Mike (the Paladin)'s Reviews > Where the Red Fern Grows

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
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Jul 22, 14


Let me say first that some love this book and to be fair I never read it except to get an idea of the story.(updated:please read what I actually said there. Any book I don't care for enough to finish will usually get a 1 star or at best a 2.) You will find in my books low ratings for Black Beauty, The Yearling, Old Yeller and any books that have the "pain of life motif" in common. By the way this includes Cold Mountain. Look up my review and you'll see I try to give recognition that it's well written but just not a book I can like. And these ratings are how I feel and what I think of these books. Some will say how they love these books and how possibly there was just no other way to "realistically" end the story.

I grew up in the Smokies and without going over my childhood, I had 2 dogs killed...shot. I've lived through the loss of beloved animals, beloved people and beloved relationships...I don't need a novel that leads me through "what pain is". If a book is of the "life is tough and then you die school", it's going to get a "down check" from me. While fiction does instruct, there are some lessons I learned from life, I don't need to have them rehashed in leisure time activities.

The struggle this young man faces and love he feels may in some manner mitigate the pain and loss, there are lessons and we're told that maybe what happened was for an overriding reason, but for me that does little to help what always strikes me as emotional manipulation.
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 120) (120 new)


message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I agree with you about Cold Mountain, it truly left me cold. However, there is another book, actually a trilogy, by Howard Bahr which I read prior to Cold Mountain that left a lasting impression. The first book was The Black Flower, followed by The Year of Jubilo and The Judas Field. The line that nearly broke my heart was from the last one.
[A 13-yeqr-old orphan, after a battle:] “I’d want to go back home,” said the boy, “if I had one.”

Judas Field
p.155
On the final page:

In spite of all he had seen, Cass still believed in the fundamental decency of cats and men. He knew that God believed in it, too, in spie of all He’d seen – iin spite of all His grieving and all the lies told about Him down the bloody ages. He was God after all, and had made all creatures, and He had taken the noble chance of granting to one of them a will of its own, and in the end, the gift had been worth all the trouble. Maybe the right to choose was the best gift of all and the best proof of love. It was more precious even than life itself, for without the possibility of defeat, the victories would have no meaning.

If you haven't read these, give them a try.


message 2: by Mike (the Paladin) (last edited Jun 17, 2010 09:24PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Mike (the Paladin) I will consider, though I may wait a while. Not only do I have a long "to read" list but, this has been a hard year and I am avoiding emotionally draining books etc. for a little while. Thank you for the recommendation, the quote is moving.

Also my cats approve of it...:)


Ebony~My God's not dead, He's surely ALIVE! well, most people seem not to ever felt that heart-wrenching pain of losing some one they love - be it human or animal- so those books try to illustrate that to the normal teen. i read it in 7th grade and i cried and got sick because of the detail.


Mike (the Paladin) If you've looked at my reviews of a few other of what I call the Marquis de Sade school of children's literature you'll see I'm not big on it (Old Yeller, The Yearling, and so on). I think you hit it on the head. There seems to have been an attitude that "life is hard and you might as well know it early" behind some of these books. I didn't aim my kids at them when they were young. As it happened their mom died last year (they're both young adults now). I think that's quite enough pain and they didn't miss anything by my not shoving The Biscuit Eater or some other heartrending read at them early.

Just my take on them. I know others like them, but I'm no fan. I lost multiple pets as a kid, one a dog that was shot when I was about 11. Life hurts enough, don't need to add to that in my leisure time reading then or now.


Anna If you had both of your dogs killed then why did you read Where the Red Fern Grows?


message 6: by Mike (the Paladin) (last edited Aug 28, 2010 09:39PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Mike (the Paladin) That's my point, though as a kid, you don't know at the start of a novel that a given book's going to turn out to be some form of crucible. (The same goes for movies, most of these "horror fests" about beloved animals dying(being killed) also got made into movies, and in my generation parents blithely took children off to see Old Yeller, or The Biscuit Eater or maybe The Yearling. Apparently they thought we needed a good dose of "life is hard".) I was given Black Beauty as a gift when I was 6 or 7 and it was awful. I had trouble getting over it. I mean... when the horse is old it's gets to stop being tortured or whatever...yeh. As I said, I have a real problem with these as kids books. I didn't introduce my own kids to them when they were young, they had to get by with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Tom Sawyer, and the Hobbit (among others). If they choose to read "these" as adults, they're still out there. But now they're warned. I pretty much learned as a kid, if there's a dog in the story it's going to go bad. Sad lesson.


