Monday, May 16, 2011

Using Art to Interpret Art

**Spoiler Alert** If you don't already know the story of Where the Red Fern Grows, don't read this blog; go read the book!

 Sprinkle Butts by Canopener Sally, 2009

While exploring others' blogs, reviews, and other forms of commentary on Where the Red Fern Grows, I've been a bit frustrated by their redundancy. Almost everything I've read goes something like this, "What a sad book." Then, the elaboration on that statement forks in one of two directions: "It is absolutely beautiful; what a wonderful tale of love between a boy and his dogs" or "I'm so sick of sad endings. Why do the dogs always have to die?"

This frustrates me because these words are completely insufficient in conveying the complexity of the emotions that I experience as I read the novel. In fact, even my own commentary on it would be insufficient. I could write an essay singing praise to the story (and probably admitting that it's really not especially well-written), but even my most flowery language could not recreate the emotions that readers encounter.

Art is different, though. Particularly visual art. As I looked at Israel Sanchez's art inspired by Where the Red Fern Grows, I saw an interaction with the text beyond the surface reaction of "Wow, that was sad." I would even say that Sanchez enriches the novel with his drawings because he legitimizes the simplicity of the diction and syntax by creating something beautiful out of it. This is what I want to see! I want to see that others feel the way I do about Where the Red Fern Grows. That's why I have been asking everyone I encounter if they have read the book, then interrogating them when I discover that they have. That's why I plan on reading the final heart-wrenching chapters of the book out loud with a reading buddy. I want to know that others feel what I feel.

Surely Mr. Sanchez isn't the only individual who has created visual art in response to Where the Red Fern Grows. In fact, there are a couple of movie adaptations of the book that I intend to view and analyze in the context of an art form. I want to find art inspired by the novel. I'll ask teachers for student work. I'll Google search until my eyes twitch. I want to know that I am not alone in my deep love for this book, and I feel that visual art holds the key to this quest.

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