Book Review: Where the Red Fern Grows

Where the Red Fern Grows
by Wilson Rawls

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Children’s classic

I remember liking this book more when I read it as a child/pre-teen than I did this time. I seem to recall being emotionally invested and thinking it was poignant (I probably didn’t use that word in my mind as a kid though). As an adult, I feel emotionally manipulated. Let’s start with the overall story first, though, and leave the ending for later.

I read this at the same time as my 12-year-old daughter, who was reading it for school. We agreed that the book starts off pretty slow—Billy pining for a couple of hounds and then working toward getting them. I’m all for the lesson about going after what you want instead of expecting it to be given to you, but it could have been a little more interesting. The story gets going once he gets into the coon hunting, and it certainly taught me about a way of life I would never have otherwise known about. Running alongside Billy, Old Dan, and Little Ann as they tree those coons, with the dangers that come along with that, is exciting and immersive.

I was prepared for a tragic ending but did not remember it being so gruesome. On top of that, the way Billy reacts to the loss hit me a little close to home, after the recent loss of my mom and the way my daughter has handled it. I was truly concerned for her to keep reading it (she was behind me at this point), but she apparently handled it better than I did. I also think she liked the book overall more than I did, reminding me of my own different opinion as a kid. Me, though, I felt like there was no reason for the extremity of the tragedy and aftermath other than trying to make people cry. If you’re wondering whether your child should read it or not, I’d recommend reading it first to make sure you think it’s not a bit too much for them.

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!