A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Wilson Rawls' classic coming-of-age novel Where the Red Fern Grows is the story of Billy, a boy in the Ozarks during the Great Depression. Billy gets a pair of coonhounds as puppies and raises them to be exceptional hunting dogs. Billy exhibits excellent values of loyalty, patience, and devotion to his pets. However, the book includes detailed descriptions of hunting, killing, and skinning animals, as well as a gory description of a boy falling on an ax. Some scenes are quite bloody, and others are emotionally painful. This book may be difficult to take for sensitive animal-loving readers. Where the Red Fern Grows was made into a film in 1974, and again in 2003.
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What's the story?
Billy is growing up poor in the Ozarks during the Great Depression of the 1930s. More than anything, he wants a pair of redbone coonhounds. As it is cost-prohibitive for his parents to buy them, Billy works and saves for two years to buy them himself, then walks barefoot through the woods to the nearest town to pick them up. He spends months training the pups to be the best hunting dogs in the hills. His dreams come true as he enjoys nights out hunting 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 in which Billy will compete against grown men.
Is it any good?
This is.an exciting novel, full of fast-paced, exciting hunting scenes, but it also has great emotional depth. Billy's family life is warm and supportive, and his connection to his pets is quite profound. Young readers will care about Billy and his hounds, and will eagerly follow them through every plot twist and adventure.
Where the Red fern Grows is also a romantic period piece that portrays a rural America where a boy could ramble through the countryside with his dogs all night long, in complete freedom. Based on the author's own boyhood, this boy-and-his-dog story is exciting, uplifting, and heartbreaking.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way hunting is portrayed in Where the Red Fern Grows. Does the author make hunting seem exciting? If so, how?
Where the Red Fern Grows is a coming-of-age novel. What are some ways that you can tell Billy is growing up in the story? How does his dad's attitude toward him change?
What makes Billy's dogs special? Why do you thing stories about beloved animals are so popular?
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