Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Where the Red Fern Grows

Where the Red Fern Grows
Where the Red Fern Grows

I got some flack for reading this book. Yeah, it's a kids' book, but it's a Newbery Award winner, and it's supposed to be good. A classic. So I picked it up. It's fine. It's not for me. And I hated the ending.

If there's one relationship dynamic I'll never truly understand, it's a boy and his dogs. That's the entirety of this story. He spends several chapters wanting dogs, and working hard to earn money to buy the dogs, then getting the dogs, then teaching them to hunt, then hunting with them. There's a lot of play-by-play of them hunting. They hunt "coons" by sniffing out the trail, running them into a tree, and then the boy scares the coon out of the tree, and the dogs rip it to shreds. And then the sell the skin.

Every time I read a book like this, it makes me think about how hard authors and publishers must think it is to get boys to read. So many books are distinctly boy books. They're about boys who do boy things and make no effort to appeal to typical girls. I can't decide if they're sexist for that, or if they're truly serving this limited--and sometimes reluctant--market. On the other hand, there don't seem to be many distinctly girl books, except the Judy Blumes. To me, most (good) books are universal enough to appeal to both sexes. I'm thinking of Holes, Maniac Magee, or The Wednesday Wars for boys, and The WandererHattie Big Sky, or Criss Cross. Sure, the kids in those stories are of a definite gender, but I feel like anyone would be able to relate to them.

This book I had a hard time relating to, and it makes me cringe to think that this is required reading in some schools. I had to read Old Yeller and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 7th grade. In 8th grade I had to read The Hobbit and Good Night, Mr. Tom. The girl books I remember were Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and To Kill a Mockingbird. Good, but not enough to make up for the boy books. That's about the point I started reading V. C. Andrews and romance novels. Reading choice is SO important to keep kids interested.

Moving on.

Here's where I have to comment on the ending. SPOILER!
...

...
...
...
...
...
...
...
The dogs die at the end. Of course they do. When reviewers compare a book to Old Yeller and mention something sad, you know at least one of the dogs is going to die. So yes, it was sad, and touching, and all that. But I hated the way the book dealt with it. These two loyal-to-the-end, world-class coon-hunting, best-friends-a-boy-could-have dogs give their lives, and the kid is appropriately torn up, and his mother comforts him how? She says it's God's way, that they died for a reason. And that reason is so that they could move to the city. THE CITY. The same city (town) where the kid went to pick up the dogs, where other kids beat him up for being a redneck. The city the kid HATES because it's too crowded and there's no woods to play in. NICE, MOM. So I'm supposed to feel better about the dogs dying, and them moving away from the childhood heaven that is (for him) coon-hunting in the woods with his beloved dogs, because there's a frickin' red fern growing next to their graves? Whatever.

No comments:

Post a Comment