My literature club of basically 4th and 5th graders is reading through Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. I have no idea who Wilson Rawls was but I came across a few interesting pieces of his biography this weekend.
He was born on September 24, 1913 in Scraper, OK and named Woodrow Wilson Rawls. He died in 1984 in Idaho Falls, ID.
Rawls was homeschooled by his mother! After reading Call of the Wild by Jack London, Rawls decided that he wanted to be a writer.
Over the years Rawls wrote stories and traveled but he never actually was able to sell any of his writings. His grammar was never very good and he lacked formal education. Finally, in 1958 he reached a breaking point, gave up writing, and burned all of his work.
Not long after this he shared his ambition to be a writer with his wife, Sophie. She encouraged him to keep writing. Not long after that, he wrote Where the Red Fern Grows in a 3 week period. She edited his grammar and the story was published in a series of articles in the “Saturday Evening Post.” It was published by Doubleday in 1961. Sales flopped. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that the book was first recognized as a children’s book rather than a book for adult readership and sales skyrocketed. The book quickly became a classic among children’s literature.
In 1976 he wrote one more book, The Summer of the Monkeys. This too became a classic children’s book.
Rawls sprinkles his first work with references to God and prayer. I have never read The Summer of the Monkeys, so I don’t know if he continued this pattern. I would guess he did but I’ll have to find the copy in our library to find out.
His life-story, as little of it that I know, is inspiring to me. He was nearly 50 years old when he finally achieved his dream of becoming a writer. One doesn’t have to be young to accomplish great things and reach a dream. He faced many challenges and frustrations in order to reach his dream and he almost gave up. In the end, it was the encouragement and assistance of his wife that allowed him to finally reach the “mountain top” of achievement. This reminds me of how sometimes our personal dreams aren’t meant for us to reach alone. God must be at the point and others (a spouse, a child, a friend, a church, etc.) may be instrumental in our own achievements.
You probably have read Where the Red Fern Grows. Perhaps now that you know a little about the author, you’d like to read it again…or, for the first time.