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 . . .
That is definitely a classic. A wonderful book, I actually am interested in reading it again.
As for the content...I don't know. It never bothered me, neither when I was young or now. The way I see it, it was written in such a different time and the circumstances are so very opposite the way life is lived now. It's a welcome look at a life without cell phones or thongs or any of the crap we have now. Maybe that glimpse of a totally alternate lifestyle where children were more responsible than they seem to be now is good for our kids.
I never heard of Where the Red Fern Grows but DH speaks often about Old Yeller. To this day I hate physical violence and don't see many films as a result. Yet, I don't know how consistent I am in my feelings, because certainly there is plenty of emotional stuff that is distasteful in many books. Colin's father in The Secret Garden for example is terrible with his son. We excuse him (I guess) because he is an emotional disaster following his wife's death. The kids do shine in this book though.
I often wonder why schools choose certain books for their classes. Lord of the Flies is one my kids had to read. But there are so many other good books too! I'm not advocating reading syrupy sweet things because of course there are troublesome issues our children must face as they grow and we can't anticipate what those will be. It is helpful for them to read about some disturbing things and see how others deal with issues.
I guess it comes down to suggesting certain books for our kids to read and discuss with us...as well as reading what teachers and friends suggest. If they actually don't care for a book, GOOD! That shows they are growing and forming opinions.
Leo (3 1/2) with Malcolm the cat