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Where the Red Fern Grows

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Where the Red Fern Grows Book Poster Image
Tearjerker about country boy and his hound dogs.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 20 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 64 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Respect, patience, courage and faithfulness are all important themes peppered throughout this emotionally satisfying read.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Billy is honest, noble, as faithful as his dogs, and he perseveres against daunting obstacles.


Children fight, Billy's mother uses a switch to punish him, many scenes of hunting and killing animals, some rather gruesome. A boy is killed accidentally when he falls on an ax.


Once instance of mild swearing, and "bitch" is used as the correct name for a female dog.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An adult smokes a pipe; alcohol is taken on a trip, though drinking is not depicted.

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.  

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 10 and 11 year old Written bylitmom123 January 28, 2011

Good, but not without faults.

This book has a decent story but the writing is sometimes repetitive and some of the scenes are completely pointless. For example, there is a scene in the book... Continue reading
Parent of a 13 year old Written byTsion April 5, 2009

I Honestly Have No Idea How You Can't Love This Book!

This and LASSIE COME-HOME are the two greatest dog books of all-time, and you would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't just love this book. Violen... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byBen654 March 2, 2009


This book is a heartwarming and emotional book that shows how much the love between a boy and his dogs really is and how much they are willing to doe for each o... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old September 1, 2010


GREAT, im 12, read it, cried a llitle, laughed a little. At the edge of my seat the whole time!!! Recommend it for ALL ages!!

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. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about respect. How do Billy and his father respect raccoons?

  • How does Papa's treatment of Billy change?

Book details

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