Holley (hizzle85) I agree with you on this. I gave it two stars.
It was a well written book, very well. But it was SO Sad. And at the age I was when i read it, it was too much. Not everyone needs to read about pain and loss to know what it feels like. Although I wouldn't keep my (future) kids from reading it, I will warn them about it.
(As an aside, I also grew up in the Smokies)


Mike (the Paladin) I grew up on a farm about halfway between Johnson City and Kingsport. Interestingly, I lived in Alcoa back in '77-78. I'm in Nashville now.


Mike (the Paladin) Feel free not to "care". Others will see this and if they think or feel as I do it will be for them. My own experience is the only way I can review a book unless I decide to comment only on technical sufficiency. I choose not to and some like that. Others, like you don't. As I said, feel free not to care.


message 10: by Anna (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna It helps when you told of your childhood and your own experience, I now understand that you don't like Black Beauty and Where the red fern grows, it makes more sense when you explained it the way you did. I wasn't being nice and please forgive me for misjudging you. I don't like Black Beauty either but I don't usually use my own experience in my reviews, I just rate it and write either to compliant or say how awesome it was.


Mike (the Paladin) Books are (again my take) very personal things. I don't think we all have the same experience of or in a book (any book). We can only relate to books on that level. Didn't you ever try to share a book or poem that you've loved with someone else only to see that look of incomprehension or have them tell you you they don't see why you like it so well? You share something you love and get a "so what". I discovered that long ago. I can only share my reaction to fiction. It has to do with who we are, where we've been and how we've lived. Good, bad or in between IF a book touches us it touches us on a personal level, or not at all. Sometimes they don't touch us, then there's simply like or dislike. But when they touch, they touch.


message 12: by Anna (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna "Didn't you ever try to share a book or poem that you've loved with someone else only to see that look of incomprehension or have them tell you you they don't see why you like it so well?" Yes I have, I have written several poems and stories then I had some of my closest friends read it and see how much they like it. The way you write is very wise, you seem very calm when you do. You never raise your writing voice to yell at someone, you just coolly answer the question. God Bless You.


Jeffrey I actually read this book in 8th grade and was enthralled.

I also read all of the other "animal stories" that you have gone to some lengths to critique including Sounder, Old Yeller, and White Fang and various books by Jack London and other animal books including Savage Sam, Incredible Journey. I also read James Herriot and Walter Farley. Whether its cruel to have young children read books in which the main character grows close to an animal is of course a decision that we all have to make. But I would not say these are in the "Marquis De Sade" of children literature. I wonder do you think Charlotte's Web falls into this category, or is it just sad animal stories.

Where the Red Fern Lives is a very good novel. Not liking it because of your personal history is one thing, but most of the rest of us have to judge books on their individual merits, and frankly I doubt that the authors of these books are engaged in "emotional manipulation" any more than other authors who write novels in which the ending is sad.


message 14: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim ...to be fair I never read it except to get an idea of the story....

That's about as fair as watching a friend's kids & deciding they cost too much money & are a hassle, so why bother having any of your own? I think you're feeling sorry for yourself & taking it out on some excellent books. Get over it.

I'd respect your opinion of these classics if you had fully read them both as a child & an adult AND you took 1 star away for personal pain or mentioned you wouldn't give them to kids of a specific age or in a certain situation, but to condemn them with a 1 star rating in a review that's all about you is just grotesque.


message 15: by Mike (the Paladin) (last edited Oct 01, 2011 09:12AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Mike (the Paladin) I'd "respect" your comment more Jim without the "get over it". I'm familiar enough with each of the book of this type that I've reviewed here(some read in detail some only skimmed) to know they're not for me and to tell others why.

