I am currently reading Where the Red Fern Grows for my son's book club. This book is apparently a classic (although I had never read it before, even as a child). I'm so surprised by the awful and graphic stuff that takes place in it: the clubbing to death of a racoon, a terrible dog fight, a kid's death by way of falling on an axe - and I haven't even gotten to the finale where apparently the two hero dogs of the story get killed by a mountain lion. Sheesh! It's a good story - well written, adventurous, etc., but it amazes me in a way that something so unsettling was written for - and is apparently so well-loved by - the 9 to 12 year-old set. My son loved it, although he was very much saddened by the tragic parts. This brings to mind Old Yeller. I never read the book, but I clearly remember watching the movie in my 4th grade classroom. A boy has to shoot his own dog at the end! Holy cow!
I dunno . . . it's not that I'm all for sheltering kids from the harsh realities of life - and honestly, reading Where the Red Fern Grows doesn't seem to have left any lasting mark on my son or anything. It's just got me thinking, you know? I wonder why stories like this even appeal to kids - especially sensitive kids. My son is such an animal lover, I'm amazed that he liked the book as much as he did and didn't come away from it terribly upset.
Anyhow, it certainly will make for an interesting discussion for his book club . . .