Children's, Coming of age, Family dynamics, Fiction, Gardiner-John Reynolds, Historical Fiction

#530 Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner

Stone Fox by John Reynolds GardinerStone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner

Everyone loves a good dog, but nobody loves when the good dog dies.

Willy lives with his grandfather in Wyoming. They farm potatoes. One day Grandfather takes to his bed. He doesn’t get up and he doesn’t talk. Willy gets the doctor who tells Willy that maybe Grandpa will get better, but maybe he won’t. There must be something terrible on his mind.

First Willy manages to harvest the potatoes all by himself with the help of Searchlight his dog. Then Willy finds out that Grandpa owes back taxes on the farm. If Willy doesn’t come up with $500 the government can take the farm. Willy uses his fifty dollars saved for college tuition to enter a local sledding race. The winner gets $500. Willy is determined to win, but that may not be so easy because the legendary Stone Fox is also entering the race with his pack of dogs.

The big race comes. Willy is ahead of everyone, but before he can cross the finish line the most terrible thing imaginable happens. Stone Fox surprises everyone by what he does next.

What I liked

Stone Fox is a surprising guy. He’s got a good heart. He has integrity. I like him. He may seem a little rough, but he’s a good human being when it comes down to it.

What I didn’t like

First of all, Grandpa needs to get out of bed. The doctor comes by and says nothing is wrong with him. He’s depressed. Yeah, ok. I get it, Grandpa is depressed and worried. He didn’t have a stroke. He didn’t have a heart attack. He’s just depressed. Being depressed isn’t easy. I’ve been there, but despite the fact that you may be depressed, you kind of have to go on with life. You can’t just sit down in the middle of what you’re doing and stay there. Depressed or not, you’ve got to live. Grandpa needs to get his butt out of bed and help keep the farm. This is a lot of worry to put on a boy Willy’s age. I’m sorry Grandpa feels sad, but Grandpa has Willy to take care of and he needs to get out of bed and take care of his responsibilities.

Second, this is such a sad story. I don’t know why I re-read it. I’ve read it several times. Supposedly it’s based on a local legend of the area. It’s probably a rural myth, but it’s still kind of a neat story, despite the fact that it is sad. Oh that poor dog. Oh poor Willy. If you’ve never read this book, have some tissues nearby when you do read it.

There is a movie based on this book and the story is a bit different. In the movie Grandpa actually has a stroke, he’s not just staying in bed. Grandpa also has a cattle farm in the movie. Stone Fox also gifts Willy with a puppy at the end of the movie. None of that happened in this book. I think the movie took a more realistic and feelings friendly approach to this story. After all, I haven’t really heard of too many people having potato farms in Wyoming. It’s cattle country.


Poor Searchlight.

Weigh In

What’s your opinion of Grandpa?

How many ten-year olds do you know that could harvest an entire farm’s worth of potatoes?


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