This animal adventure by John Reynolds Gardiner is published by Harper Trophy, an imprint of Harper Publishers and is written for kids ages 7 to 11. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Willy's grandfather becomes severely depressed and incapacitated. Willy tries to save their potato farm. In an effort to win $500, he enters a local sled-dog race with his canine companion Searchlight. He stands little chance against a disgruntled American Indian known as Stone Fox. The Indian and his team of Samoyeds have never lost a race — but Willy refuses to give up.
The old church in the center of town simply serves as a landmark for Willy as he races.
Willy's grandfather has raised him with wisdom, discipline and manners. (Willy's parents are not around.) However, during Grandfather's illness, Willy assumes the authority role by caring for Grandfather and their farm. Adults in town offer help, too. Willy, mostly, is respectful to them, though he does lie to protect Stone Fox when they ask Willy how he got hurt.
Other Belief Systems
Willy adopts his grandfather's philosophy that "there are some things in this world worth dying for." This refers to his country, nature and animals.
The doctor uses the word darn.
Publishers Weekly No.72 top-selling paperbacks, Southern California Council on Literature for Children and Young People Award, The New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Can you be a winner without being the first to cross the finish line?
- What happens when we "turn the other cheek" and are kind to our enemies?
- How can we sacrifice our time, talents and money to help others in need, just as Willy did?
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.