Cynthia Rylant's collection of short stories, Every Living Thing, is exquisite. Each story details the way a person's life is changed through their interactions with an animal. The stories are deceptively simple and a quick read, but have so much heart.
This is the book that I hand to struggling readers who are having a tough time. It is also the book I reach for when I need a quick story to demonstrate a teaching point. I read "A Pet" to my ninth graders last week when we were discussing how to create likeable and unlikeable characters. This four page story about a girl and her goldfish had my 'mature' students analyzing and volunteering like mad.
I keep Every Living Thing close at hand during my planning. I have used its stories countless times and will continue to do so for their sweetness, simplicity, and gorgeous writing.