeeper thinks he’s taken the animals with him. Luath urges the others to leave Longridge’s house and strike west, in the direction of their own home. Unfortunately, home is nearly three hundred miles away, across very wild and sparsely inhabited northern Canada, and the time of year is September.

This is a story of loyalty, perseverance, and hope. The personalities of the animals are charmingly drawn. Each is unique and very believable, as are the nature scenes painted for the reader. We meet bear, wolf, lynx, chipmunks, and birds. These encounters are sketched realistically. Interesting people also appear throughout the narrative.

The descriptions are artistically beautiful without being heavy or wordy. Mostly, the story is a brave adventure for some very likeable pets. To enhance the reader’s imagination, there are black-and-white drawings of pivotal scenes by illustrator Carl Burger.

There is such violence as occurs in nature, and the animals hunt to stay alive. Younger children may worry about the safety of the pets or feel sad about some things that happen. There is a little suspense, but it is of very short duration.

When John Longridge discovers the animals are gone and guesses their plans, he tells his friends with a heavy heart. What happens in the end will delight the reader.

First published in 1961, The Incredible Journey was marketed for ages eleven and up. I remember reading it when I was ten. It runs about 145 pages and is available at libraries, bookstores,,, and It comes in print, ebook, and audiobook formats.

If your children (or you) enjoy a well-told tale of life-like animals set in a vast wilderness, you will want to read this book.

Donna Fujimoto is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. She has published both devotionals for adults and short stories for teens. Her children love to read.

Mrs. Fujimoto has a collection of short stories, 9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge, available as an e-reader at Amazon. Find our review under “N” in the alphabetical listing: Titles We’ve Reviewed.