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4.6 out of 5 stars
Harris and Me
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2008
Gary Paulsen never shuns writing about real life to spare your kiddies' artificial innocence. His books deal with the pains and joys of childhood - parental quarrels, alcoholism, abusive behavior, etc. - more forthrightly than any other children's writer I encountered with my own son as he was learning to read, and my son loved Paulsen's book enough to choose them for himself.

"Harris and Me" is a first-person narrative, told by a boy whose dysfunctional family has sent him to live with kinfolk on a backcountry farm in Minnesota. Harris is the bigger boy whose family has the farm. He becomes the narrator's surrogate brother and role model for devil-may-care enjoyment of boyish wildness. The narrator sense that his own nature is different from Harris's but he treasures Harris's spirit. It's a quick read for an adult, a kind of hyper-condensed adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. It's funny fun for the right kid to read silently or out loud, but children raised in a household devoted to propriety may find it incomprehensible, since propriety is not a virtue on Gary Paulsen's farm.

One might suspect that this narrative, like many of Paulsen's, is semi-autobiographical. I'm very certain, however, that Paulsen has somehow gotten ahold of my unwritten memoirs, and used MY childhood for his model. I've seldom read anything that depicts the experiences of farm life, in Minnesota or in Sweden, fifty years ago or today, as accurately as this short book. I mention Sweden because I lived as a boy on a diary farm near Nykoping that was identical to Harris's. Like Paulsen, I've traveled very far, physically and culturally, from that farm, but in my heart of hearts I'm still Harris, and/or his admiring sidekick, myself. For a writer like Paulsen, "home" is not so much a place but rather a time of life.

Paulsen's most popular books are imaginative adventure tales featuring intrepid boys. "The Hatchet" is his best seller. Shorter, more personal books like "Harris and Me" are, in my opinion, better choices for kids to read, offering flashes of insight into maturity, however challenging, instead of day-dream invulnerability.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on August 13, 2005
Due to his parents' alcoholic tendencies and their inability to care properly for him, the unnamed narrator of this coming-of-age tale is forced to move from place to place throughout most of his childhood. We are told of one summer in early 1950s, which lands our eleven-year-old narrator with Harris and his family, the Larsens, who are "shirttail relatives" and have willingly taken him under their wing to live on their remote farm. The family consists of an "Aunt" Clair, "Uncle" Knute, fifteen-year-old Glennis, a sort of cousin, and her nine-year-old brother, Harris.

Although younger and smaller than the narrator, nine-year-old Harris is a wild, rambunctious, hilarious scoundrel, and he quickly initiates the narrator in the ways of rural life, whether the initiation is welcome or not. Each chapter in this book details a harebrained, yet inspired scheme that Harris concocts in order to make the farm a more interesting place to live. Each page is filled with colorful language, vividly drawn characters, and laugh-out-loud moments.

Perhaps in spite of the constant hilarity of each adventure the book resonates on a much deeper level as well, for the narrator, who has for his whole life been a rootless, wandering soul, with no one to care for him, finally finds a home in the most unlikely of places. The humor and heart-string-tugging emotion of this book will resonate long after the last page has been turned.

Highly recommended for readers nine and up!

FYI: Although the narrator remains unnamed in the book, this "novel" is rumored to be much more biographical than Gary Paulsen perhaps at time of publication wanted to be revealed. Therefore, as I teach this book to a class of 7th graders, I remind them that we can simply refer to "The Narrator" as "Gary."
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 22, 2002
This book deserves at least 10 stars. I confess, it is my favorite book of all time. Read the entire first chapter and I guarantee that you won't be able to put it down. It is hilarious!
This autobiographical novel is about the summer Gary Paulsen spent at his cousin's farm. Harris is a real person! And so is Gary - so he didn't get to choose the ending to this story. Unfortunately, Gary's parents were mean drunks. But, somehow, he survived. And he has given us some of the best survival stories kids will ever read. So, if you're looking for a sequel, pick up one of his other books. Many are based on his life.
I had the honor of meeting Gary a few years ago at an author visit. He read aloud the chapter about his experience with the electric fence. We laughed so hard, tears were streaming down our faces. This story brings back some great memories of my childhood and the wild stunts my brothers pulled when we were growing up on our family farm.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 1999
Harris and Me is set in the 1950's and is a hilarious look at farm life through an 11 year old city boy. The narrator has been sent to live with relatives to get away from his abusive alcoholic parents. The book centers on his relationship with his half cousin Harris, a rude nine year old who constantly needs a slap in the head for his profanities. All the mishaps and troubles they get into the whole summer long is well worth reading about and I guarantee you'll be laughing so hard, you'll find it hard to breathe at some points. From jumping off a barn loft onto a massive horse to peeing on an electrical wire, Harris and his cousin will make this a summer to remember. I personally loved this book and couldn't put it down. Some of the troubles Harris and his cousin got into reminded me of when I was that age. My cousin and I did about the same outrageous (and insanely stupid) stunts that they did in the book and I sometimes found myself up half the night re-reading a few parts just for laughs. I would recommend this to anyone who wants a good laugh and for that, I give it the full 5 stars.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2006
Reviewed by Nicole G.

