Seventeen-year-old, trail-wise Danny Pickett and his father live off nature's bounty. They fish, hunt and run a trap line. The father and son live a clean air, simple existence--no materialism or keeping up with the Jones's. Back to nature? Dad and Danny never left it. Unlike many of today's YA fiction, their relationship is close, positive, and mutually respectful. However, the dad does recognize certain characteristics in Danny that stem from his dead mother.
Through the benevolence of the local landowner, Danny befriends and acquires a beautiful Irish setter. As they traipse the local woods and streams sharing the challenges of the outdoors, Danny trains "Red" in hunting dog skills. They become inseparable and depend on each other for survival. Each chapter is a developed, pulse-raising adventure more exciting than the last--from the slashing teeth of a wolverine and confrontation with an escaped criminal to a life and death struggle with the ferocious bear called Old Majesty.
No, the author does not ignore or candy coat death by tooth and claw. But it is never graphic or diverts from the heartwarming story. It is treated as matter of fact and just part of nature. Yes, Danny is a hunter and fisherman. "PC" educators and the establishment media cancelled their National Rifle Association membership and took authors like Jim Kjelgaard off their recommended lists years ago.
One of the many reasons for the continued appeal of the Kjelgaard books has been his endearing male characters. They are in stark contrast to much of today's YA "problem" fiction characters. Danny's principled actions, cool thinking, and self-confidence portray a refreshing maturity that makes sense for a boy who early in life learned survival skills and developed a self-reliance by having to depend on oneself. Many teen readers favor and appreciate his strong, rugged individualism. What boy wouldn't prefer being thought of as a competent young man instead of an awkward, troubled kid?
Contemporary author C.J. Box's hero of his popular "game warden" modern western/mystery series is also named Pickett. I've always wondered if it was just a coincidence. Grownup readers remembering "Big Red's" Danny can easily envision him growing up to be just like the "Joe" Pickett of the "Box" novels.
Besides The author's other "dog" novels such as Irish Red, Outlaw Red, and Snow Dog, a good "canine" collection should include the recent Dog Stories edited by Tesdell, classics such as Terhune's Lad, Lassie by Knight, Old Yeller, and Sounder. Bob, Son of Battle by Ollivant, Curwood's Kazan, and, of course, don't forget Jack London and James Heriot's Dog Stories should also be considered. There is even the poetry book, Doggerel: Poems About Dogs edited by Ciurau.
Readers unfamiliar with the Kjelgaard books will, of course, initially be surprised. There is nothing to plug in or stick in your ears, no computers, and no noises except the sounds of nature. Nothing lights up but the night sky. Survival relies on your brain and senses, not magic. There are no dragons or mythical creatures, just real animals. Gee, who could possibly be interested in such books? Well, how about the customers and their families who have made Pro Bass Shop and Gander Mountain multi-million dollar corporations! Published in 1945 and still widely read, I wonder if you'll be able to find the "Harry" or Twilight books sixty years from now? 218 pages. Recommended by Robert L. Hicks, Librarian.
************** A devoted, courageous dog always stands by the boy who loves him in this genuine classic, in print for 75 years.
"A timeless, not-to-be-missed classic." --Katherine Applegate, Newbery Award winning author of The One and Only Ivan
Before Old Yeller or Where the Red Fern Grows, there was Big Red, the classic boy-and-dog story of adventure and friendship in the wild mountains of Pennsylvania.
Danny knows at a glance that Red, the big Irish setter, is the dog he has always dreamed of. But Red is a champion, and Danny is only a trapper's son who lives in a cabin on the mountain. Still, their bond is undeniable. Red is fast and strong, smart and noble, and incredibly loyal--when Danny twists his ankle and can't get home, Red stays by him all night, keeping a wildcat at bay.
Soon Danny and Red are meeting nature on their own terms, enduring a blizzard and even facing down a wolverine. But can Danny and Red take on the enemy that threatens everyone on the mountain--the savage bear they call Old Majesty?
This special hardcover anniversary edition has a printed case featuring the original artwork from the 1945 first edition, and includes an interview with the author, Jim Kjelgaard. The original woodcut endpapers are reproduced in the back of the book. A biography of famed wildlife illustrator Bob Kuhn, whose black-and-white artwork brought Big Red to life, is also included, as well as an appreciation by National Book Award winner Pete Hautman.
Beloved by readers for seventy-five years, this classic adventure tale is beautifully presented for a new generation of readers.--from the publisher
272 pages 978-0823442652 Ages 10-14
Keywords: dog, connection, loyalty, helping others, accident, nature, outdoors, wildnerness, wildlife, weather, danger, bear, 10 year old, 11 year old, 12 year old, 13 year old, classic