Harris and Me
by Gary Paulsen
Paulsen choreographs an antic jig of down-on-the-farm frolics in this warm comedy set a few years after WW II. The 11-year-old narrator (who has spent a good portion of his life being shipped off to various relatives) has never seen anything like the Larson homestead, where he is sent to spend the summer; nor has he witnessed anyone like second cousin Harris, prankster extraordinaire. Initiation to country life includes a swift kick in the head by Vivian the cow, run-ins with an angry rooster and the Larson's spirited pet lynx, as well as assorted dares and humiliations conducted by nine-year-old Harris, who eventually becomes a cherished friend. Days are filled with a mixture of tough work and rough play and sometime during the course of his visit the city boy--parented by a couple of ``puke drunks'--learns the real meaning of ``home.' On the Larson farm, readers will experience hearts as large as farmers' appetites, humor as broad as the country landscape and adventures as wild as boyhood imaginations. All this adds up to a hearty helping of old-fashioned, rip-roaring entertainment. Ages 12-up.
Copyright 1993 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Paulsen can be very funny when he wants to be. In this novel, he has created a character that youngsters will love to read about, but would hate to be anywhere near in real life. Harris is a crude, rude, scheming troublemaker, but he has a sense of fun and excitement that makes readers want know what he'll do next. Like his literary predecessors Soup and The Great Brain, Harris causes most of the trouble while the less mischievous narrator gets a good part of the blame (and often the pain). Half of the laughs come about as a result of Harris's crazy ideas, like attaching a washing-machine motor to a bicycle. Equally amusing, though, is Paulsen's tongue-in-cheek first-person narration. PG-13 Award: In the spirit of exaggerated realism, there's plenty in this book to offend some adults, including French postcards, plenty of damns and hells, and more than one serious injury to Harris's "business."
Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Booklist, 1993, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.:
/*STARRED REVIEW*/ Gr. 6 and up. Although Paulsen is perhaps best known for his dramatic adventure stories, he has also, over the years, given us glimpses of wonderful comedy--in his depiction of the tobacco-spitting plumber in The Island (1988), in the self-deprecating humor and farce found in the Iditarod experiences he wrote about in Woodsong (1990), and in the wacky, not entirely successful comic novel The Boy Who Owned the School (1990). With this book, a picaresque tale of sorts, he turns the tables once and for all to prove himself a top-notch humorist--as adept at capturing character eccentricities as he is at building momentum toward riotous climax. There's none of Paulsen's familiar clipped prose in this novel. The story, a first-person retrospect, is a graceful, smoothly written series of episodes that begin as the 11-year-old narrator finds himself dumped on yet another distant relative's doorstep, home being an "impossibility" because of his parents' drinking. This time it's the farm of the Larsons--Uncle Knute, Aunt Clair, and their two children, Glennis and Harris--where he's to spend the summer. And what a summer it is, filled with back-breaking work, the like of which he's never imagined, and with the equally unexpected antics of the extraordinary nine-year-old Harris. Totally irrepressible, curious, and clever, with a rude, colorful vocabulary that's constantly earning him whacks from his vigilant sister, Harris, bib overalls flapping, leads the initially unsuspecting narrator into what can only be called SERIOUS MISCHIEF.The Larsons' 1950s hardscrabble farm, insulated from much of the outside world, is a marvelous playground for the boys. It's there they spend their free time dodging testy Buzzer, hired man Louie's mammoth cat; fighting "red indians" and "commie japs"; terrorizing horses and wrestling pigs slippery with muck; and "furthering their educations"--by learning what happens when pee hits an electric fence and when a motor from the wringer washer is attached to a plain old bike.In a way, there's as much edge-of-the-chair suspense in this rowdy, slam-bang comedy as there is in Tracker (1984). We wait with bated breath to see what kind of adventure Harris will devise next--and how it will turn out. And, in fact, by the end of the story, so much has happened that we're ready for a rest. There's more to this book than funny stuff, though. But Paulsen never loses sight of his vulnerable narrator, a classic outsider never named, who finds by the end of his summer a place he finally belongs and people who love him: "I unwrapped a piece of paper in the box and found the small figure that had been me in Louie's diorama . . . I put it on a windowsill where I could see it while I drifted to sleep that night and dreamed of horses and farms and corn and girls with blonde hair . . . and bicycles that did a hundred miles an hour, carrying a freckled boy in bibs. . . ." Truly one of Paulsen's best. (Reviewed Dec. 1, 1993)¾: Stephanie Zvirin.: