Classics I’ve missed

rascalWell, at least one children’s classic.  Rascal.  It was definitely published long enough ago (1963) that I should have heard about it or read it somewhere during the many happy (and sad) hours I spent reading about boys and their pets – Sounder, The Yearling, Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows.  Somehow, though, I missed this one about a raccoon and his boy.  (Just an aside, but why don’t I remember books about girls taking off in a homemade canoe with raccoons or dogs, or am forgetting something?  Were girls just not good campers?  And if that was the case, why did I spend all that time in Girl Scouts?)

Rascal is a nostalgic book, full of memories of a time long past.  Sterling has what must have looked like a dream life for a boy, although he’s still grieving the loss of his mother and is worried about his brother off in the Great War.  His dad lets him build a canoe in the house and gives Sterling more freedom than seems wise at times.  He doesn’t even blink at having a baby raccoon thrown into the mix.  Sensibilities have changed, and I doubt a wild animal as a pet would work as well in a middle grade book now, but this kinder, gentler version of family and community life still provides some interesting talking points.  How do you deal with meddling relatives?  How do you decide what’s best for you or a loved one?  How much supervision do kids really need?  Is life just too structured now?  Could you give up your electronic devices for two weeks and just live off the land?  (I’m reading it with a group of 5th graders, and I guess we have to have something to talk about when we’re “discussing” it.  We aren’t the best at staying on task.  Our last book, Number the Stars, revealed some interesting misconceptions about the geography of Denmark, royalty and Nazis, so who knows where the pet raccoon will take us?)

Now if I could just get myself to take another stab at some of that 18th century French literature I should have read in college… 

Rascal by Sterling North

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