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Where the Red Fern Grows
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Where the Red Fern Grows is a classic of children's literature that's been a beloved and powerfully emotional book for generations. First published in 1961, it's the story of a boy in the Ozarks during the Great Depression who gets a pair of dogs as puppies and raises them to compete in a raccoon-hunting championship. So it includes descriptions of hunting, killing, and skinning animals.
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What's the story?
Billy is growing up dirt-poor in the Ozarks during the Grreat Depression of the 1930s. More than anything, he wants a pair of redbone coon hounds. As it is financially out of the question for his parents to buy them, he works and saves for two years to buy them himself, then hikes barefoot 60 miles round-trip over the mountains and through the woods to the nearest town to pick them up. He then spends months training the pups to be the best hounds in the hills. His dreams all come true as he spends every night out hunting in the hills with his dogs, and their fame spreads far and wide. Billy and his dogs are so good that his grandfather enters them in a championship coon hunt against grown men.
Is it any good?
Arguably the greatest boy-and-his-dog story of all time, this is, for many kids, the book that introduces them to the power of literature. No one, adult or child, gets through this book without weeping, usually more than once, yet it never feels manipulative or trite -- it's a good, honest cry. For more than four decades, it has remained near the top of the list of kids' favorite books. Who says kids don't love quality?
It reveals a world that has all but vanished today, a rural America where a boy could ramble through the woods and mountains with his dogs all night long, in complete freedom. It also shows what our image of boyhood once was: strong, brave, emotional, honest, gritty, and loyal. Billy is an archetype that, like the world he inhabits, is virtually extinct, except in literature. This exciting, heartbreaking, uplifting book is based on the author's own boyhood.
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