Mar 28, 2008

Old Yeller

by Fred Gipson

Old Yeller is about a boy's coming of age on the Texas frontier in the late 1860's. When his father leaves on a trip, Travis has to take up the man's work and protect his mother and little brother. At first it's routine: plow the field, chop the wood, shoot something for dinner. But then several accidents occur, and Travis starts to feel he can't handle it all. Luckily a big ugly stray dog shows up. At first Travis hates him for stealing the family's meat, but then he comes to depend on the dog for protection and assistance with the half-wild livestock. Old Yeller becomes his closest companion, and invaluable to the homestead. Unfortunately, the dog isn't immune to accidents himself, and when he gets bitten by a rabid wolf, Travis has to face shooting the dog he loves in order to save his family. (Revealed on page one.)

This is a really enjoyable book, in spite of its more serious elements. Told from young Travis' perspective, it's full of frank, humorous descriptions and funny moments. His little brother's antics are pretty hilarious too. And I loved the scene where the bull fell over backwards in a cart and rolled down a hill. My edition happens to be an ex-school-textbook, and includes a short, interesting appendix in the back that describes wildlife from the Texas hill country, and the longhorn cattle. Old Yeller has very similar themes to The Yearling (about a boy in Florida with a pet deer) and Where the Red Fern Grows (a boy in the Ozarks with 'coon dogs). All of these books show families living on small farms in isolated areas, the main character being a teenage boy who learns some harsh life lessons from nature.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 200 pages, 1956

9 comments:

writer2b said...

It makes sense to me when you link this one with 'The Yearling.' I haven't read either, but when I was very young I saw both movies... and can't distinguish them from one another in my mind!

Jeane said...

I saw the film version of Old Yeller when I was younger, it's still pretty vivid in my mind.

Trish said...

Hill Country wildlife? Hill Country is my favorite part of Texas, but it's so darn muggy (and expensive) there. I haven't read this one, but I have fond (and sad) memories of Where the Red Fern Grows.

Maw Books said...

I've never read this but have it on the bookshelf. Maybe I should bump it up. I used to live in Texas Hill Country during middle school. Beautiful country!

Literary Feline said...

I haven't read the book, but I have seen the movie several times. It always makes me cry. :-(

Lezlie said...

You're brave. Our teacher read "Where The Red Fern Grows" to us when I was in 5th grade. I had to leave the room because I was crying so hard. It was a beautiful, amazing book, but I will never read it again. Nor will I ever touch The Yearing, Old Yeller, The Red Pony, etc., etc. I'm a huge sissy. :-)

Lezlie

Park Avenue Princess said...

I'm with you Lezlie,

I am a big book baby and I cry over all kinds of things...animals really get me though, oh and children that are not treated well, and people who are ill or facing a crisis. I'm sure I could go on and on but I cried so hard when I read "Old Yeller" and I remember crying during "Where the Red Fern Grows".

Thinking of it now is making me a little teary-eyed and that was quite a few years ago. : )

C. B. James said...

jeane,

I use to use Old Yeller with 5/6th grade students. They would always get very upset, even angry, about the ending, even when I pointed out to them that the narrator told them the dog would die in the very first paragraph of the book.

James

Jeane said...

I was thinking about Old Yeller this morning. Why was that little kid so avid to throw rocks? Then I thought well, he probably learned it from his family. After all, they did things like beat the mule over the head with a stick to make him do what they wanted.