Where the Red Fern Grows is a book I was assigned to read in sixth grade. I was 12 years old and still becoming familiar with literature and books that were considered high art vs. low art. I was also already familiar with this title because in fourth grade my teacher told us she was reading the book. Reading was always a big deal in elementary school and I can't say I regret that one bit! After I read this book in sixth grade, it was immediately one of my favorite books along with one of the Little House books at the time. I remember absolutely loving it. Now it is 10 years later! I can't believe it has been that long! I decided to re-read the book because I couldn't remember much from it other than the beginning chapters and the ending and that it is a story about a boy with hunting dogs. Needless to say, it was most definitely time for a re-read.
Where the Red Fern Grows is the story of a boy named Billy who saves money to buy two genuine hunting hounds. Right away it is clear these hounds are something special. Their names are Big Dan and Little Ann, brother and sister. The two work with each other in harmony and soon become the finest hunting hounds in the area. The story is about the love between a boy and his dogs.
Reading this a second time was very strange. For one thing, it wasn't a school assignment anymore. Another thing was that I was reading a ton of other books on top of this one so I didn't read it religiously like I must have the first time around. And, this is pretty obvious, I am older so I was reading the book with completely different lenses. What mattered to me and what I related to as a 12 year old obviously isn't the same now that I am 22. Then again, I don't forget my childhood entirely so that helped me while reading this book because it let me pick out aspects of this book that I know I would have loved as a preteen. At the age of 12 I loved witnessing a boy who loved the outdoors and loved helping out to earn money because I liked those things as a kid. The main character, Billy, had a grandfather who owned a shop that sold many things - one of them being candy - and it reminded me a lot of the Little House books which, as I stated above, I loved as a young girl. Reading about the forest where Billy hunted reminded me a lot of the Poconos where my grandparents lived at the time. I related a lot to Billy's prayers and the ending of the book was so profound to me and I loved how the title was woven into the story and it was unlike any book I had ever read before. Needless to say, I can understand why I loved the book as a 12 year old.
If I had not read it in sixth grade and had this been my very first time reading the book, my feelings would not be the same. I would not go to call this a favorite book. I found it a bit droning and it drew out scenes forever until I didn't want to read. I thought it was annoying that Billy's sisters had no names as well. I also didn't like how it represented God and religion. When Billy prayed, it almost made it seem that when you pray and you are sincere, you will get whatever you want. Now, as a 12 year old I can understand that theory. But now as an adult I sort of wish their was at least one prayer of Billy's that wasn't answered just to show that it is always that easy to pray to God and get your hearts desire.
Despite those things, the story is fulled with a lot of heart and is very nostalgic because as you read you remember that, like Billy, there was something you worked really hard for when you were little and it shaped your childhood and your life forever. It really is a universal story. Although it wasn't as good of a read the second time around, I will still call it a favorite. It's been my favorite book for ten years! It feels wrong to ditch it now! Anyway, favorite or not, I will give it 4 out of 5 stars!