Saturday, November 15, 2014

Book Review: Stone Fox

My third grade daughter, Bryn, just read Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner at school.  I do typically try to read her class novels along with her so that we can discuss them, but I was not prepared for the way that she devoured Stone Fox.  On the day that her class started the novel, she came home with the assignment to "read chapter 2"..... and she sat on the couch and read the entire novel.  (Ahem.... she comes by this honestly.  This is what I did with pretty much every single book of my elementary school career.)  And then, with tears in her eyes, she promptly demanded that I read it as well, because it was "just so amazing."  Now that I have finished, she is demanding that her dad read it as well.

Luckily, Stone Fox is short enough that an adult can easily knock it out in one sitting.  At only 83 pages, with large print and pictures, it's a fast read.  And for an adult looking to read a book that will allow them to enter into some deep conversations with their kids, it's well worth it.

As Stone Fox opens, little Willy's grandfather has fallen sick.  Medically, there's nothing wrong with him.  It appears that he has simply lost his will to live.  Little Willy resolves to make his grandfather well by bringing in the potato harvest by himself and solving their money problems.  But then he learns that they're in much more debt than he could have dreamed, and the only way he can discover to save the family farm is to enter a dogsled race.  But everyone assumes that Stone Fox, a silent Indian with his team of five gorgeous dogs, will win the race--after all, he's never lost.

There are a lot of rich issues to discuss in this book.  While little Willy is only 10 years old, he does all the work on the farm--preparing the meals, bringing in the harvest, taking care of his grandfather.  This leads to a great discussion of responsibility and how families care for each other.  Little Willy sacrifices a great deal for his grandfather--including his entire college savings fund, which represents his future, but he never hesitates or regrets it.  There's also the way that Willy interacts with all the adults in the book.... because he has taken responsibility for his grandfather, they all treat him with respect.  And Willy's relationship with his dog, Searchlight, is so, so rich.  And then there's the character of Stone Fox, who is both noble and intimidating.  And of course, you can always look at historical context and how times have changed so significantly.

In short, I'd definitely recommend this one for a home school curriculum, some summer reading, or a parent looking do to some enrichment interaction with their child.  Quick read for the parent, a real thinker for the child.

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