*Pocket Books 25th anniversary edition ISBN 0-671-52151-9.
Pocket Books Enriched Classics edition ISBN 0-7434-9369-9
Click here to read the first pages of Glendon Swarthout’s masterpiece about teenaged summer campers trying to save an Arizona buffalo herd from inhumane slaughter in the bestselling classic – Bless the Beasts & Children.
Bless the Beasts & Children became far and away Glendon Swarthout's biggest bestseller, never out-of-print from the day it was published in 1970, and is probably his masterpiece. It was a selection of the Literary Guild, the Doubleday Book Club, as well as a Reader's Digest Condensed Book. It has been published in foreign languages all over the world, even in Romania, twenty-five years later! Bless the Beasts & Children has sold well over 3 million paperbacks in the United States alone, and the latest Pocket Books 25th anniversary edition with a special introduction by Miles Swarthout, continues to be used in high school and college literature classes across the country. The novel was nominated by Doubleday as its Pulitzer Prize candidate in fiction in 1970. The film by Stanley Kramer in 1972 was not nearly as successful, but did contain some famous film music and can still be seen on television regularly (see film listings).
Based upon his only son's adventures in high school and 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 days' allotment. Riding from their camp later that day on their horses, the boys steal a pickup in Prescott and head on 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 strenuous effort and at great cost.
Glendon Swarthout's more positive response to William Golding's classic novel, 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. It remains to this day one of the few controversial novels which ever resulted in some political change and social good -- the Arizona legislature mandated changing the regulation of their annual buffalo hunt to more humane practices due to the 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 literature classrooms across the country today.
"Bless the Beasts & Children is alternately hilarious and scalding, pathetic and poignant. But it is never maudlin; its heroes' buffoonery never overshadows the cruelty that has shaped their lives. They, like the buffalo they set out to free, come face to face with their own freedom. But the price, the price . . ." Jim Hampton, National Observer.
"This is Mr. Swarthout's best novel since They Came To Cordura, an exciting mission-pursuit story with an engrossing cast of characters." Publisher's Weekly.
" Swarthout's thematic concerns -- the American Dream, the subduing of a continent and its inhabitants, sacrifice and brotherly love -- are integral to the narrative. 'Powerful' is a tired word to use on a novel, but how else is there to describe a book that leaves you limp? The best I could do after staring at the last page for several minutes was a respectful 'wow'." Catherine Petroski, the Austin, Texas Statesman.
"It's a novel that no reader, once hooked, can put down. It is both tragically sad and funny, both nostalgic and frighteningly contemporary. And it tells us something about our times that too many are trying to overlook. You shouldn't miss this one." Nard Jones, Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
"Glendon Swarthout's latest work is a superb example of the kind of novel that evolves when a writer's craft is equal to the grandeur of his theme. Bless the Beasts & Children is a compassionate book, a true book, a book of the heart; it is also a compelling drama that grabs you with a grip that can't be pried loose . . . With this novel, Glendon Swarthout has added something fine and important to the literature of our age." Novelist Brian Garfield, the Saturday Review of Literature
no mistake -- this book, despite its placid surface story, is really a
tale of horror and cruelty, of honor and compassion, of savagery
and serenity. In short, it is a brilliant statement of the human condition . . . a book which uses
litotes -- the sort of understatement which only a gifted novelist can
use effectively -- to tell us things about ourselves which we
may not wish to know."
"Bless the Beasts & Children is a beautiful novel. It is tightly written, with a singleness of purpose that sets up a tension relieved only when the final page is finished. Even then the boys, their motivation, and the culmination of their actions will long remain with the reader -- to haunt him and to remind him how traumatic reaching for adulthood really is." Shirley Sievers, South Bend, Indiana Tribune.
"Well-written, almost poetically sparse, author Swarthout's ninth book adds to his prestige the acclaim that he handles the characters of runaway kids every bit as easily as he maneuvered rebellious soldiers in They Came To Cordura." The Los Angeles Times Calendar.
"This is one of the rare books whose impact will far exceed its size. A brief synopsis of the plot cannot prepare the reader for the emotional involvement he will encounter . . . Truly an excellent book." Nancy Chalfant, Sunday News&Leader, Springfield, Missouri.
"The initial pages of Bless the Beasts & Children are as dramatic and absorbing as anything this reviewer has read in a long, long time and the intensity of mood is sustained and heightened throughout the novel. Like all good fiction Bless the Beasts can be read on more than one level. It is at a minimum, a rattling good action story, which is quite an accomplishment for a novel which has for its main characters six adolescent boys at a summer camp. On a deeper level it is a record of the triumph of the human spirit over the vulgarity, sham, and cruelty of our time." Elliott R. Horton, Morgantown, West Virginia Dominion Post.
"Mr. Swarthout has written a parable of our time which on another level is a splendid and very funny adventure story. He says that in spite of all, the human spirit will prevail . . . Bless the Beasts & Children is a sort of Lord of the Flies with hope. It will make your day a little better and you won't soon forget it." L.T. Hammond, Jr., Asheboro, North Carolina Courier Tribune.
"The completion of their mission is heroic in the grand Swarthout manner -- and also in his manner, the ending leaves a king-size lump in the reader's throat over the irony that bludgeons idealistic innocence." Pat Hanna, Rocky Mountain News, Denver.
"Swarthout's tale is so funny, and heartbreaking, that the ugly vulgarity of our times which has thrown these beasts and children together is almost forgotten. The passage from adolescence to maturity has been a favorite theme for such writers as Salinger, Conroy, James Kirkwood and William Bradford. But none of them has written of it with such warmth and joy and understanding. You will not soon forget the Bedwetters or the magnificient beasts -- the buffalo -- which share their adventure." Robert Armstrong, Minneapolis Tribune.
"Bless the Beasts & Children might have been self-conscious. Instead it is a wonderful book in which a provocative subject is handled with wit and compassion." Thelma Altshuler, Miami Herald
"A powerful, absorbing, tenderly written novel, a knowing comment on today's world, Bless the Beasts & Children is an unforgettable experience." Louise Rogers, Greenville, Mississippi Delta Democrat-Times
"Glendon Swarthout has written a strangely moving little story of six boys who set out on a mission of violence to avenge with they felt was unbearable cruelty . . . The author interrupts the swift and violent record of the boys' deeds to insert vignettes of their lives. The result is strangely compelling." Fannie Butcher, Chicago Tribune
"When you read the book be prepared to laugh and cry. I cried more than I laughed. This outstanding novel will surely find a place on library
shelves of school libraries as well as those of all who are concerned
with the young people who become dropouts, runaways and lost segments of
society. In addition, it is
fast-moving and easy
to read. The
students will wait in line to read it."
"This is Swarthout at his finest. He has told a tale about children without the triteness or cuteness that usually accompanies tales about children. These are real kids; products of an affluent American culture that furnishes children transistor radios and color televisions to ward off loneliness. It is a compactly told story, dreadful in its implications, yet filled with tender, bittersweet moments as six lonely little kids struggle to find themselves and, at the same time, to affirm, ritualistically, the goodness of God." Frederic Kelly, New Haven, Connecticut Register