Sunday, August 10, 2014

Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls

Billy Coleman lives in rural Arkansas.  As the only boy in his family, he enjoys hunting in the great outdoors and desperately wants to buy a pair of dogs.  When his father tells him that they just can’t afford two redbone coonhounds, Billy works for two years to save up the money himself.  Billy names them Old Dan and Little Ann, and they quickly become the best coonhounds in the state.  Since his family still struggles to make ends meet, Billy turns to hunting raccoons in order to sell their furs and provide a better life for his little sisters.

I really enjoyed how the author really lets the reader peek into Billy’s mind, instead of just stereotyping him as a “hillbilly”.  Billy doesn’t attend school and gets mocked for his appearance whenever he goes into town, but he’s actually just as smart as any other kid his age.  More so, he’s a genius when it comes to outdoor skills, like hunting raccoons and surviving in the wild.

This is a classic book for boys, but I wonder how girls might feel about it since it’s really a story about a boy and his dogs—nothing more!  Yes, Billy has three sisters, but they’re really only supporting characters in the book.  In fact, none of the girls are even given names!  I think that Mr. Rawls must have left them nameless on purpose, if only to emphasize just how strongly Billy felt about his dogs.  To Billy, Old Dan and Little Ann were so much more than just his pets.

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