Where the Red Fern Grows

Common Sense Media says

Tearjerker about country boy and his hound dogs.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

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

Positive role models

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.

Not applicable

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

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

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

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this book is, in part, about the joys of hunting raccoons. If you don't want your kids reading about hunting, killing, and skinning animals, this isn't for you. It's also one of the great classics of children's literature, and any child who doesn't get to read this beloved and powerfully emotional book has missed out on an important piece of childhood for the last 40+ years.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Billy is growing up dirt-poor in the Ozarks during the Depression. 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-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 over 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, based on the author's own boyhood, should be a part of everyone's childhood.

Families can talk about...

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

  • How does Papa's treatment of Billy change?

Book details

Author:Wilson Rawls
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Delacorte Press
Publication date:May 30, 2005
Number of pages:212

This review of Where the Red Fern Grows was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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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 other. AND BE PREPARED TO CRIE!!! For it's a real tear jerker.
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 other families should know
Great messages
Kid, 12 years old June 9, 2009

sad but really really really good ;-)

this book is the best and saddest book i have ever read! i cried and cried when old dan and little anne died. but i don't think that this book should be 9+ because of how it describes one little boy's death. it talks about soooooooooo much blood.


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