Red Fern Grows Review. Where the Red Fern Grows was penned in 1961 by Wilson Rawls and, to this day, remains a beloved piece of fiction for many children and adults alike. The book revolves around the simple yet crucial and challenging to pen themes about adventure, friendship, love, death, and hope.
Where the Red Fern Grows is set in the Ozarks and is focused around Billy, a child who dreams of having two dogs someday. He even knows which dogs he wants. He wants two redbone coonhounds, which is an expensive breed.
With things hard at home, Billy decides he is going to work hard, save enough money, and get himself the dogs. He finally saves up $50 and buys the puppies. To bring them home, he has to hike 60 miles, and he does it without shoes. That’s a real passion.
He soon trains the dogs to be champion hunters. Old Dan and Little Ann have the best adventures and until tragedy strikes in the form of a mountain lion.
When a hunting expedition goes wrong, it is the dogs who save Billy’s life at the cost of the life of Old Dan, Billy kills the lion with his ax, but by the time it is too late. Little Ann also dies after a while, and Billy buries them on a hillside near their farm.
The next year Billy’s family decides to move away so that the children can get a proper education. Billy realizes this would mean that he would be away from the graves of his beloved dogs. He goes to visit them one last time and notices that a red fern has grown around the graves.
He is then reminded of an Indian tale, that red fern is planted by angels and that it lives forever. It is then that he finally finds peace within himself for the loss of his two best friends.
The portrayal of Billy is weaved through a powerful sense of right and wrong. This book is 60 years old and is making a comeback as a refreshing read.
Billy is brave, and the bond he has with his dogs makes of unbreakable friendship and loyalty like you have never seen before. The story is told from the perspective of Billy, who is old now and narrating a memory.
The story goes from awe to heart-wrenching to hope to sorrow and back to hope and respect. It is about a boy who chooses and nurtures his family who are willing to do anything for one another.
Some concepts hit a chord with adults. Billy is an avid Christian and often prays to God to protect his dogs. When they die, his faith is shaken, and his once strong courage, patience, and trust is put into question by himself.
There are instances of profanity and violence in the book. Bullying is another concept painted in a traumatic light. Billy is often teased by the town boys, and once things get so out of hand that a boy dies when he accidentally falls on an ax while picking a fight.
Wilson Rawls has tried to keep the narrative as true to life as possible. With some swear words and outbursts of anger. That is part of what makes it compelling.
Where the Red Fern Grows has received accolades and awards across the board. It is part of the Top 100 Children’s Novel, School Library Journal, A Must-Read for Kids 9 to 14, NPR, and A Great American Read Selection.
It is also the winner of various state awards.
The author Wilson Rawls himself narrates Where the Red Fern Grows from growing up in the Ozark Mountains of Oklahoma, which is where Billy lives. He was homeschooled since there were no schools in the area.
According to Rawls, it was after reading The Call of the Wild that inspired him to grow up to be an author.
Before we move on to the conclusion, let us see what praise the book has received from other notable sources.
The New York Times called it a “rewarding book”, Common Sense Media reviewed it to be a “classic” amongst children’s book, and the Huffington Post hints that it makes you want to tear up.
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls is available on Amazon for $9,93 in hardcover, $6.48 in paperback, and $17 for audio.
The book is set in the 60s, and therefore much of the content is reliant on sentiments that were popular then. For example, in one chapter Billy’s father explains to Billy how women are not like men and cannot hunt. Billy goes on to name his dog Little Ann, and though she is an equally excellent hunting dog, Billy always maintains that it is Old Dan who hunts and Little Ann, who is more intelligent of the creatures.