Bless The Beasts & Children
Bless the Beasts & Children became the late Glendon Swarthout's biggest bestseller, selling over 3 million copies in North America, with many overseas foreign language editions and never being out of print since first published in 1970. Bless the Beasts was a selection of the Literary Guild, the Doubleday Book Club, as well as a Reader's Digest condensed book. This novel was nominated by hard cover publisher Doubleday as its Pulitzer Prize candidate in Fiction for 1970. The film of Bless the Beasts by director Stanley Kramer in 1972 was not as successful, but it did contain a famous, Oscar-nominated theme song by the Carpenters and its music score has been released as "Nadia's Theme," from the 1972 Olympics and is still heard today as the theme music from CBS Television's long-running soap opera, "The Young and the Restless."
This 25th anniversary edition of this juvenile classic, which includes an Afterword by the author's son, Miles Swarthout, answering some of the questions teenagers have written in about this story from their high school and college literature classes across America, giving them a better understanding of this famous novel, one of the first books to ever deal with the environmental subject of animal rights.
Based upon my adventures as a summer camper and counselor at a private boys' ranch camp in Prescott, Arizona, Bless the Beasts & Children tells a tragicomic tale of a group of disturbed teenaged boys from over-privileged families who are "warehoused" by their inattentive parents at a summer session at an Arizona boys camp in hopes that their lazy, urban kids will be toughened-up in this camp's rigorous cowboy program. While on a field trip with their militaristic counselor, Wheaties, the boys see an annual buffalo "hunt" sponsored by the Arizona Fish and Game department, in which their counselor has drawn a permit. Sickened by the slaughter of these great beasts while trapped in big pens by these "sportsmen," the youths resolve to save the next day's allotment of 30 buffalo. Riding from their forest camp later that day on horses, the boys steal a pickup in Prescott and head up to Flagstaff on their mission-of-mercy. Complications arise, but these problem boys band together and manage to free these national symbols, but only after strenous effort and at great cost.
Glendon Swarthout's more positive response to William Golding's Lord of the Flies, and Golding's thesis that all men are basically beasts, stands as one of the first contemporary bestsellers to take up the cause of animal rights. Bless the Beasts remains one of the few controversial novels which ever resulted in some political change and social good -- the Arizona legislature mandated changing the regulations of their annual buffalo hunt to more humane practices due to student protests resulting from this book and film. Glendon's theme that even a group of misfit youths, if banded together in common cause, were capable of a great, heroic deed, still resonates strongly with American teenagers and their teachers, and this classic novel is still mandatory reading in many English classrooms across America.