I noted first in my review that I know some love this book, you apparently do. That's fine, enjoy. I don't like it because of the subject matter. Lived through it, don't need literary self-flagellation which is what it can be, for some.

So, enjoy the book, and realize that not all like the same things.


message 16: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim So a book is so well written that reading it becomes self-flagellation to read it - it moves you that powerfully - yet it deserves only 1 star? I'd say that acknowledges that the problem isn't with the book. You're ruining the star rating you give a book.

I wasn't trying to be mean with my 'get over it' comment, just trying to point out that you're punishing a work of art for a personal problem. There is no problem with the book that a warning, possibly with a spoiler warning, couldn't take care of.


message 17: by Mike (the Paladin) (last edited Oct 01, 2011 01:19PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Mike (the Paladin) Look Jim, you like the book, you probably like a lot of books that fall into what I've termed the Marquis de Sade school of children's literature. I find these books objectionable. My children were reared without my providing them, but they are still there and available. I don't have to like them, I find them repugnant. I DON'T SAY YOU HAVE TO. You are free to review them as you see fit. My children were free and for that matter still are free to pick them up at any time.

Yes, my reaction is subjective and much of the emotional reaction springs from my own experiences. Others may wish to know the emotional pain present.

I stand by my opinion as you obviously stand by yours, fine.

I dislike "these" books. The star system reflects enjoyment of the book as well as "quality of writing". In some cases quality of writing adds to what I dislike.

Yes the 1 star is a subjective rating. I stand by it, in my case.


Bookworm I too read this book in grade school and Ill have to say it is one of my all time favs. I could read it again and again and still cry. I still have my original copy


Magnifico Giganticus If you don't like these kinds of books...why not stop reading them?


Mike (the Paladin) When I was young there were certain books that were "aimed at you". The Red Pony, The Biscuit Eater, The Yearling. I suppose it was to "toughen "us kids" up. To my dad animals were "just animals", even pets. I read Black Beauty at like 6 years old. Yeah the horse get's a nice life when old...but the story is a horror story. I call these and others part of the Marquis de Sade school of child rearing.

So I reviewed them here based on the emotions they inspired in me...the reviews are "subjective, not objective. Frankly I believe a truly objective review is impossible.

As I've said to others who like these books and don't like that my reviews are negative. Please, enjoy the books. I'm happy for you.

But I still see no reason to wallow in the pain of losing a beloved animal in a novel when it's part of life anyway. I'll say it again here as I did above. I've known and loved animals and people who died...some in very difficult ways. Reading about it and inducing those emotions is not something I care to do or cared to do to my own children.

They're grown now and if they feel I deprived them by having them make do with Willy Wonka, The Wizard of Oz, The Hobbit, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, et al, then the books are still out there and they can still read them.


message 21: by Bill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bill I am confused how you can give a book 1 star and you admitted that you never read it "I never read it except to get an idea of the story". To give it a rating based upon an entire genre that you do not care for seems to be a bit misleading and ignorant. I don’t care for romance stories – I don’t read them and I definitely do not rate books that I have not read.


Mike (the Paladin) "except to get an idea of the story". It's called skimming.

This review bothers a lot of people who love the book. Fine I also said the review was "subjective". I do not like the book, I do not like the sub genre of book (loved animal used to emotionally manipulate youths). If you like it fine. I'll go with that it's your right and I support it.

On the other hand I never called you or others who like the book names.


message 23: by Bill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bill I apologize. I was not intending to call names, merely state that to rate a book after "skimming" seems to be dishonest to me.


message 24: by Mike (the Paladin) (last edited Nov 25, 2012 05:29PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Mike (the Paladin) Then there are a lot of dishonest people here. I don't mean to be argumentative but I've skimmed a lot of books for one reason or another and you can get the novel/book that way. A long, leisurely read is something I enjoy often, but not if the book is one I simply find myself disliking, or find it moving so slowly as to "drive me up the wall", etc. I skimmed a lot of books in college and still passed the exams.

