Thursday, June 10, 2010
"Rascal" by Sterling North
I had never heard of the Newberry Award until I was 10 and saw this book in the school library at PS 255 in Brooklyn, New York. I was in the 4th grade at the time. Now I'm 55 and I just read this 189 page book for the first time in decades. But it still has that indefineable something that holds you fast to each page.
The author, Sterling North, was raised in Wisconsin in the early part of the 20th Century. His mother passed away when he was about 7 and his father raised him alone in a large house near a lake. The authors father was always on the verge of writing his great novel, which was never published. The two lived alone and did pretty much as they pleased. Young Sterling even built a canoe in the living room.
Mr. North had a managerie of pets. But his main companion was his St. Bernard, Woowser. Together they roamed the woods and streams near the authors home. One day they came upon a surprise. A mother raccoon and her 4 babies were nestled near a tree stump. Woowser senses them and digs them out. The mother raccoon manages to escape with 3 of the 4, leaving the last one behind.
With the aid of his best freinds mother, and much to the disdain of his grown sister Theo, Sterling raises the raccoon, which he has named Rascal. The story unfolds over a one year period between 1918 and 1919, when young Sterling comes to understand that he must return Rascal to the wild.
Filled with amazing, but true, characters, both human and animal, this is the perfect summer book for the young reader. I only wish Mr. North were still alive today so that I could thank him twice for this truly wonderful story.