Old Yeller is a 1956 children's novel written by Fred Gipson and illustrated by Carl Burger, which received a retroactive Newbery Honor in 1969. The title is taken from the name of the yellow dog who is the center of the book's story. In 1957 Walt Disney released a film adaptation starring Tommy Kirk, Fess Parker, Dorothy McGuire, Kevin Corcoran, Jeff York, and Beverly Washburn.
Young Travis Coates has been left to take care of his family ranch with his mother and younger brother, Arliss, while his father goes off on a cattle drive in the late 1860s in Texas. When a "dingy yellow" dog comes for an uninvited stay with the family, Travis reluctantly takes in the dog, which they name Old Yeller. The name has a double meaning: The fur color yellow pronounced as "yeller" and the fact that its bark sounds more like a human yell.
Though Travis initially loathes the "rascal" and at first tries to get rid of it, the dog eventually proves his worth, saving the family on several occasions, including saving Arliss from a bear, Travis from a bunch of wild hogs, and Mama and their friend Lisbeth from a loafer wolf. Travis grows to love this dog named Old Yeller, and they become great friends. The rightful owner of Yeller shows up looking for his dog and recognizing that the family has become attached to Yeller, trades the dog to Arliss for a home-cooked meal prepared by Travis' mother, who is an exceptional cook.
Old Yeller becomes infected with rabies while saving his family from an infected wolf. Travis is forced to kill Yeller after the fight with the wolf, because he cannot risk Yeller's becoming sick and turning on the family. Old Yeller had puppies with one of Travis' friend's dogs, and one of the puppies helps Travis get over Old Yeller's death. They take in the new dog and try to begin a fresh start.
Other books in the series
The new puppy becomes the title character of the follow-up book Savage Sam (1962) and 1963 movie. A third book, Little Arliss (1978), is set after the first two and features Travis' younger brother.
Awards and honors
- 1957 Newbery Honor
- 1959 William Allen White Children's Book Award
- 1959 Young Reader's Choice Award
- 1959 Sequoyah Book Award, Children's category (inaugural winner)
- 1966 Nēnē Award
- Gipson, Fred (October 1, 1990). Old Yeller. Perfection Learning. ISBN 978-0812416336.
- Carl V. Burger, 79, Illustrator And a Writer on Wildlife, Dies, N.Y. Times (Dec. 31, 1967)
- Gipson, Fred (July 28, 1976). Savage Sam (1st Perennial Library ed.). Harper Perennial Modern Classics. ISBN 978-0060803773.
- "Old Yeller (1957 Film) Summary". Bookrags. Retrieved 2007-11-08.
- "Hawai‘i State Nēnē Award Winners". The Nēnē Award. Retrieved April 22, 2015.
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