Plot: After saving a Redbone coonhound, Billy takes us back to his childhood when he owned two Redbone coonhounds growing up in the Ozarks. His parents said they couldn’t afford them, but after seeing an article in the newspaper selling the very dogs for $25 each, Billy starts to work and save up his money. Two years later, the price for the hounds has gone down to $20 each and Billy gets two of them. In order to get his puppies Billy must walk all the way to the depot in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. On the trip back Billy sees a tree with the names Dan and Ann in a heart and decides to name his puppies Old Dan and Little Ann. When he gets home, Billy and his Grandfather start to train the hounds. They go hunting almost everyday after that, but some hardships are sure to follow.
Review: This is a touching story of a little boy named Billy and the friendship with his two hound puppies, Old Dan and Little Ann. Billy trains the hounds to be great hunters and they go hunting everyday together. Billy and his two coonhounds are able to bring in a lot more fur than any other hunter for his grandfather’s store. Word gets out all over the Ozarks about Billy and his two hounds. The story takes on a tragedy with the eventual death of his hounds, but the birth of a red fern on their graves gives Billy a sense of recovery and he is able to move on. This story is heartfelt and moving. It paints a picture of a loving friendship between Billy, Old Dan, and Little Ann that is sure to last a lifetime, if only in memory.
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Friendship
Reading Level/Interest Level: 6.4/5-8 graders
Similar Materials: Old Yeller, by Fred Gipson
Reader’s Advisory: I remember reading this book in the sixth grade for a book project and it was so sad. You have so much hope and joy for Billy and his hounds, but in the end they are torn apart from each other. Luckily Billy was able to recover and move on, but still remembers his much loved coonhounds. This is an old classic that I think all children should read. You can find friendship in more than just people.