As noted many people are bothered by the fact I don't like this book or other books they like.

I know how you feel. There are books I love that have been rated 1 star here by people who simply felt "they could not finish the book". They gave the book 1 star without finishing the book. That was their experience of the book. I may not agree but it's the way they came away from the book.

I noted before, book reviews are subjective. This is "MY" experience of the book. You're free not to agree. You are free to review the book yourself and express a different view. There are those who read our reviews...yours, mine, those of other reviewers. They begin to learn whether they often agree or often disagree with a given reviewer. Over time it may be helpful, or not.

Now as to "dishonest". If I'd said "I spent 2 evenings pouring over this book", that would be dishonest. I learned from the books my father aimed me at (or aimed at me) There there are books I don't need to experience to read in excruciating detail to know that "life is crap and then you die."

So again, I'm happy for you that you like this book. I don't.


message 25: by Bill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bill Ok. I can agree to disagree. I understand that you don't like this book even thought you have not read it. I still say it is not an honest opinion, but then again, that's just my opinion.


Mike (the Paladin) Picture me beating my head against a wall.


message 27: by Bill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bill That makes two of us.


message 28: by Pam (last edited Jun 28, 2013 06:34AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pam It strikes you as emotional manipulation, seriously? The author strikes me as a man who loved his dogs as much as he did his life and I did not feel manipulated in the least. I too have had dogs, and I felt the same about mine. So, quit reading this genre, or continue beating your head against a wall. Cheers.


message 29: by Pam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pam Jim wrote: "So a book is so well written that reading it becomes self-flagellation to read it - it moves you that powerfully - yet it deserves only 1 star? I'd say that acknowledges that the problem isn't wi..."

Jeffrey wrote: "I actually read this book in 8th grade and was enthralled.

I also read all of the other "animal stories" that you have gone to some lengths to critique including Sounder, Old Yeller, and White Fa..."

Cjouldnt agree more-
Anna wrote: "It helps when you told of your childhood and your own experience, I now understand that you don't like Black Beauty and Where the red fern grows, it makes more sense when you explained it the way y..."

Mike (the Paladin) wrote: "That's my point, though as a kid, you don't know at the start of a novel that a given book's going to turn out to be some form of crucible. (The same goes for movies, most of these "horror fests" a..."


message 30: by Mo (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mo I've never read the book but I was told I should. I'm sorry about your dogs.


Mike (the Paladin) (view spoiler)


message 32: by Donna (new) - added it

Donna I'm very sorry about your dogs, but PLEASE withdraw your rating of this book since you haven't read it. That is just wrong.


Mike (the Paladin) I'm sorry, but skimmed counts. But I don't expect everyone to agree with me. Feel free to give it a good review. A book doesn't need to be read in detail to give/leave an impression.

I gave recognition that it's well written, that however doesn't change the experience of reading it which will be different for each reader.


message 34: by Donna (new) - added it

Donna Skimming is NOT reading. At all.


Mike (the Paladin) Sorry but it is. I've had this discussion before. This is my review of the book giving my reaction and my experience of the book.

Skimming a book gives the overview, the plot and so on. I've read reviews from people who read a few pages and put a book down because they disliked it or because it didn't interest them...and they said so.

I repeat, I understand you like the book, I don't. You can give the book a good review. I encourage you to do so. People here have given bad reviews to books I love, it happens. We can't and won't all agree.

I dislike the book/story. I get how you feel.


message 36: by Donna (new) - added it

Donna I rated the book long ago. And I won't discuss it anymore with you because we can't even agree on what reading a book means. We're not even in the same ballpark.


message 37: by [Name Redacted] (new)

[Name Redacted] I mainly remember the book being painful and wrenching.


message 38: by MrsJoseph (new)

MrsJoseph Donna wrote: "I'm very sorry about your dogs, but PLEASE withdraw your rating of this book since you haven't read it. That is just wrong."

