Historical fiction is fiction that takes place in the past. What clues tell you that Old Yeller takes place in the past?
In 1867, Travis, fourteen, was in charge of the family homestead in the Texas frontier while his father was away. He lived with his mother, his five-year-old brother, named Arliss, and a stray yellow dog they called Old Yeller.
Little Arliss was growing up catching and bringing home every living thing he could find. Before Old Yeller came, he caught and stuffed his pockets with bugs and little lizards and even a speckled spring frog. But after, Little Arliss started bringing home rabbits and birds and even a baby possum. He would go to Mama and tell her a big fib about how he had caught the creature himself. She called his stories "windies" and later laughed. Once, when Travis tried to tell her how Old Yeller, not Little Arliss, had caught a catfish, she told Travis that he used to tell whoppers himself, when he was young.
One afternoon Travis was splitting logs to make a fence. He stopped, worn down to a nub from all the chopping, and was about to go home when he heard Little Arliss scream. It wasn't a scream like he usually made when he was playing. This scream was frantic-sounding. Travis took off running toward the creek. He heard a whimpering sound, too, and then the roar of a bear. He saw Mama running from the house.
This time Little Arliss had caught a bear cub. The cub was crying and the mama bear came roaring toward the bank, where Little Arliss was holding her baby by its rear leg. Travis and Mama were too far away to do anything but yell at Little Arliss to let go of the cub. He was screaming and too scared to listen. The she-bear came lunging toward them. Suddenly they saw a yellow flash come out of the bushes.
It was Old Yeller. He jumped and grabbed the charging bear by the neck. They fought with fangs, and the bear grabbed at the dog with her claws. She tossed him to the ground. But, crying with pain, he kept jumping up and biting her, again and again. Travis grabbed Little Arliss, slung him toward Mama, and yelled to run.
Then she called to Travis to run too. He took off for the house. He got there about the same time as Old Yeller, who had outrun the bear. Once inside, he barked and licked everyone on the face and acted like they'd all been part of a rowdy romp.
From Old Yeller by Fred Gipson. Copyright © 1956 by Fred Gipson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © Pearson Education.
by Walter Dean Myers
Realistic fiction stories have settings and characters that seem real, even though the stories are made up.
Lucinda and her family had escaped from Cuba six months ago and ended up in New Jersey. Where once she had seen wild flowers and greenery, now Lucinda saw huge apartment buildings and paved backyards. Though most of her classmates were also from Spanish-speaking countries, Lucinda felt left out except for one girl, Ashley, a quiet blonde who said hi to her in the corridors. She also felt left out at home, because her parents were often away at their new jobs and her brother was playing on the school baseball team.
One day, on her way home from school, she saw a small, shaggy mongrel with matted hair. Tied to a tree, he was scared and menacing, so she calmed him. She knew pets weren't allowed in their building, but she untied him and then carried him under her coat up the eight flights of stairs to their apartment. While he devoured the leftovers and water she brought him, she saw a paper in his collar that said his name was Chauncey. She scrubbed him in the bathtub and then persisted in cutting out the mats. Lucinda promised to find him a good home, but first she had to get him out of the apartment.
She carried him down nine floors to the basement, to a small room with the building's electrical equipment, and left him there despite his pleas. She was eating dinner when the lights went out. "Que paso!" Papa said. Someone outside the door yelled that people were stuck in the elevator; Mama was groping for candles.
Lucinda ran downstairs, knowing that Chauncey had jumped against a switch, but the fire department had gotten there first. She went outside calling his name; he was gone. She then walked toward the house she had once seen Ashley go into. Ashley was outside with all the other neighbors and looked pleased to see her.
Lucinda asked her what happens to lost dogs. Ashley said they are taken to the pound and possibly killed, and Lucinda began to cry. She told Ashley about Chauncey, and the two went looking for him. Then they sat down on a bench and began to talk. Ashley wanted to be a writer; Lucinda told her that she wanted to be a ballerina. They made plans for lunch the next day.
When Lucinda got home, Papa was furious she had gone away without telling them. Before she could say anything, the lights went out again. Chauncey was back! This time Lucinda raced to the basement, scooped him up, and carried him to Ashley's doorstep, just as the first fire engine reached its destination.
"Viva New Jersey" by Gloria Gonzalez, copyright © 1993 by Gloria Gonzalez, from Join In, Multiethnic Short Stories by Donald R. Gallo, editor. Used by permission of Dell Publishing, a division of Random House, Inc.
Copyright © Pearson Education.
Realistic fiction is fiction about imaginary people and events that could be possible.
Patrolman O'Brien worked in Harlem, where everybody knew Mother Fletcher. She was more than ninety and knew the neighborhood's history. One day when he was on foot patrol, a young black girl came running up to him and said that Mother Fletcher was sick. Officer O'Brien followed her to a small, spotless apartment with shiny brass fixtures. Mother Fletcher, dark eyes bright, told him to call her an ambulance on his radio. When he asked her age, she answered, "Full-grown." The ambulance came, he wrote up the incident, and forgot about it.
The next week, a flimsy package with his shield number came to the station. When Officer O'Brien opened it, he saw a green cardigan sweater. Mother Fletcher had knit it for him. He stopped by to thank her and told her his wife was jealous. Three weeks later a sweater for his wife arrived.
Officer O'Brien spoke to the old woman when he saw her shopping. He started to write down what she said; he wanted to figure out how old she really was. Even though he subscribed to the precinct motto not to take work home, he told his wife, Kathy, about her. One night he mentioned that she had invited the O'Briens to Christmas dinner. He had said that yes, they would come. But he said that no one would really expect them to. He and Kathy argued. Their daughter, Meaghan, six, wanted to go too.
On Christmas morning, Kathy and Meagan put on their coats. They were going to Mother Fletcher's, they said. Officer O'Brien reluctantly took them. When they got there, Mother Fletcher was dressed up, and the aroma of ham in the oven filled the apartment. Meaghan said that her father hadn't wanted to come; he said he hadn't wanted to inconvenience anyone. Mother Fletcher was apparently busy being hostess.
Kathy talked with the old woman as they got dinner ready together. "Well, honey, let me tell you something," Mother Fletcher said. "You don't survive.sitting around expecting folks to act right. 'Cause the more you expect the more you get your heart broke up. But you got to be ready when they do act right because that's what makes the surviving worth surviving.."
Then she asked if Kathy didn't want to ask her how old she was. Kathy told her she wasn't as old as Santa Claus. That started Mother Fletcher telling stories about remembering Santa when he was a boy. It was a Christmas dinner they would never forget!
"Mother Fletcher's Gift" (originally titled "A Christmas Story") from 145th Street: Short Stories by Walter Dean Myers, copyright © 2000 by Walter Dean Myers. Used by permission of Random House Children's Books, a division of Random House Inc.
Copyright © Pearson Education.