As I sit here with my dog, Bailey, nearby, I ponder the love a dog has for its owner. Since the beginning of time dogs have proven to be the most loyal of furry companions, a reminder of the kind of love God wants all of us to have for each other–unconditional and constant.
Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls, lovingly tells the story of a young boy and his 2 coon hounds, Old Dan and Little Ann. When I say “lovingly,” I mean that the love this boy feels for his dogs is so strong that it motivates everything he does, even before he meets them. How is this possible? Because we love what we value, and after saving up for more than 2 years just to afford their hefty prices, Billy Coleman valued his dogs immensely. Tears came to his eyes the moment he first saw them and they were inseparable to the end.
As any pet owner knows, we usually outlive our furry family members, and it is a sad event that we must all prepare for, even when we adopt them as pups. But we also know that the time we have together is very special. Billy made the most of every moment with his two dogs, training and working with them until their skills were renowned in the rural Ozark mountains and beyond.
Wilson Rawls illustrates the growth of the dogs and their young master with a craft I have rarely seen in literature. His writing is artistic. Everything about these characters is sincere, good and believable. In a world where that hardly seems probable, he makes it possible.
The best writers say to beginners to write what you know. Growing up in the Ozarks himself, this is what Wilson Rawls knew. Being highly influenced by Jack London’s Call of the Wild surely assisted in creating his subject.
This story is a winner of the highly prestigious Newbery Medal, awarded to quality books for children and young adults. It is extremely worthy of this honor. Anyone of any age will be moved and touched by the adventures of our morally sound, young protagonist and his 2 loyal companions.