Middle Grade Memories: Author Marissa Burt (+ Giveaway!)

14 May

This summer, every Monday and Wednesday, I am hosting a series of guest posts here on my blog, a series called Middle Grade Memories. In this series, authors, agents, librarians, and editors talk about their favorite childhood middle grade books. I’m beyond thrilled to share their middle grade memories with you.

Below is the first post in the series, by Marissa Burt, middle grade fantasy author of Storybound (and its upcoming sequel, Story’s End). Read on as Marissa talks about one of her favorite childhood middle grade books, Where the Red Fern Grows. Then check out her generous giveaway!


First, for those who aren’t familiar with the story or need a refresher, Marissa has provided a summary from Amazon:

In Where the Red Fern Grows, Billy and his precious coonhound pups romp relentlessly through the Ozarks, trying to “tree” the elusive raccoon. In time, the inseparable trio  wins the coveted gold cup in the annual coon-hunt contest, captures the wily ghost coon, and bravely fights with a mountain lion. When the victory over the mountain lion turns to tragedy, Billy grieves, but learns the beautiful old Native American legend of the sacred red fern that grows over the graves of his dogs. This unforgettable classic belongs on every child’s bookshelf. 

This was one of those books — the stories I couldn’t set down and instead finished in the wee hours of the morning.  I remember tucking the flashlight back into its spot under my mattress and holding the volume to my chest, sobbing into the darkness. You would think it likely that a young girl living in suburbs of Portland might have a difficult time relating to a country boy and his coon-hunting dogs, but the drama of this tale and the powerful writing captivated my imagination.

I cried buckets of tears over Rawls’ masterpiece and reread the final chapters over and over, willing the story to end differently.  I had read other books dealing with death before this, of course, but my animal-loving soul was struck by the finality of it all, especially in the face of the heroic courage of Old Dan and Little Ann.  The themes in Where the Red Fern Grows are complex: the success of having worked hard for something good, the cruelty of the boys, the intensity of the hunt, and the heart-stopping moment with the axe are all woven together with explorations of human loneliness and the joy of animal companionship.

I revisited this book when I taught fifth grade, and I read it aloud to my class after lunch. This proved to be an ill-thought out choice when I found myself struggling to get through the final pages, my voice breaking even as I read the inevitable ending. I doubt there was a dry eye in the room, and the story stayed with us throughout the day as the children talked about death and loved ones  and how that made them feel. I remember that the students’ desire to talk made me uncomfortable. I didn’t know what to say or how to listen and, for a moment, I regretted choosing that book for our read-aloud. You see, I had passed fully into grown-up land and felt the impulse to explain away the injustice of the story or at least to offer some sort of comforting platitudes. Looking back, I rather wish middle-grade me could have been in the class that day. What I really wish I could have done was to pass around the tissue box, sit down, and sob over the unfairness and ugliness of death and revel in the preciousness of life. This is one of the books crafted to make you feel things deeper than you can articulate or even fully understand, which might be one of the reasons why it is the perfect middle-grade read. 



Marissa Burt writes middle grade fantasy and is represented by Laura Langlie of the Laura Langlie Literary Agency. She grew up in Portland, Oregon, and drifted eastward, living in Colorado, Illinois, Tennessee, and South Carolina, before coming back home to the Pacific Northwest.

Along the way, she studied Sociology, Ancient Languages, and Theology and clocked hours as a social worker, barista, 5th grade teacher, bookseller, faculty assistant, and reference librarian. But not all at the same time.

Marissa now lives in the Seattle area with her husband and three sons where she enjoys time spent around family, friends, and good books.

website | blog | twitter | goodreads



Marissa is giving away one copy of Where the Red Fern Grows and a signed hardcover of her middle grade fantasy novel, Storybound

To win, simply comment below and share your thoughts about Where the Red Fern Grows. Did you read this book as a child? What are your middle grade memories?

For an extra entry, tweet about this post and include the link to your tweet in your comment.

