The Yearling Book Review

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Marjore Kinnan Rawlings

The Yearling

Aladdin Classics (Children’s division of Simon and Schuster), 1938

509 pages

8+ according to Amazon. However, I would say 12+. Younger readers may become confused with the author’s use of phonetic spelling to denote an uneducated English dialect.

Pulitzer Prize



The genre of this book is historical fiction.  A publisher who had refused to publish several of Rawlings’ books, suggested that she write something of her life experience.  Rawlings felt this book was the answer to that suggestion. It is set in Florida in a scrub of Pine and other tall trees that create an unusual patch in the swamp.

The protagonist of this book is a young boy named Jody.  His father Penny has the tendencies of a hermit.  Jody is at the transition stage of his life where boys need to become men.  Jody goes through a number of experiences that test his metal.  The most transitional experiences occur when his father, Penny, is bitten by a rattlesnake and narrowly avoids death by shooting a doe deer and using its liver to draw the poison from his bite.

After Penny has used the deer organs to save his own life, Jody discovers the doe had a fawn.  When it becomes clear his father will survive, Jody goes back to rescue the buck fawn and keep it as a pet.  When he takes the fawn to receive a name from his best friend Fodder-wing, who is gifted at naming and caring for animals, he finds his friend has died the morning just before he reached the home.  He also finds out Fodder-wing had heard about his fawn and named him Flag.

Flag and Jody grow together.  After a flood damages the food supply of the meager farm, Flag does what a growing buck does.  He finds a way to survive.  Unfortunately it comes at the expense of Jody and his family’s winter supply of rations.  As you can imagine the conflict comes to a boiling point.

I’ll preserve the end of the story for those who wish to read it.  I’ll say this book is certainly about a boy becoming a man.  The feel of the book reminded me of a later work, “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls, 1961.  The book is well written for the most part. However, I did not care for the phonetic spelling of a back woods dialect of uneducated sounding English.  I had to read some of the quotes several times to understand the idea behind the text; even then I’m not 100% sure I understood.

I may use this book while teaching young adults about wild life.  There is a need in our society to undo the Disney version of wild life.  Disney has often wrongfully assigned human characteristics to animals.  This book would go a long way to open a more frank discussion of animal behavior.

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