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Where the Red Fern Grows Book Summary, Review, Notes


“Where the Red Fern Grows” is a touching novel that delves into the adventures of a young boy, Billy Colman, and his inseparable pair of Redbone Coonhounds in the Ozark Mountains. 


The story, rich in themes of determination, love, and loss, follows Billy’s journey from saving up to buy his dogs to training them into expert hunters. The narrative is not just about coon hunting but also about the unbreakable bonds between a boy and his dogs, and the passage from childhood to maturity.


Book Title: Where the Red Fern Grows
Author: Wilson Rawls
Date of Reading: September 2023
Rating: 8/10


Table of Contents

What Is Being Said In Detail:


Chapter I


Billy finds a dogfight in town, where he rescues a redbone hound, triggering memories of his childhood. This chapter sets the stage for a story of deep affection and bond between a boy and his dogs. It’s a powerful opening that establishes the emotional depth of the narrative.


Chapter II


Billy recalls his childhood desire for owning two hounds. His determination to achieve this dream is highlighted as he works hard for two years, performing odd jobs to save enough money. This chapter illustrates Billy’s tenacity and the pure, youthful ambition driving the story forward.


Chapter III


After collecting enough money, Billy faces a challenge: the town is far away, and his parents are skeptical about letting him go. However, his grandfather helps him order the dogs and plans for their pickup. This chapter underscores the themes of persistence and the support of family in pursuing dreams.


Chapter IV


Billy’s journey to pick up his dogs is filled with excitement and danger, showcasing his courage and independence. He retrieves the dogs, naming them Old Dan and Little Ann, and begins his journey home, marking the start of his adventures. This chapter is a rite of passage, transitioning Billy into a new phase of life with his beloved dogs.


Chapter V


Billy begins training his dogs, Old Dan and Little Ann, in the art of coon hunting. His training methods are innovative and driven by a deep understanding of his dogs’ abilities and instincts. This chapter highlights Billy’s commitment and the strong bond he shares with Old Dan and Little Ann, as they rapidly learn and start to impress with their hunting skills.


Chapter VI


The chapter captures the trio’s first hunting experience. Their teamwork and perseverance are put to the test as they chase their first raccoon. 


The excitement and challenges of the hunt are vividly described, showcasing the determination of the dogs and Billy’s growing skills as a hunter. This chapter marks a significant step in their journey as coon hunters.


Chapter VII


Billy and his dogs face a great challenge when their first hunt turns into a relentless pursuit. The raccoon leads them on a difficult chase, culminating in a dramatic treeing. This chapter emphasizes the resilience and determination of Billy and his dogs, as well as the harsh realities and unpredictability of nature.


Chapter VIII


In this chapter, Billy’s grandfather becomes more involved in his coon hunting adventures, offering advice and support. 


Their relationship deepens as they share a common interest, and the grandfather’s wisdom and experience become invaluable to Billy. This chapter strengthens the theme of familial bonds and the passing of knowledge and tradition between generations.


Chapter IX


Billy’s hunting adventures become more successful and renowned, earning him respect in the community. 


This chapter captures the pride and satisfaction Billy feels as he and his dogs become proficient hunters. The hard work and dedication they have put into training are paying off, and their bond strengthens as they face new challenges together.


Chapter X


In this chapter, Billy faces a moral dilemma when he finds a tree with a sacred marking, believed by the local Native American community to be the home of an evil spirit. 


He must decide whether to respect the sacred symbol and abandon the hunt or pursue his goal of winning a coon-hunting championship. This decision tests his values and respect for local traditions.


Chapter XI


Billy chooses to honor the sacred tree and not hunt the raccoon that took refuge there, showing his respect for cultural beliefs and nature. 


This decision reflects his maturation and understanding of the world beyond just hunting. His choice gains him admiration and respect from his family and community, showcasing his integrity and growth.


Chapter XII


The chapter focuses on preparations for a coon-hunting competition that Billy and his dogs will enter. 


The excitement and anticipation build as Billy, with the support of his family and community, gets ready for this significant event. This chapter highlights the themes of community, family support, and the culmination of hard work and dreams.


Chapter XIII


Billy and his dogs participate in the coon-hunting competition, filled with experienced hunters and exceptional dogs. They face tough competition, but Billy’s hard work and the extraordinary abilities of Old Dan and Little Ann shine through. 


This chapter captures the excitement and intensity of the competition, showcasing the deep connection and teamwork between Billy and his dogs.


Chapter XIV


During the competition, Billy’s dogs demonstrate their exceptional hunting skills, earning admiration from the other hunters. A dramatic and tense night of hunting unfolds, with Billy and his dogs working tirelessly. 


This chapter highlights the challenges of the competition and the perseverance of Billy and his dogs, setting the stage for a climactic finish.


Chapter XV


As the competition reaches its peak, Billy and his dogs find themselves in a dangerous situation. Their dedication and bravery are put to the test in a life-threatening scenario. This chapter underscores the risks involved in coon hunting and the unyielding courage displayed by Billy and his dogs in the face of danger.