This giveaway begins now and ends next Sunday, May 20 at 5:00 p.m. EST. The winner will be announced shortly thereafter. This giveaway is international.

EDITED 5/21: And the winner is . . .


Congratulations, Enbrethiliel! Please email me at clairelegrandbooks [at] gmail [dot] com with your mailing address.


Love Middle Grade Memories? Check back on Mondays and Wednesdays throughout the summer for more in this series!

About these ads

24 Responses to “Middle Grade Memories: Author Marissa Burt (+ Giveaway!)”

  1. Michael Gettel-Gilmartin May 14, 2012 at 12:45 am #

    Nice post, Marissa. Charlotte’s Web always makes me cry, and I have a hard time getting through the end of Harry Potter! (I tweeted, but not sure how to share link. https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?via=clairelegrand&related=wordpressdotcom&text=Middle+Grade+Memories%3A+Author+Marissa+Burt+%28%2B+Giveaway%21%29&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwp.me%2FpRj24-XF?)

  2. Jasmine Rose May 14, 2012 at 2:18 am #

    Tweeted: https://mobile.twitter.com/ARoomWithBooks/status/201919040187404288
    My mom read Where The Red Fern Grows to my sister and I while we were still in elementary school and my only memory of it was the talk of a dog’s blood bubbling and gurgling outof him. For some reason it scared the crap out of me and I thought a zombie dog was going to come for me from under my bed :P

  3. Enbrethiliel (@Enbrethiliel) May 14, 2012 at 4:27 am #


    Where the Red Fern Grows is one classic that I never got around to as a young reader. And that was probably best because I was devastated by the ending of Old Yeller–and I read that one as an adult! But now I’m just rationalising . . . I’m sure Marissa’s former fifth graders are all emotionally richer for having had that experience. =)

    My own Middle Grade reads were by Beverly Cleary, Madeleine L’Engle and Lois Lowry . . . and of course I had a lot of Sweet Valley Kids! LOL!

    Link to my tweet: https://twitter.com/#!/Enbrethiliel/status/201951541123485696

  4. JennyC May 14, 2012 at 4:38 am #

    Of course i remember reading this!!!! I remember when our class saw the movie and EVERYONE cried it was soo soo sad the ending that is:(https://twitter.com/#!/immabelieve/status/201954152815923202

  5. lovingrob May 14, 2012 at 7:27 am #

    Ohh, thank you so much for this awesome giveaway! :D *Wants.* <3 Hmm. I have not read this book before :\ (See, I am from Norway.) I don't really have any middle grade memories. I'm only 19, but I don't remember much about before :p Wish I had read this book though; because it seems awesome :D
    Love, Carina

  6. deniz May 14, 2012 at 8:50 am #

    I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this book! It sounds like just the sort of thing I would have cried over as a child too – and would probably still get weepy about.

  7. Books 4 Learning May 14, 2012 at 9:24 am #

    I cannot be sure if I read this book or not. I feel like I did at some point in college. I do remember seeing the movie in fifth grade at school and CRYING at the end. I was trying so hard to hold back the tears b/c I did not want my classmates to see me.

    I also tweeted about this giveaway: https://twitter.com/#!/Books4Learning

  8. deadtossedwaves May 14, 2012 at 10:36 am #

    I never got around to reading Where the Fern Grows as a child. But the movie just absolutely killed me. I cried so much!! I didn’t read much as a child (all changed with HP) so I don’t have any MG memories. I do remember really loving Bambie and the Lion King movies. Cried a lot!!


    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

  9. KateB May 14, 2012 at 10:53 am #

    I’ve not read this book before- I’d not even heard of it before this post – but I love books like this. The ones that you have all sorts of memories attached too. It sounds beautiful.

