Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Rascal" by Sterling North (1964 Newberry Honor Book)

I have reviewed this book here before. I read it for the first time in 5th grade, and many times since. Mrs. Denslow, the most saintly woman who ever taught a class, was my teacher at the time. She wore her hair in a halo braid around her head, with white blouses that buttoned up to her neck. I only mention it because she reminded me so much of the era in which this book takes place. Mrs. Denslow was born about 1904, and would have been the same age as the author, and so I must have felt like I was getting a peek into her world.

“Rascal” is the story of author Sterling North’s 18 months caring for a raccoon whom he named “Rascal” for all of the mischief he got into. He was abandoned by his mother and adopted by the author, who lived with his father in a Victorian house on the edge of a lake in Wisconsin. His father having been widowed when the author was a boy, made for an adventurous childhood, one which included building a canoe in the parlor, much to the chagrin of Mr. North’s older sister Theo. Although she did not live at home any longer, she felt the need to come and visit, criticizing all that she could.
Mr. North bonds with his new friend and they spend the next year and a half getting to know one another. Eventually, as Rascal matures, he hears the call of another, female raccoon and the author is confronted with a dilemma – should he keep the pet that he loves, or love the pet that needs to be set free?

The story takes place in the closing days of the First World War, which is probably another reason this book has endeared itself to me. Along with classics such as “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”, “Penrod-His Complete Story”, and many others, this book really takes the reader back to a much simpler time, one which you will want to re-visit again and again.

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