Thursday, August 8, 2013

Harris and Me, by Gary Paulsen

I can't help myself! I keep reviewing books by Gary Paulsen. But he's just so good! How good? Harris and Me reminds me of Tom Sawyer (The book, not movie.), that's how good. It also reminds me of another of Paulsen's books, How Angel Peterson Got His Name. If you liked that one, you owe it to yourself to read Harris and Me.

A young city boy is sent to spend the summer on his aunt and uncle's farm. Though he has lived many places over the years, he has never experienced anything like farm life . . . and he has never met anyone like Harris, his daredevil of a cousin (Publishers blurb).

I didn't know I was in love until it was all over and it was too late to do anything about it...

She had wide blue eyes and blond hair in braids that hung down her back, and she smiled and didn't look away when I looked at her, and I thought I would die.

"Hi. I'm Elaine...

"I've been staying with my grandmother in North Dakota..."

She said it like it was another country and I thought I might tell her that I had lived in the Philippines... and in Texas and had seen California and pretty much everything in between but nothing, absolutely nothing came out.

I don't know how long we could have gone on like that, her talking, me with my tongue clove to the roof of my mouth, wishing I could disappear, but time kicked in and took over. It was late... and the rest of the kids came out of the back room.

Harris spied me instantly and took in the situation in a glance. He came up to the table -- the ubiquitous bottle of orange pop in his hand -- and plunked down in a chair.

I made eye motions at him to leave but he ignored them and spoke to Elaine.

"How do you like my cousin?"

She smiled. "He seems nice."

Harris shook his head. "That's what I thought but he ain't right."

I pushed at his shoulder.

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"In the head. He ain't right. It was something to do with when he was borned. They cut the cord too fast or something and his brain didn't get into the light. Brains got to get into the light or they don't work right. You remember that Severson kid? How he kept leaning left and ate his snot all the time?" Harris pointed at me with his chin. "It's the same with him."

"Not true...," I said, or attempted to -- it really came out as more of a blapp. The shyness had gotten worse and I was now in the position of having to convince Elaine that I was indeed "right in the head" and did not eat my snot, without being able to speak but it was too late. Elaine was studying me with a new look, one of pity, and she smiled -- not unkindly -- and nodded and left me sitting there with Harris, fuming.

"I'll get you for this," I told him...

And as luck would have it I got my chance the very next day.


It's not easy to tell how fun this story is with a short selection like that. And I wondered as I read how much of it Paulsen took from his own life. Certainly some of it is based on his boyhood.

A reviewer for Booklist calls Harris and Me "Truly one of Paulsen's best." I have to agree. And that's saying something.


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