Chapter XVI


Despite the challenges, Billy and his dogs emerge victorious, winning the coon-hunting championship. The victory is a testament to their hard work, determination, and unbreakable bond. 


This chapter is a triumphant culmination of Billy’s journey, highlighting the rewards of dedication and the strength of the human-animal bond.


Chapter XVII


After their triumph in the hunting competition, tragedy strikes when Old Dan is badly injured during a subsequent hunt. The chapter poignantly portrays Billy’s distress and desperate efforts to save his beloved dog. 


This shift in tone from triumph to tragedy highlights the unpredictable and often harsh realities of life and the deep emotional bonds between Billy and his dogs.


Chapter XVIII


Despite Billy’s best efforts, Old Dan succumbs to his injuries, leaving both Billy and Little Ann heartbroken. The chapter explores the themes of loss and grief, as Billy struggles to come to terms with Old Dan’s death. Little Ann’s grief is also palpable, illustrating the depth of the bond between the two dogs.


Chapter XIX


The impact of Old Dan’s death becomes more evident as Little Ann loses her will to live, ultimately passing away as well. 


Billy’s grief is compounded by this second loss, and the chapter delves deeply into the emotional turmoil and profound sense of loss he experiences. The narrative powerfully conveys the theme of coping with the death of loved ones.


Chapter XX


The final chapter brings a sense of closure to Billy’s journey. His family decides to move to town, offering Billy new opportunities and a chance to heal from his loss


The discovery of a legendary red fern growing between the graves of Old Dan and Little Ann provides a symbolic and comforting end to the story, suggesting hope and the enduring nature of love.


Wilson Rawls Quote

Most important keywords, sentences, quotes:


“If a man’s word isn’t any good, he’s no good himself.

“After the last shovel of dirt was patted in place, I sat down and let my mind drift back through the years. I thought of the old K. C. Baking Powder can, and the first time I saw my pups in the box at the depot. I thought of the fifty dollars, the nickels and dimes, and the fishermen and blackberry patches.

I looked at his grave and, with tears in my eyes, I voiced these words: “You were worth it, old friend, and a thousand times over.”

“You were worth it, old friend, and a thousand times over.”

“It’s a shame that people all over the world can’t have that kind of love in their hearts,” he said. “There would be no wars, slaughter, or murder; no greed or selfishness. It would be the kind of world that God wants us to have – a wonderful world.”

“My heart started acting like a drunk grasshopper.”

“I buried Little Ann by the side of Old Dan. I knew that was where she wanted to be. I also buried a part of my life along with my dog.”

“On my way home I didn’t walk on the ground. I was way up in the clouds just skipping along.”

“It was wonderful indeed how I could have heart-to-heart talks with my dogs and they always seemed to understand. Each question I asked was answered in their own doggish way.”

“It’s strange indeed how memories can lie dormant in a man’s mind for so many years. Yet those memories can be awakened and brought forth fresh and new, just by something you’ve seen, or something you’ve heard, or the sight of an old familiar face.”

“I buried Little Ann by the side of Old Dan. I knew that was where she wanted to be. I also buried a part of my life along with my dog.”

“There is a little good in all evil.”


Wilson Rawls Quote 2

Book Review (Personal Opinion):


“Where the Red Fern Grows” is a deeply moving tale that captures the essence of childhood, loyalty, and the pain of loss. Rawls’ narrative is beautifully crafted, immersing the reader in the life and emotions of young Billy and his dogs. 


The story, while simple, is rich with life lessons and emotional depth. It’s a poignant reminder of the unspoken bonds we share with our pets and the innocence and resilience of youth. This book, though heartbreaking at times, is a must-read for its heartfelt portrayal of companionship and growth.


Rating: 8/10


This book is for (recommend):


  • Animal lovers and pet owners, especially those who have a special bond with dogs.
  • Young readers looking for a coming-of-age story that combines adventure, emotion, and life lessons.
  • Anyone interested in a nostalgic journey into rural America and a glimpse into the human-animal bond.


If you want to learn more


For those interested in exploring similar themes, consider reading other classics that focus on the bond between humans and animals, such as “Old Yeller” by Fred Gipson or “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London. Additionally, researching the history and culture of the Ozarks can provide a deeper understanding of the novel’s setting.


How I’ve implemented the ideas from the book


One way to implement the ideas from “Where the Red Fern Grows” is to cultivate patience, persistence, and a deep appreciation for the natural world and the bonds we form with pets. Whether it’s taking time to train a pet, going on nature walks, or simply appreciating the simple joys of companionship, these actions can help embody the spirit of the book.


One small actionable step you can do


A small, actionable step inspired by “Where the Red Fern Grows” could be to spend quality time with a pet or, if you don’t have one, volunteering at a local animal shelter. This action can help deepen your understanding and appreciation of the human-animal bond.