Where the Red Fern Grows pdf, Summary, Characters | Wilson Rawls

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  • Where the Red Fern Grows summary 
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  • Where the Red Fern Grows Reviews 
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Where the Red Fern Grows summary 

Where the Red Fern Grows is a children’s novel by Wilson Rawls, published in 1961, the novel is about a boy who buys two hunting dogs. The book is a work of autobiographical fiction based on Rawls’ own childhood in the Ozarks.

An old man named Billy Coleman rescues a redbone hound under attack by neighborhood dogs. He takes it home with him so that its wounds can heal. In light of this event, he has a flashback to when he was a ten-year-old boy living in the Ozark Mountains.

Young Billy Coleman wants nothing more than a pair of Redbone Coonhounds for coon hunting. After seeing a magazine ad for coon hounds, Billy spends the next two years working odd jobs to earn the $50 he needs to buy two puppies. Billy’s dogs are delivered to Tahlequah, over 20 miles away. Billy decides to walk the distance. As he returns with the dogs, he sees a heart carved on a tree with the names “Dan + Ann ” and decides to name the puppies Little Ann and Old Dan. With his grandfather’s help, Billy teaches his dogs to hunt. Both dogs are very loyal to each other and to Billy.

The first night of hunting season, Billy promises the dogs that if they tree a coon, he will do the rest. They tree one in a huge sycamore, which Billy believes is far too large to chop down. Remembering his promise to his dogs, Billy spends the next two days attempting to chop down the sycamore. Exhausted, Billy prays for the strength to continue, whereupon a strong wind blows the tree over.

Billy and his hounds become well-known as the best hunters in the Ozarks. Billy’s grandfather makes a bet with Rubin and Rainie Pritchard that Old Dan and Little Ann can tree the legendary “ghost coon” that has eluded hunters for years. After a long, complicated hunt, Old Dan and Little Ann manage to tree the raccoon, but having seen how old and smart the ghost coon is, Billy cannot bring himself to kill it. Billy tries to stop the Pritchards from killing the raccoon, leading to a fight with Rubin. The Pritchards’ dog Old Blue joins the fight, provoking Old Dan and Little Ann to attack Old Blue to drag him away from Billy. Rubin tries to drive Billy’s dogs away with an ax, but trips, falls on the blade, and dies. Billy is deeply troubled by the tragic turn of events, but does not regret his choice to spare the ghost coon.

Billy’s grandfather enters him into a championship coon hunt against experienced hunters. Before the main hunt starts Billy enters Little Ann into a beauty hound competition. She wins, so Billy gets to take home a small silver cup as his prize. The hunt is scheduled during a particularly cold week, and many of the other hunters are forced to give up. However, Billy, who is used to mountain winters, is able to reach the final round. On the last night, Old Dan and Little Ann trap three raccoons in a single tree, but a sudden blizzard forces Billy to take shelter. The following morning, the dogs are found covered in ice but still circling the tree. All three raccoons are captured and Billy and his dogs win the championship and a $300 prize.

One night while the trio is hunting, a mountain lion attacks the dogs. Billy fights to save his dogs, but the mountain lion turns on him. The dogs manage to save Billy by killing the mountain lion, but Old Dan later dies of his injuries. Over the next few days, Little Ann loses the will to live and finally dies of grief atop Old Dan’s grave, leaving Billy heartbroken.

Billy’s father tries to comfort his son by explaining that he and Billy’s mother have long wished to move to town where their children can get an education, but could not afford to do so without the extra money brought in by Billy’s hunting. Knowing that Billy’s dogs would suffer in town and that Billy would be devastated to leave them behind, they intended to allow Billy to live with his grandfather. Billy’s father believes that God took the dogs as a sign that the family was meant to stay together.

On his last day in the Ozarks, Billy visits Old Dan and Little Ann’s graves and finds a giant red fern growing between them. Remembering a legend that only an angel can plant a red fern, Billy also comes to believe that perhaps there truly was a higher power at work.

The adult Billy closes by saying that although he hasn’t returned to the Ozarks, he still dreams of visiting his dogs’ graves and seeing the red fern again one day.

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Where the Red Fern Grows Author – Wilson Rawls

Wilson Rawls author of Where the Red Fern Grows
Wilson Rawls author of Where the Red Fern Grows

Woodrow Wilson Rawls, (September 24, 1913 – December 16, 1984) was an American writer best known for his books Where the Red Fern Grows and Summer of the Monkeys.

Where the Red Fern Grows Book Information

Where the Red Fern Grows pdf
Where the Red Fern Grows pdf
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ 0440412676
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Yearling; Reissue edition (September 1, 1996)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 304 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0307742539
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0440412670
  • Reading age ‏ : ‎ 8 – 12 years
  • Lexile measure ‏ : ‎ 700L
  • Grade level ‏ : ‎ 3 – 7
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 7.4 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.19 x 0.75 x 7.63 inches
  • Best Sellers Rank: #562 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  •  in Children’s Dog Books (Books)
  • Customer Reviews: 
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars
  • 11,504 ratings

Where the Red Fern Grows Characters 

  • Billy, a ten-year-old boy who lives in the Ozark Mountains of Oklahoma
  • Little Ann, Billy’s girl pup
  • Old Dan, Billy’s boy pup
  • Mama, Billy’s mother
  • Papa, who buys Billy the traps and teaches him how to use them.
  • Grandpa, Billy’s grandfather and owner of the country general store
  • Billy’s 3 sisters
  • Rubin Pritchard, who dies of an ax injury after he attempts to attack Billy’s dogs
  • Rainie Pritchard, Rubin’s younger brother and a troublemaker. He idolized his older brother, when Rubin died Rainie was devastated.
  • The Marshal of Tahlequah
  • Old Man Hatfield, a neighbor of Billy’s
  • Mr. Kyle
  • Mr. Benson, another coonhunter
  • Dr. Lathman, another coonhunter

Where the Red Fern Grows Reviews 

Will Lowrey
2.0 out of 5 stars
This book teaches terrible lessons on how we should treat animals
Reviewed in the United States on July 29, 2020
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This is a tough review. On one hand, this book is very well-written. The prose is simple yet evocative and effectively captures the rustic, humble setting of the story. The story is also very engaging and moves along quickly, keeping the reader engaged.

