Harris and Meby Gary Paulsen, Sandpiper, 2007, 168 pages, ISBN: 015205880X
Reading Harris and Me is the most fun anybody can have between the covers of a book. Originally published in 1993, Harris and Me is the best story Gary Paulsen (Hatchet) has ever written, and I suspect it is based on a summer he himself spent with a cousin on a farm. This is a twentieth-century Tom-and-Huck story. Harris, the instigator, is Tom, and Me, the narrator who is never named, is Huck, the cast-off child of drunks.
Our narrator is sent to spend a summer with his distant cousins on a farm in a remote part of Minnesota. Being a city boy, he is not used to the hard work--or hard play--of a farm. The farm is owned by Knute Larson, a big man who hardly ever talks but can take down a bull with his fist, and his wife Claire who mothers our affection-starved narrator. They have two children: the mischievous Harris and Glennis, Harris's older sister who whacks Harris in the back of the head every time he swears--and that's a lot of head whacking. Also on the farm is Louie, the hired hand who never bathes and hoovers up all the food in reach. Try as they might, Harris and his cousin cannot get any food while Louie is at the table. Harris takes his new friend on a daring roller coaster of a ride through the summer: Our narrator is kicked in the head by a cow, forced to engage in hand-to-hand combat with 300-pound-pigs, and must learn to dodge the attacks of Ernie the rooster and Louie's pet lynx Buzzer. But our narrator learns fast, and before the summer's over he'll take Harris on a ride of his own making.
Harris and Me is a glimpse into the childhood of the past when childhood was fun and not a bit safe. Set in the post-war late forties, this nostalgic story will thrill the over-scheduled, video-driven kid of the twenty-first century. The pacing is fast, the action daring, the storytelling hilarious, and the ending very poignant. This story will entertain and charm even the most bibliophobic of middle school students.