Book Review ~ Where The Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Summary ~ “Billy, Old Dan and Little Ann – A Boy and His Two Dogs… A loving threesome, they ranged the dark hills and river bottoms of Cherokee country.  Old Dan had the brawn, little Ann had the brains – and Billy had the will to train them to be the finest hunting team in the valley.  Glory and victory were coming to them, but sadness waited too.  And close by was the strange and wonderful power that’s only found… Where the Red Fern Grows.”

Monday, I finished “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls.  Though I needed a box of tissues to get through the end of the book, I loved every exhilarating, loving and heartbreaking word.  I sat there with my dog Rocky laying in my lap and read the last pages about Billy’s childhood and the little hunting dogs who changed his life. 

“Where the Red Fern Grows” is a story about a determined boy with a terrible case of “dog-wanting disease” set in the Ozarks of northeastern Oklahoma during the Great Depression.  After saying a prayer asking for help with getting his hunting pups, Billy Coleman spent two long years working to earn and save $50.00 to buy two little hunting puppies he had seen listed in a fisherman’s discarded magazine.  With the help of his Grandfather, his prayer is answered. 

   “I wanted so much to step over and pick them up.  Several times I tried to move my feet, but they seemed to be nailed to the floor.  I knew the pups were mine, all mine, yet I couldn’t move.  My heart started acting like a drunk grasshopper.  I tried to swallow and couldn’t.  My Adam’s apple wouldn’t work. 
   One pup started my way.  I held my breath.  On he came until I felt a scratchy little foot on mine.  The other pup followed.  A warm puppy tongue caressed my sore foot.
   I heard the stationmaster say, “They already know you.”
   I knelt down and gathered them in my arms.  I buried my face between their wiggling bodies and cried.  The stationmaster, sensing something more than just two dogs and a boy, waited in silence.”

And that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship that carried those three through the valleys, riverbanks and mountains of the mighty Ozark Mountains.  Billy’s loving and supportive family consisted of Papa, Mama, three little sisters, Grandma and willy old Grandpa.  After training his pups to hunt ring-tail raccoons with a coon pelt, the adventures this trio experience during hunting seasons are endless. 

The vivid words jump off the page and create the lush, dark, mysterious, and beautiful land in my mind’s eye.   Not only did I feel that I was following along with Billy as I listened to him telling me what his dogs were doing as they were hunting but I could feel the same rush as the hunts were coming to an end and a hide was the prize. 

As I was reading “Where The Red Fern Grows” I thought about the plot that Rawls was getting across to me as the reader.  It was simple.  Boy wants dogs.  Boy gets dogs.  Boy trains his dogs to hunt and with that skill mastered to perfection by Old Dan & Little Ann, the story takes off.  The dangers that hunting can entail fill the pages of this book with breakneck chases and sneaky raccoons tricking the dogs but the power of the canine nose winning out in the end almost every time.  

I have never been an advocate of hunting and the idea of going out to hunt for sport and not food isn’t my idea of ethical but when reading this book, those feelings were cast aside and I happily read about treeing raccoons, vicious fights with claws and teeth gnashing out and the final moment when a dog’s steel trap of a jaw settles in until the last breath of a raccoon or some other animal marks a win for a spirited hunter. 

I read this book as a child and I would recommend anyone from the fourth grade and above to read this magical tale of unconditional love you can only find with man’s best friend. 

{Rating ~ 5 out of 5}

Rocky & His Raccoon 

Here’s Rocky with his toy raccoon.  I took this picture this morning and he willingly posed perfectly for all of you out there. 


5 thoughts on “Book Review ~ Where The Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

  1. I hate to admit it, but I’ve never read this book. I’ve heard the name a million times, but never even bothered to pick it up to find out what it was about. It sounds wonderful though. Thanks for the review!

  2. Oooh, Rocky is a beautiful dog…and the book sounds like a wonderful book as well. Thanks for sharing both your review and the photo.

  3. I read this book last year, as a third grader. My mom tried to get me to read because she said it was one of the best books ever written. She said it was so good, that even twenty years later- she remember every little bit of it and wanted to share it with me. She was right, and you are right. When I grow up, I’m going to have my kids read it too!

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