HARRIS AND ME

A SUMMER REMEMBERED

As the boy explains, he's 11 years old that early-50's summer when a deputy sheriff dumps him with distant relatives on a north country farm—one in a long succession of makeshifts arranged in lieu of the parents who drink Four Roses neat from jelly jars and are "pretty much mean whenever they [are] conscious." The Larsons are sturdy, rough folk; Knute is virtually silent, though he's the source of his nine-year-old son Harris's richly profane vocabulary, which invariably elicits harsh (but ineffective) blows from "strapping" sister Glennis. In Harris's charge, the boy learns, the hard way, to avoid the cow with a brutal kick and the mouse-devouring "cat" that's actually a lynx. Ignored by their busy elders, Harris's imagination regularly gets the two into freewheeling "trouble" as dangerous as it is hilarious—trouble involving the two giant horses, or a runaway bike fitted with Harris's mother's gasoline washing-machine motor. By summer's end, the boy has learned to match Harris's wild pranks (he challenges Harris to urinate on an electric fence, with the expected result) and has fathomed the true humanity of the characters he so vividly and comically describes (the hired man gulping pancakes, syrup in his beard, is unforgettable). Just when he and the Larsons begin to regard each other as family, the boy is wrenched away. Poignantly, after one lonely letter from Harris, the book ends. The fecund Paulsen continues to extend his range: an earthy, wonderfully comic piece. (Fiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-15-292877-4

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1993

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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An engaging novel-in-poems that imagines one earnest, impassioned teenage girl’s experience of the Japanese-American...

DUST OF EDEN

Crystal-clear prose poems paint a heart-rending picture of 13-year-old Mina Masako Tagawa’s journey from Seattle to a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II.

This vividly wrought story of displacement, told from Mina’s first-person perspective, begins as it did for so many Japanese-Americans: with the bombs dropping on Pearl Harbor. The backlash of her Seattle community is instantaneous (“Jap, Jap, Jap, the word bounces / around the walls of the hall”), and Mina chronicles its effects on her family with a heavy heart. “I am an American, I scream / in my head, but my mouth is stuffed / with rocks; my body is a stone, like the statue / of a little Buddha Grandpa prays to.” When Roosevelt decrees that West Coast Japanese-Americans are to be imprisoned in inland camps, the Tagawas board up their house, leaving the cat, Grandpa’s roses and Mina’s best friend behind. Following the Tagawas from Washington’s Puyallup Assembly Center to Idaho’s Minidoka Relocation Center (near the titular town of Eden), the narrative continues in poems and letters. In them, injustices such as endless camp lines sit alongside even larger ones, such as the government’s asking interned young men, including Mina’s brother, to fight for America.

An engaging novel-in-poems that imagines one earnest, impassioned teenage girl’s experience of the Japanese-American internment. (historical note) (Verse/historical fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1739-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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