Bless the Beasts & Children

Book review by
Monica Wyatt, Common Sense Media
Bless the Beasts & Children Book Poster Image
Misfit teens rebel at a Western summer camp in YA classic.

Parents say

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Kids say

age 15+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Main characters run away from camp, steal cars, drink whisky, shoot out tires, smoke cigars, and illegally free the buffalo. Other characters cruelly mistreat them. Describes a Jewish comedian and his son in stereotypical fashion, but maintains sympathy with the son.


Graphic, disturbing description of shooting buffalo.




Mild to moderate swearing of all types.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Bless the Beasts and the Children is a young-adult classic about six misfits in a Western summer camp who defy heartless authority. The novel is distinguished by superb writing, and many young readers will enjoy the teens' rebellious acts. But others may find it too slow-moving and literary for their taste. The boys -- the only characters with real compassion -- defy authority and break rules and laws, but come full circle to do good.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written byAndrewReviews September 16, 2018


First three chapters talk about the main character being a buffalo and getting shot in head by his mom. It also talks about suicide and has a lot of cuss words.... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bybiovox14 November 14, 2016

Awesome but disturbing book

I love this book, but the content is disturbing including bullying, violence, swearing, and disturbing content in general. I suggest you read it, but not under... Continue reading

What's the story?

Six misfit boys in a Western summer camp, where even the counselors ridicule them, are forced to witness a bloody slaughter of buffalo. They steal horses, ride to town, then steal a car and make their way 100 miles to a buffalo reserve during the night to free the remaining beasts. The decision they make changes their lives. The book alternates between scenes from the boys' adventure and from their difficult home lives.


Is it any good?

This much-loved novel of teen rebellion has become one of the classics of young-adult literature. Written as a rebuttal to William Golding's Lord of the Flies, according to the author's son in his introduction, this is a disturbing but ultimately uplifting book. The boys in this book don't degenerate into beasts, as in Lord of the Flies. Instead, they liberate the beasts and themselves, though their leader sacrifices himself to accomplish that goal.

Glendon Swarthout's often-poetic prose elevates the kids' quest into an epic, and his descriptions of the boys and their trials become almost hypnotic. Some see it as a Christian allegory. However, most teens reading for enjoyment will want to skip the lengthy reader's supplement in the back of the book, which provides school-like discussion questions. Readers interested primarily in literary quality may find the supplement useful.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about misfits. How are misfits treated in the camp? Are they treated similarly in the outside world? 

  • Why are books about summer camp so popular? 

  • Have you ever felt like a misfit? Why? What did you do in that situation?

Book details

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