My problem with this book is that I have long heard it is one of the classic dog fiction books. While the book is certainly about a special bond between a boy and his dogs, there is a regrettable undercurrent to the story. At its roots, this is a story about how a boy and his family exploit two loyal dogs, constantly endanger them, cause their deaths, and then profit from the exploitation to better their own lives. This is also a story rife with depictions of animal cruelty.

The basis of the story revolves around a boy using his two dogs to hunt raccoons. Throughout two thirds of the book, raccoons are brutally harassed, attacked, and ultimately killed. Their demise is documented extensively and often only happens after they are exhausted and terrified. There is a similar scene with a mountain lion being brutally torn to pieces by the dogs and the boy’s axe.

At the end of it all, the dogs die because they were so loyal to the boy and he continued to exploit their loyalty and ultimately put them in a final, dangerous situation. People who love their dogs do not endanger their lives every night and pretend it’s love. On top of it all, they boy’s parents are only slightly more than apathetic when the dogs die. They seem more content to call it God’s will and rejoice in the new life the dog’s garnered for them. In the end, they leave the country home behind, abandoning the dog’s graves and also the family cat who they just left behind without any concern.

Well-written story but full of horrible lessons around how we should treat animals. Nefariously, these lessons are cloaked as an “animal lover’s story” when in reality, it is the exact opposite.

This book is most definitely not any sort of beacon for how animals should be treated.

1.0 out of 5 stars
Abhorred It!
Reviewed in the United States on February 8, 2019
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I abhorred this book! Billy Colman decides he wants a dog, even though he has a cat, hens…everything I could ever want! He takes up hunting, aka raccoon killing, which is very sad. As I said, this book is very bad. While supposed to be a poignant tale of love and loyalty, I consider this book a novel of bloodthirsty killing of innocent wild animals! The saddest part is when the family moves and leaves their precious kitty, Samie, behind. If you love cats or believe hunting is evil, you should not even touch this book!

S. Werkem
5.0 out of 5 stars
Adventurous and intense
Reviewed in the United States on July 26, 2018
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Somehow I never read this book as a child. I wish I had, so I could compare how it affected me then versus now as a grandma. The story is active and intense, with fantastically detailed descriptions of Billy’s adventures with his dogs. I think only an author who grew up in the mountains and experienced nighttime hunting and an untethered freedom to roam, as Billy – and Wilson Rawls – did, could have written this book. In some senses, the story is dated, both because it was published in 1961 and because the setting is an isolated farm in the Ozarks around 1920. For example, “womenfolk” are regarded as opaque and overly emotional (Billy’s three sisters aren’t even named in the book, though they play a role). Animals are often considered dispensable, and the repeated descriptions of coon hunting and coon killing are gory (and the family cat’s injuries are ridiculed). Personal grief is something to ignore or to rebound from quickly. However, the book seems true to its time and place, and in any historical fiction the world will be different from our own. Anyone who’s loved a dog will relate to Billy’s deep bond with his hounds. I enjoyed the adventure, and I savored Billy’s astonishing descriptions of his life with Old Dan and Little Ann.

5.0 out of 5 stars
Timeless story of a boy and a dog
Reviewed in the United States on September 24, 2016
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Wilson Rawls’ classic, timeless story of a young boy’s coming-of-age is heartbreaking, sentimental, and utterly charming. An ode to love, family and the beauty of nature. Set in the Ozarks, northeastern Oklahoma, Billy wants nothing more than to have a puppy, or to be more specific, two puppies. He wants to train them for hunting, although his mother has forbidden him to use or own a gun until he is 21 or older. For two years he waits, collecting enough money doing whatever jobs he can, he finally raises enough for two puppies who are delivered via train to the town closest to where he lives.

“I knelt down and gathered them into my arms. I buried my face between their wiggling bodies and cried. The stationmaster, sensing something more than two dogs and a boy, waited in silence.”

My Dad didn’t grow up in the Ozarks, but he trapped animals as a young boy to raise money for a dog. Selling skins to Sears Roebuck & Co. was enough then to fulfill that dream and then later to get him enough money to fly enough hours to be conscripted (after being declared 4F) to train pilots at Americus, Georgia. When he was able to return to being a civilian pilot, the first thing he did with the money he saved was to buy another dog. On multiple levels, I felt this story to be so close to my father’s, both coming from rural, impoverished areas.

“Men, said Mr. Kyle, “people have been trying to understand dogs ever since the beginning of time. One never knows what they’ll do. You can read every day where a dog saved the life of a drowning child, or lay down his life for his master. Some people call this loyalty. I don’t. I may be wrong, but I call it love – the deepest kind of love.”

This is such a wonderful story; I highly recommend you read it. Re-read it, if you read it as a child.

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