April 28, 2009

Book Review: Where the Red Fern Grows
(Guest review by my husband, Dan!)

Author: Wilson Rawls

Where the Red Fern Grows opens with an older man taking care of a stray passing through town. As we see this man and dog interact, we quickly care about the relationship. This man clearly loves this dog and understands the dog has a specific purpose (whatever that may be). This intriguing intro is so touching that we want to know this man more. What happened in this man's life that he can understand this dog so well?

And just as we're asking the question, this old man reflects on that as well...his memories begin as a boy who wants some dogs to hunt raccoons with. I freely admit that I don't know what it's like to hunt “coons” although I've hunted rabbits and deer before. I'm not a great outdoors-man, so my only hope was to glean what I could. Like most great writers, however, Wilson Rawls explains the hunting process so that we can understand what is involved. Without it the reading would have been much more confusing.

There is something magical about growing up with a dog. Some of my most cherished memories are with the dogs I had as a boy. Many of my dogs would trot up and down the rows of soybeans as I would drive the tractor while cultivating, or they would run all over the fresh black dirt as I plowed before planting. Rawls uses the same sort of imagery, albeit through hunting instead of farming, to show the love bond that had developed between them. Because of this, no matter what the reader's background, he or she can identify with these characters. And for anyone who grew up with a dog, memories of his or her own experience will be awakened.

Like other dog stories of the time period, the story has a tragic ending, and yet a loving one as a boy pays respect to the animals that loved him enough to give everything for him. I will warn parents to make sure their kids are old enough to read a book that has a some vivid depictions of animals fighting, wounds, and even death. But as long as they are able to handle it, and as long as the parents are willing to help their kids understand it, then this book will be cherished long after the reading is done. It has my top recommendation and I look forward to reading it with my son one day.

Dan has been in the U.S. Navy for 13 years, and is currently on deployment. He has been married to his beautiful wife (who did not write this for him) for 8 years and has 2 kids, ages 5 & 3. Dan love spending his spare time reading, and he is also a published author.


Sheila said...

That was my favorite book as a child! I loved it!

Julie said...

Oh, this was my favorite too. We read it in 7th grade and then saw the movie in class. I bawled like a baby!

Stephanie's Mommy Brain said...

Dan, you almost have me convinced to give in and let my boys and husband have a dog. Almost. Then I remember who will have to feed, water, walk, do poop duty, or nag everyone else to do it. And I remember why I refuse to have a dog. :)

I read this book in school. Don't remember when, probably jr. high. Loved the book & the movie. I can't wait until my boys are old enough to read it - I would say 8- 10 for first exposure depending on how sensitive they will be to death drama.

I also read "Summer of the Monkeys." I remember it being a fun book.