Book Analysis Synopsis Sheet

An Example of a One-page Synopsis (this is the "barebones" of a synopsis sheet. You are encouraged to be innovative and creative.

Rawls, Wilson. Where the Red Fern Grows: The Story of Two Dogs and A Boy. New York: Bantam, 1978.

Summary A realistic book, WTRFG is set in rural Oklahoma. Billy Colman, a young boy living in the Ozarks, has a case of puppy love–for two coon hounds. But coon hounds are expensive, and his parents cannot afford to get him the dogs he wants. While looking through an abandoned campsite, Billy finds an ad in a sportsman’s magazine that says he can order coon hound pups for twenty-five dollars each. He formulates a plan for earning the money to buy the dogs himself. It takes him two years to raise the fifty dollars he needs, but he does it.

From the moment Billy picks up his pups at the depot, the three of them are inseparable. He trains Old Dan and Little Ann to hunt coons, and he trains them well. From that time on, they’re out nearly every night hunting for ringtails in the hills and river bottoms near the log cabin where Billy lives. The dogs and Billy prove to be successful hunting team. Billy learns what grit it takes in his loyalty to aiding his coon-hunting dogs. The first tree he cuts down to get a treed coon is a difficult experience for him and his whole family. One day, while is on a hunt with two friends, Rubin and Rainy, a terrible accident occurs. Rubin falls on the ax and is killed. Billy later sneaks into Rainy’s yard and places flowers on Rubin’s grave; this act makes Billy feel better. Toward the end of the book, Grandpa enters the team in a championship Coon hunt in a neighoring county. After quite an adventure, Old Dan, Little Ann, and Billy win the big hunt and return home with pride. But soon their happiness is shattered. Old Dan challenges a mountain lion and is mortally wounded. Billy buries his beloved dog on a hilltop near his home. A heartbroken Little Ann quickly loses her will to live, and, after futile attempts by Billy to force her to eat, she drags her weakened body to the top of Old Dan’s grave. There she dies of grief for her companion.

Billy buries Little Ann by the side of Old Dan–along with part of his life. But just before his family leaves the Ozarks the following spring, he finds a beautiful red fern growing between the two little graves. He recalls an old Indian legend that says wherever the red fern grows, that spot is sacred. Full of emotion, he says goodbye to his two special friends, knowing that he will never forget them.

Related books: Armstrong, William H. Sounder; Burnford, Sheila. The Incredible Journey; Freschet, Berniece, Raccoon Baby; London, Jack. The Call of the Wild; Taylor, Theodore, The Trouble With Tuck.

Ages 7-13 will enjoy this slightly sentimental book which describes a boy’s understanding of love as "a disease" and the ecological systems in our world. The book connects myth to the art of living. Some violence, but handled in an objective manner. Religious overtones do not detract from learning from Billy’s experience. Most students cry at the ending. Teaching aids are plentiful because it is taught in schools.

Questions: "Love is like a disease." How can that be?Look at the end of the story. How does the myth connect with change and maturation? How does memory still link Billy to his hounds and the love that he has learned about? What else has he learned?

Literary Aspects of the Novel

Teaching. Connect to study of ecosystems, animal habitats, Native American study, folk lore, geography. Math skills can be introduced as well as study of rural life versus city life. The value of myth in a modern age. the value of dreams (connect with Dragonwings).