Stone Fox

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For the band, see Stone Fox (band).
Stone Fox
Author John Reynolds Gardiner
Translator 133221
Illustrator Marcia Sewall
Country United States
Language English
Genre Children's novels
Publisher Harper & Row
Publication date
Media type Print (Paperback)
Pages 83 pp
ISBN 0-06-440132-4
OCLC 9333615
LC Class MICS 2006/42188 (P)

Stone Fox is a short children's novel by John Reynolds Gardiner. It is the first and best known of Gardiner's books. Stone Fox was acclaimed and very popular when it was published in 1980.[1] It sold three million copies and was turned into a television movie starring Buddy Ebsen, Joey Cramer, and Gordon Tootoosis and directed by Harvey Hart in 1987.[2] It was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year for 1980 (Nov. 30, 1980. p. BR4), and was included in 100 Best Books for Children by Anita Silvey.[3]

The book centers on a boy named Little Willy who enters a dog sled race in order to win $500 to pay back the taxes on his grandfather's farm. It is written in simple prose and is set at an indeterminate time in the American Old West. The book was inspired by a Rocky Mountain legend that Gardiner heard when he visited Idaho.[1] Stone Fox was originally intended as a screenplay, but became a book at the suggestion of a producer.[2]



Little Willy finds his grandfather lying in bed. Doc Smith, the only doctor in town, tells Willy that his grandfather no longer wants to live. Clifford Snyder, a tax collector, goes into Little Willy's house and, with a derringer in his hand, demands to know how much his grandfather owes the state. After seeing some papers he tells Willy that they owe the state of Wyoming 500 dollars. The next day Willy enters a dog sled race that has a reward of 500 dollars. Willy sees a sled being pulled by five Samoyeds (fast dogs used for sled racing). The man on the sled signs up for the race, and Willy learns it is Stone Fox, a Native American who doesn't talk to white people and has never lost a race. During the race, Willy's light one-dog sled shows unexpected advantages in managing tight curves and enabling a perilous short-cut over a frozen lake. However, Willy's dog Searchlight becomes so tired that her heart bursts and she dies instantly within 10 feet from the finish line. Stone Fox makes a line on the ground with his boot, takes out his rifle, and warns that if any other racers cross the line, he'll shoot. He then concedes the match to Willy by letting Willy carry Searchlight across the finish line to everyone's amazement.

Main Characters[edit]

  • Little Willy - the protagonist of the book, he lives with his grandfather in a potato farm in Wyoming,U.S.A..
  • Searchlight - Willy's loyal black dog.
  • Grandfather - Willy's grandfather, he is in bed throughout the book but in the climax he's up cheering for Willy to win.
  • Doc Smith - the town's only doctor and a close friend to Willy and Grandfather.
  • Stone Fox - a Native American resentful of White seizure of his people's land. He never speaks to Whites and has never lost a race, using the prize money towards buying their farmland back.
  • Mr. Clifford Snyder - a tax collector who is mean
  • Mr. Foster - the bank president who helps Willy with the paper work.
  • Lester - a kind store clerk who runs Lester's general store.
  • Dusty the Drunk - the town drunkard who tells Willy of Stone Fox.


Stone Fox is a 1987 television adaptation of the book starring Buddy Ebsen (as Grandpa), Joey Cramer (as Willy), Gordon Tootoosis (as Stone Fox), Belinda Montgomery (as Doc Smith), J.C. Roberts (as The Mayor/Blacksmith), Dale Wilson (as Mr. Lester) and Nikky Jansen (as Sarah Foster). The film was produced by Allarcom Limited and Taft Broadcasting in association with Hanna-Barbera.

The plot in the movie is a little different from the book, Grandpa, instead of losing the desire to live, suffers a stroke, and Willy has to win the race to save his Grandpa's Cattle Ranch. At the end of the film Stone Fox leaves Willy a puppy after the death of Morgan (Searchlight). The movie was filmed at Fort Edmonton Park, Fox Drive and Whitemud Drive in Alberta, Canada.


  1. ^ a b Silvey, Anita, 2002, The Essential Guide to Children's Books and Their Creators, Houghton Mifflin Books, ISBN 0-618-19082-1.
  2. ^ a b John R. Gardiner, kids’ author, dies at 61, MSNBC.
  3. ^ Silvey, Anita, 2004, 100 Best Books for Children, Houghton Mifflin Books, ISBN 0-618-27889-3.

External links[edit]