  10. nat cleary (@natcleary) May 14, 2012 at 11:14 am #

    Great post. I never read that as a child. I read The Famous Five, Charlottes Web, James and the Giant Peach ETC. I would love to win this and read it with my boys. Thanks for the chance. Tweeted https://twitter.com/#!/natcleary/status/202053468045852673

  11. Heidi Grange May 14, 2012 at 11:29 am #

    I did read this as a child, several times. It’s one of those stories that I love and still holds the power to make me cry. By the end of the story I felt like I knew Billy and his dogs personally. It’s also one of those books that no matter how many times I read it, I still wish it ended differently, and yet if it did, it wouldn’t be as powerful.

    hg195 at yahoo dot com

  12. Giada M. May 14, 2012 at 11:36 am #

    I haven’t read Where the Red Fern Grows…yet! It is now on my wishlist! Thank you for the interesting post and giveaway! :D My first middle grade love is (and will always be!) Anne of Green Gables.

  13. thelupinelibrarian May 14, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

    I remember reading this story in school and then watching the movie as a class. The story broke my heart and I didn’t want the ending to turn out the way it did, but I finished it. I had a strong emotional response to the book and it was one of the first times that a book got under my skin enough to make me cry. It’s a wonderful story that every child should read.

    A couple of my favorite middle grade books would have to be The Giver by Lois Lowry and Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. I re-read both of these several times and got something new out of each reading.

  14. Barbara Watson May 14, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    What a super idea — middle grade memories! I adored Where the Red Fern Grows as a kid and still do as an adult. I read it aloud to my kids a few years ago, and like you, Marissa, I could barely get through the ending. It’s beautiful and sad all at the same time.

    I have way to many middle grade books that I love, but Wonder by R.J. Palacio tops my most recently read list. Also, Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood.

    Thanks for the interview and the giveaways.

  15. Dinky (: May 14, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

    I never read this book but I can´t wait to read it because the book sounds interesting! (: Awesome giveaway, thank you for making it international!
    Tweeted : https://twitter.com/#!/dinky___/status/202100707476770816

  16. marissaburt May 14, 2012 at 5:20 pm #

    Wow! Some great recommendations here! Thanks for commenting, everyone! And for those of you who haven’t read Where the Red Fern Grows, yet – it’s so time!

    Giada – Anne is an annual staple for me, too, but how can one decide which one in the series? ;)

    • Giada M. May 14, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

      So true! It’s simply impossible. >_<

  17. defyingthemustnts May 14, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

    I’ve never actually read Where the Red Fern Grows. It’s, um, one of those books I always expected to read for school, and I hate rereading things for class, SO I SIMPLY NEVER READ IT. You know, you wake up one day, and you’ve graduated college, and you’ve missed out. So…my middle school memory of Where The Red Fern grows is singing it and thinking ONE DAY.

  18. Temre Beltz May 15, 2012 at 12:00 am #

    Where the Red Fern Grows is one of my most favorite MG books of all time! I think I reread it (along with Black Beauty) at least ten+ times. I remember it as being the first book to make me cry (sob, really), and I too always hoped for a different ending, but still couldn’t quite get over how exquisitely beautiful the ending was either! Thank you for this great series and for jogging my memory about a book that is so special to me. It still sits in my library, and now I’m wondering if it’s time to pull it off the shelf again :) I also love reflecting on how, as kids, we afford ourselves the luxury of just feeling without trying to make too much sense of it – great point, Marissa.

  19. Reggie May 15, 2012 at 12:08 am #

    This is one of the books that elicited strong emotions and contributed to my love of reading during my formative years. My daughter is developing a love of reading and, when she is old enough, I will encourage her to read this one if it is not in the school reading list.

  20. Anubha May 15, 2012 at 2:38 am #

    thank you so much for the giveaway… i haven’t ever heard of this book before but it sounds awesome i will check it out… the best thing that happened during my middle grade was i got my booklove i started reading books by Enid Blyton n discovered my love for reading… :D
    i tweeted… https://twitter.com/miliminni/status/202285774929006592

  21. happygrape2 May 17, 2012 at 1:47 am #

    I remember reading this book in my language arts class and loving it! twitter:https://twitter.com/#!/happygrape2/status/202998526400135168

  22. aliasgirl May 20, 2012 at 11:40 am #

    No, I haven’t! In my country we have different books!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: