Since its 1961 debut, Wilson Rawls’ Where the Red Fern Grows has sold nearly 7 million copies and captivated readers of all ages.
Set in the heart of the Ozark Mountains in the Great Depression, Where the Red Fern Grows follows ten-year-old Billy Coleman as he dedicates himself to buying a pair of hounds for hunting. Soon, he and his beloved hounds, Old Dan and Little Anne, become known as the best hunters in the Ozarks.
Heartfelt and emotional, Where the Red Fern Grows showcases the strength of a boy’s bond with his dogs. Now, for more adventures and ties between animals and children, check out these 20 best children’s books like Where the Red Fern Grows.
Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Shiloh is a story of love at first sight for both Marty Preston and the reader.
Marty comes across a young beagle in the hills near his home and instantly adores the dog, who he names Shiloh. The only problem? Shiloh belongs to a notorious violent drunkard named Judd. Now, Marty must protect himself, his family, and Shiloh from Judd by keeping Shiloh’s presence a secret.
Heartfelt and warm, Shiloh is the perfect story for every dog lover.
Find your copy here.
Storm Dog by L.M. Elliott
Set in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Storm Dog follows brilliant loner Ariel as she struggles to fit in. When she discovers a lost dog during a violent storm, the pup leads her to the cabin of former Army K-9 handler Sergeant Josie. During the storm, the three loners find solace in each other and discover fitting in doesn’t have to be so difficult.
Storm Dog captures Virginia’s soul and is a love letter to Appalachia and is perfect for kids who may be struggling to find themselves.
To join the adventure, find Storm Dog here.
A Wolf Called Wander by Rosanne Parry
For another adventurous outing, join wolf cub Swift on his quest to find a place to belong.
After he becomes separated from his pack, Swift must set out to find a new home. What follows is an epic, thousand-mile journey across the Pacific Northwest. Along the way, Swift encounters everything from highways to hunters and must dig deep within himself to survive.
You can find A Wolf Called Wander here.
Pax by Sarah Pennypacker
Peter rescued his fox, Pax, when they were both small. But now, Peter’s dad has forced Peter to return Pax to the wild and move in with his grandfather.
Determined to reunite with Pax, Peter sets off on a solo adventure that will bring him back to his beloved fox. But Pax isn’t lying dormant, waiting to be reunited—he’s having adventures of his own, and all the while, searching for Peter.
Pax will be adored by anyone who has ever loved an animal with their entire heart.
You can find your copy here.
Code Name: Serendipity by Amber Smith
Amber Smith’s middle-grade debut follows eleven-year-old Sadie as her school year kicks off to a not-so-stellar start. Friendless and fearful, Sadie’s worried that her year will be one she longs to forget. That is until she meets Dewey. Sadie is delighted to discover she and Dewey can communicate telepathically. And when he’s taken to a shelter, Sadie will stop at nothing to reunite with Dewey.
This dazzling and magical tale is perfect for any child who might feel like a misfit, and for anyone who has been best friends with their four-legged companion.
Pick up Code Name: Serendipity here.
Warriors: Into the Wild by Erin Hunter
If you’re a cat person, you’ll want to pick up the first of the Warrior Cats series, Erin Hunter’s Warriors: Into the Wild. The series introduces Clans of wild cats who have coexisted with ancient laws. Yet when order is broken, the ThunderClan find themselves endangered at the paws of the ShadowClan.
Warrior Cats is perfect for your most voracious readers who devour one book after another.
To get them started, pick up Warriors: Into the Wild here.
Socks by Beverly Cleary
Even cats get jealous, right?
Socks lives an excellent life with his owners—plenty of treats, plenty of cuddles, and more. The arrival of a new baby disrupts Socks’ cushy life. To show his displeasure, Socks causes mischief and mayhem around the house, all to recapture the attention that was once entirely his.
This charmingly funny book is a delight for children and adults alike.
See the trouble Socks gets into when you find your copy here.
The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo
One morning, in the Florida woods, twelve-year-old Rob finds a caged tiger.
From there, a stunning portrait of unlikely friendship, grief, and healing unfolds as Rob visits the tiger—and meets a girl just as fierce as the caged animal, Sistine Bailey. Their uneasy bond over the tiger becomes friendship, and soon, Rob realizes nothing can live in a cage forever.
The Tiger Rising is perfectly suited for young readers, but the compassion and deep themes will also touch adult readers.
Pick up your copy here.
Hoot by Carl Hiassen
For another Floridian adventure, look no further than Carl Hiassen’s classic, Hoot.
When construction threatens a colony of adorable, endangered owls, middle schooler Roy is determined to put a wrench in their plans via pranks. With the help of an alligator-wrangling friend and a tough girl who fights for the environment, Roy is ready to save the day.
Follow the hilarious hijinks when you grab Hoot here.
Tangerine by Edward Bloor
The last of the Florida-set adventures, Tangerine is a story of unlikely heroes and difficult changes for middle schoolers.
In a world of daily lightning strikes and bully brothers, Paul Fisher struggles to fit in after his family moves to Tangerine County, Florida. He joins the soccer team at his middle school, and for the first time in his life, Paul belongs. Yet in Tangerine, old secrets come to light, and to face them, Paul must find his courage.
You can read Tangerine here.
Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
You’ll fall in love with this story about finding your courage in difficult times.
