Little Willy's grandfather is sick, and it's up to Willy to save their farm from tax collectors. Their only hope is the prize money from the National Dogsled Race. But a lot of other people want to win the race, too, including Stone Fox, who has never lost a race in his life.
Do Willy and his dog Searchlight stand a chance against the toughest racers around? Can they win the race to save the farm and Grandfather before it's too late?
About the Author
John Reynolds Gardiner, an engineer by profession, has also worked as a writer adapting children's stories for television.
A native of Los Angeles, he has lived in West Germany, Central America, and the state of Idaho, where he first heard the legend that is the basis for Stone Fox, his first published work. He is also the author of Top Secret and General Butterfingers.
Mr. Gardiner lives in Huntington Beach, California, with his wife, Gloria, and their three daughters: Carrie, Alicia, and Danielle.
Read an Excerpt
One day Grandfather wouldn't get out of bed. He just lay there and stared at the ceiling and looked sad.
At first little Willy thought he was playing.
Little Willy lived with his grandfather on a small potato farm in Wyoming. It was hard work living on a potato farm, but it was also a lot of fun. Especially when Grandfather felt like playing.
Like the time Grandfather dressed up as the scarecrow out in the garden. It took little Willy an hour to catch on. Boy, did they laugh. Grandfather laughed so hard he cried. And when he cried his beard filled up with tears.
Grandfather always got up real early in the morning. So early that it was still dark outside. He would make a fire. Then he would make breakfast and call little Willy. "Hurry up or you'll be eating with the chickens," he would say. Then he would throw his head back and laugh.
Once little Willy went back to sleep. When he woke up, he found his plate out in the chicken coop. It was picked clean. He never slept late again after that.
That is ... until this morning. For some reason Grandfather had forgotten to call him. That's when little Willy discovered that Grandfather was still in bed. There could be only one explanation. Grandfather was playing. It was another trick.
Or was it?
"Get up, Grandfather," little Willy said. "I don't want to play anymore."
But Grandfather didn't answer.
Little Willy ran out of the house.
A dog was sleeping on the front porch. "Come on, Searchlight!" little Willy cried out. The dog jumped to its feet and together they ran off down theroad.
Searchlight was a big black dog. She had a white spot on her forehead the size of a silver dollar. She was an old dog -- actually born on the same day as little Willy, which was over ten years ago.
A mile down the road they came to a small log cabin surrounded by tall trees. Doc Smith was sitting in a rocking chair under one of the trees, reading a book.
"Doc Smith," little Willy called out. He was out of breath. "Come quick."
"What seems to be the matter, Willy?" the doctor asked, continuing to read.
Doc Smith had snow white hair and wore a long black dress. Her skin was tan and her face was covered with wrinkles.
"Grandfather won't answer me," little Willy said.
"Probably just another trick," Doc Smith replied. "Nothing to worry about."
"But he's still in bed."
Doc Smith turned a page and continued to read. "How late did you two stay up last night?"
"We went to bed early, real early. No singing or music or anything."
Doc Smith stopped reading.
"Your grandfather went to bed without playing his harmonica?" she asked.
Little Willy nodded.
Doc Smith shut her book and stood up. "Hitch up Rex for me, Willy," she said. "I'll get my bag. "
Rex was Doc Smith's horse. He was a handsome palomino. Little Willy hitched Rex to the wagon, and then they rode back to Grandfather's farm. Searchlight ran on ahead, leading the way and barking. Searchlight enjoyed a good run.
Grandfather was just the same. He hadn't moved.
Searchlight put her big front paws up on the bed and rested her head on Grandfather's chest. She licked his beard, which was full of tears.
Doc Smith proceeded to examine Grandfather. She used just about everything in her little black bag.
"What's that for?" little Willy asked. "What are you doing now?"
"Must you ask so many questions?" Doc Smith said.
"Grandfather says it's good to ask questions."
Doc Smith pulled a long silver object from her doctor's bag.
"What's that for?" little Willy asked.
"Yes, ma'am. I'm sorry."
When Doc Smith had finished her examination, she put everything back into her little black bag. Then she walked over to the window and looked out at the field of potatoes.
After a moment she asked, "How's the crop this year, Willy?"
"Grandfather says it's the best ever."
Doc Smith rubbed her wrinkled face.
"What's wrong with him?" little Willy asked.
"Do you owe anybody money?" she asked.
"No!" little Willy answered. :'What's wrong? Why won't you tell me what's wrong?"
"That's just it," she said. "There is nothing wrong with him."
"You mean he's not sick?"
"Medically, he's as healthy as an ox. Could live to be a hundred if he wanted to."
"I don't understand," little Willy said.
Doc Smith took a deep breath. And then she began, "It happens when a person gives up. Gives up on life. For whatever reason. Starts up here in the mind first; then it spreads to the body. It's a real sickness, all right. And there's no cure except in the person's own mind. I'm sorry, child, but it appears that your grandfather just doesn't want to live anymore."
Little Willy was silent for a long time before he spoke. "But what about ... fishing ... and the Rodeo ... and turkey dinners? Doesn't he want to do those things anymore?"
Grandfather shut his eyes and tears rolled down his cheeks and disappeared into his beard.
"I'm sure he does," Doc Smith said, putting her arm around little Willy. "It must be something else. "
Little Willy stared at the floor. "I'll find out. I'll find out what's wrong and make it better. You'll see. I'll make Grandfather want to live again."
And Searchlight barked loudly.Stone Fox. Copyright © by John Gardiner. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
My favorite character in this book is Little Willy because He's nice ,and he works hard ,and he raced StoneFox.