I cannot remember the first time I read Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls. I read it at about age ten, and I have lost count of how many times I read it since. It was a period in my life when childhood was nearly over, but adolescence had not yet set in, and it was a time when animals were my greatest love.
Where the Red Fern Grows is a novel about a young boy and his two dogs, but to an animal-lover, it is much more. The story is told in the first person narrative, by an adult reminiscing about his childhood; the reader experiences life through the eyes of an eleven year old boy living in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. Over the boy's shoulder, an older narrator frequently speaks while the younger narrator talks on. Billy, as a boy, wants a dog more than anything else in the world:
"There's a time in practically every young boy's life when he's affected by that wonderful disease of puppy love. I don't mean the kind a boy has for the pretty little girl who lives down the road. I mean the real kind, the kind that has four small feet and a wiggly tail, and sharp little teeth that can gnaw on a boy's finger; the kind a boy can romp and play with, even eat and sleep with . . . I was ten years old when I first became infected with this terrible disease" (Rawls 7).
Ater secretly saving money that he earns doing odd jobs for over two years, Billy is able to purchase his dream: a pair of registered redbone coon hound pups at twenty five dollars each. He names the dogs "Old Dan" and "Little Ann" from the names Dan and Ann that he saw carved in the middle of a heart on an old sycamore tree. Before buying the pups, Billy remembers a passage fro...
... middle of paper ...
...apparently felt compelled to pass on, through Billy, his memories.
Where the Red Fern Grows contains constructive ethical lessons. It has adventure, suspense, love, sadness, and a happy ending; all the characters experience pain, and grow up a great deal. I enjoyed reading the book again after all these years, and I will undoubtedly urge my children to read it when they get older. Where the Red Fern Grows is a timeless poignant child's book.
Commire, Anne, ed. Facts and Pictures About Authors and Illustrators of Books for Young People. Volume. 22. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1981.
Ward, Martha E. and Marquardt, Dorothy A. Authors of Books for Young People. 2nd ed.' (supplement). Metuchen & London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1979.
Rawls, Wilson. Where the Red Fern Grows. New York: Bantam Books, Inc., 1961.
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