When Esperanza’s privileged life suddenly vanishes, she finds herself fighting to survive amidst the Great Depression. With her mother sick and California increasingly unfamiliar, Esperanza has to discover bravery within herself to live an ideal life.
You can find Esperanza Rising here.
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
If you’re seeking adventure and friendship set amongst nature, Katherine Paterson’s 1977 novel, Bridge to Terabithia, will heal and break your heart all at once.
The story follows two fifth graders, Jesse and Leslie, who strike up an improbable bond as they build a fantastical kingdom, which Leslie names Terabithia. Jesse becomes braver through Leslie’s courageous spirit and releases some of his anger.
With poignant characterization and a memorable end, Bridge to Terabithia will linger in your mind long after you turn the final page.
Join Leslie and Jesse in Terabithia when you pick up your copy here.
Holes by Louis Sachar
Like Tangerine and Bridge to Terabithia, Louis Sachar’s Holes is atmospheric and rich with delightful characters.
Stanley Yelnats is nowhere close to breaking his family’s curse—in fact, it unjustly landed him in a boys’ detention center. Now, he spends his days digging holes. Five feet wide, five feet deep, rinse, and repeat. But soon, it becomes clear their warden is looking for something, and Stanley will stop at nothing to know what it is.
With tongue-in-cheek humor and a thrilling plot, your middle schooler will devour this novel (and may want to dig for treasure themselves).
You can find Holes here.
Gabe in the After by Shannon Doleski
For readers who want adventure with a speculative twist, you’re in for a treat with Shannon Doleski’s Gabe in the After.
In post-apocalyptic Maine, Gabe and his beloved dog, Mud, check for survivors of a global disaster daily. One day, they find a strange girl, Relle, in the woods. When Gabe brings Relle to his island community, Relle is determined to brighten up the place. At first, Gabe doesn’t understand why her insistence on activity matters—until tragedy strikes again, and Gabe must set out on another dangerous journey.
Hopeful and tender, Gabe in the After is a light in the dark.
You can find your copy here.
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Gary Paulsen’s classic, Hatchet, will also satisfy your need for adventure.
After a deadly plane crash, thirteen-year-old Brian is the only survivor. With only his torn clothes and a trusty hatchet, Brian must make it alone in the Canadian wilderness. Gradually, he learns how to survive, and as the days tick on, Brian must call on his courage again and again.
If you’ve ever imagined how you’d survive on a deserted island, Hatchet is the perfect book.
Pick up Hatchet here.
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
If your furry friend of choice is a horse, begin your adventure with Black Beauty.
This classic novel chronicles the life of a horse named Black Beauty. With a first-person perspective, young readers learn the importance of treating animals with kindness and caring for the world around them.
Timeless and threaded with core lessons, younger readers and budding teenagers alike will be captivated by the tale.
Find Black Beauty here.
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
For teenage horse lovers, you’ll be off to the races with Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races.
Every November, wild horses emerge from the sea, and riders risk their lives to race them. Sean Kendrick is the reigning champ, yet Puck Connolly wants nothing to do with him or the races. But when fate forces Puck to join the races to aid her family, the two strike up an improbable camaraderie as they prepare to face their fears.
With a touch of magic and mystery, The Scorpio Races enchants and captures the imagination.
You can find The Scorpio Races here.
How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
Before the hit movie series came the book, Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon.
Quiet and reflective Hiccup thinks his Viking test might be the end of him. Hiccup sets out to catch a dragon, and soon, encounters Toothless. A hapless dragon without teeth, Toothless loves jokes, and eventually, Hiccup. Can the unlikely duo pass Hiccup’s test?
Discover the answer when you pick up your copy here.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White and Garth Williams
If you haven’t read this classic children’s book, take this as a sign to check it out.
Charlotte’s Web tells the story of an unlikely trio: tender-hearted Fern, who saved the life of runt of the litter Wilbur, and Charlotte, a spider who spins webs with kind words. Full of friendship, feelings, and a lot of love, Charlotte’s Web has captured the magic of childhood on a farm.
To see what the hype is about, find Charlotte’s Web here.
Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly
Song for a Whale tells the story of twelve-year-old Iris, who feels like an outsider due to her deafness. Yet when she learns of a whale unable to communicate with other whales, Iris is empathetic. To make the whale feel less alone, Iris is determined to do the seemingly impossible: invent a way to sing for him.
A sign language interpreter herself, Lynne Kelly’s novel is a story of persistence and small acts of kindness that start a bigger wave.
Pick up Song for a Whale here.
Adventure and Animal Friends
With high emotion and adventure, these 20 novels will captivate your young reader’s mind and instill a new appreciation for their four-legged best friends. From dogs to cats, horses to whales, there’s no telling where the adventure ends.
Which grade should read Where the Red Fern Grows?
The story is suited for 5th-6th graders, but older or younger students can also enjoy it.
What breed of dog is in Where the Red Fern Grows?
You’ll fall in love with Billy’s beloved Redbone Coonhounds!
What happens to the dogs in Where the Red Fern Grows?
This is a spoiler-free zone! However, if you like to vet your books with animals, check out this website with content warnings.
In what era does Where the Red Fern Grows take place?
The story is set in the Ozark Mountains amidst the Great Depression.
Is Where the Red Fern Grows based on a true story?
Wilson Rawls draws inspiration from his childhood in the Ozarks.
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