Wednesday, October 28, 2009

One of the titles on the state Battle of the Books list for Wisconsin elementary students (2009-10 school year) is Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. I've never read it before now, although I've heard others talk reverently about it for years. I knew that the dogs were going to die at the end, and knew also that they would protect the boy, but I still shed a couple tears at the end of the story.
The setting is the Ozark mountains of eastern Oklahoma; the only city identified is Tahlequah. The time frame is early 20th century, but the decade wasn't identified. My reactions were mixed about this book. I found it very disturbing that all female characters were so very invisible. Mama is only seen fussing over Billy (the protagonist) and his three sisters aren't even given names! The most outrageous aspect, however, is the gloss-over of the death of another boy. I was expecting the sheriff to come after Billy, but no officials came inquiring about the child's death. Is that disregard for life even possible? Evidently, in that time and place it would have been. I hope that the children reading the book today will realize that the times were very different and 'now-a-days' there would be serious consequences. There are many redeeming qualities of this book, however, and I understand why it has become something of a 'classic' in children's literature.



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