Donna wrote: "I rated the book long ago. And I won't discuss it anymore with you because we can't even agree on what reading a book means. We're not even in the same ballpark."

Who are you to tell him how to rate his experience?? What gall you have! You have your own review space, go there and dictate. Stop trying to do it here.


message 39: by Andrea (new) - added it

Andrea "There are some lessons I learned from life." Perhaps you would benefit from the lesson about offering criticism on books you've actually read and leave the criticism of other books to those who have actually read them. I grew up on the beaches of Southern California...by your logic, I guess I'm qualified to pass judgment on the myriad of books set on the SoCal coast, regardless of whether I've actually read them. Your opinion becomes obsolete when not based on anything more than "an idea of the story." There's another life lesson for you


message 40: by MrsJoseph (last edited Jul 12, 2013 09:24AM) (new)

MrsJoseph Andrea wrote: ""There are some lessons I learned from life." Perhaps you would benefit from the lesson about offering criticism on books you've actually read and leave the criticism of other books to those who ha..."

Maybe you should learn a little something too: Stop being an asswipe and insulting people because you don't like their opinion.

You have an ass...so I'm sure you have an opinion of your own. Go find YOUR OWN SPACE and be a douchebag there.


Mike (the Paladin) I said I skimmed. I also said that my rating is based on my experience. I've had this discussion over and over. I do not say the quality of the writing is a problem as a matter of fact for me the quality of the writing adds to the problem.

I don't care for this book and several others like it. When i was young I think there was a feeling among some parents that children needed to be toughened up. To learn that animals are animals. To learn that they die and getting attached to them is painful and you need to grow out of it.

I know that love will eventually bring pain. I don't however see that I need it in my spare time and in my pleasure reading.

Also as I've said before, I can tell you like it. Please do. Fell free to review it favorably and say what you think. I can't change my opinion however for no matter how well the book is written the overall experience is still the same.


message 42: by MrsJoseph (new)

MrsJoseph Mike, don't apologize to these "people" who haven't the manners God gave a roach.

Your review is wonderful - as are all of them. That might why YOU are a top reviewer and most of these "people" are just imbeciles who can't find a better hobby than to harass others.


Whispers from the Pirate's Ghost Whisper I liked the book and I liked your review. I don't completely agree with your conclusions, and, I still like the straight foreward honesty and WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) way you deal with those books you don't like.

Lor' knows I've had my issues with people that want to put controls over who has the right to review, or comment on a review, and, I'm always going to come down to...

Honest comments and honestly expressed thoughts are worth more than the alternative, when it comes to a website built on opinions. Yours are as valid as anyones, and often better expressed.


Besides, who knows what kind of chaos would ensue if you and I actually agreed on a book? I mean, cats and dogs might start living to gether and stuff and cowboys might stay home with their horses and leave the range to the deer and antelopes.

We wouldn't want that would we?

For the record, I disagree with the interpetation. I am complete agreement about the value of "It's a tough world" instructional material.

Ut-oh... my dog and cat just told me they want an appartment together.

Good review that I don't agree with. Well put, and passionate. I can handle that. Good job.


Mike (the Paladin) Well...Dr. Venkman did warn us:

"Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!"

But it was bound to happen sooner or later...


Whispers from the Pirate's Ghost Whisper Yeah, you got that right.

hmm....

Oh CRAP We agreed again! (Time to prepare for Armagedeon.)


Mike (the Paladin) Quick...bring up a Rollins book!


message 49: by Bill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bill This is a great review thread! Even though I don't agree with Mike, it sure has sparked a lot of thought and emotion. We are all passionate about something. The main thing is that hopefully we can respect others opinions and attitudes - something I would do well to remember myself sometimes, including some of my comments in this thread :) Still do not agree, but so what?


Mike (the Paladin) When I review I sort of expect to be disagreed with. Only now and then do I "lose control" and let my sense of humor work over a book (as in Gideon's Sword). That tends to happen when I've very disappointed with a book I expected to be a lot better. Still i don't think I savage books and I try to and try to give recognition that others may like them.

As they say, "no accounting for taste".


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