It usually starts with a seed of a thing: a boy growing up in the Ozark Mountains reads The Call of the Wild by Jack London, and is inspired to write just such a grand book. What he put into it is probably the best advice given all writers-write what you know. Thus Wilson Rawls , back in 1961, produced a classically powerful story drawing on his own boyhood experiences: how a hillbilly boy teaches his two hounds to become champion hunters and in the process, learns so many life lessons the hard way-but perhaps the only way. Author Rawls will have you on the edge of emotion as you warm to the unusual friendship the two dogs have between themselves, rise to the tension of battles with bullies and desperate hunts in blinding snowstorms, and finally, are drawn into the almost unbearable climax as the dogs are poised to save the boy's life. An unforgettable adventure, Where the Red Fern Grows is simply told through a boy's eyes, and very moving.
Recommended by Betsy Schroeder