Following yesterday's posting about how books never really leave you, I give you Betsy Bird's recent Library Journal blog entry. She's rolling through the top 100 kids' novels of all times, in the opinion of her pollsters. I'll leave those of you with an interest in children's fiction through the ages to head on over to her blog and check out some of the titles.
But today my interest lies in Book #46 on the list: WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS.
The book was published in 1961, and I haven't read it in a while, but one 4th grade teacher who was near and dear to my librarian's heart loved this book and I know the kids in her classes for the many years she taught loved it also.
And this comment from Betsy's blog reminded me of Kathi Appelt's essay from Hunger Mountain:
My 4th grade teacher (30 years ago) read it aloud, and it completely transformed my vision of reading. I revisit the book every few years, and still cry like a baby. I even read it aloud one year to my class-bawling unabashedly several times. They still remember my reaction and love of the book, and (I hope) it made the same indelible mark on them as it did on me. - Tess Alfonsin, Fifth Grade Reading Teacher
Most of the novels on the Top 100 are books that made that kind of impression on readers.
Wondering where I came up with the title for this entry- the coon dog thing? If you read the blog review of Where the Red Fern Grows, you'll see a link to a Mississippi schools classroom study guide. Much as I hate to think about kids reading a book and doing study sheets, it happens. I guess it's better than reading something really boring on a standardized test and answering questions. At least they're reading good literature, and we who love good literature can just hope the questions don't completely turn kids off from reading.
Betsy Bird is a librarian at the New York Public Library so she and some of her pollsters may not see the value in students figuring out how to buy a coon dog, with appropriate links to dog shopping websites. But let me tell you, I think it's brilliant. Or at the very least, fascinating. Whatever works, whatever gets kids reading and remembering.