Harris and Me is a wonderful fun-loving book that any child will adore. In the book, due to his parents' drinking problems, an 11 year-old boy is sent to live with many relatives, including the Larson family. We never learn the name of the narrator as he is just referred to as "me" and "I" throughout the book. The characters include the Larson's 9 year-old son named Harris, Glennis the daughter, Knute/Mr. Larson, Clair/Mrs. Larson and Louie a farm helper. The narrator spends his whole summer on the farm with the Larson family and is exposed to hard farm labors. Throughout the book we learn of Harris's crazy schemes, including trying to wrestle "commie japs" which are the pigs, jumping off a barn onto a horse and attaching a washing machine motor to a bicycle. The book is hilarious but there are crude elements in the book including swear words such as d*mn and h*ll, which are continuously repeated throughout the book. Unfortunately there is also some immoral content. I love the funny parts of the book and would feel more comfortable recommending it if it weren't for some of the inappropriate content.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2007
Harris and Me

By Gary Paulsen

The book Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen is a memoir about Paulsen going to live with his cousin, Harris, the summer he is 12 years old because his parents are alcoholics. The story is about all the things he does in his best summer ever. The boys have many crazy adventures with not as many consequences.

The book is a hilarious comedy about boys being boys. For example, they go out one day Gary Paulsen dares Harris to pee on an electric fence. The things that they think of will keep the reader on his or her toes. The book is best for middle school students and up.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2000
I grew up in a suburban area, but remember countless hours spent outside, laughing and breathless, playing with friends. "Harris and Me" recalls some of the energy and hijinks of childhood, arousing quite a few laughs and some nostalgia.
The story is set on a farm during the 1950s. The unnamed narrator, possibly Paulsen himself, spends a glorious summer with relatives -- his uncle Knute, Aunt Clair, and cousins Glennis and Harris. Harris becomes the narrator's constant companion and partner in crime, through hours of intense farm labor, enormous and frequent meals, and non stop high energy play.
Some of the boys' pranks are a bit too slap-stick for my tastes, such as an incident involving urinating on an electric fence. And some characters, such as the dirty, mute farmhand who seems to inhale pancakes, are little more than cartoons.
What I remember most about the book, though, are its many funny moments -- Harris believing that a movie (which he has seen several times, no less) is really happening...ambushing the pigs...attaching a motor to a bike and zooming down the road. "Harris and Me" captures the long, carefree days of childhood with joy and zest.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2001
I read this book as part of a teaching literacy course I took last semester in college, and have to say that of all the books I've ever read, this is truly a favorite. Seeing as how elementary education is my major, I've read countless books for students grades K-12, but "Harris and Me", is by far the best. It's a story told from the perspective of the boy nobobdy wants, sent to live with distant relatives on their farm. Upon meeting Harris, "Me" as the narrator is known, is engaged,(often against his will), in a series of adventures and mishaps. Written with a personal touch that is rare, this book will make you laugh aloud, and touch your heart to the point of tears. It is truly excellent. While this book would be suitable for students grades 6+, I reccommend it to any nostalgic adult who is looking for a wonderful read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2002
Although I hadn't heard much about this book when I bought it, I knew from past experience that Gary Paulsen is an awesome author. I've really loved everything I've read by him: the Hatchet series, Nightjohn, & Sarny. Well, he outdid himself this time. Harris and Me is a hilarious, yet sometimes touching, book about a boy who goes to stay with a very distant cousin and his family for the summer because his own parents are drunks. One thing that makes Gary Paulsen such a good writer is that he writes what he knows. (He was raised by alcoholic parents.) The two boys get into more trouble than Tom and Huck. Although they come from completely different backgrounds, they develop a lasting relationship. This is such a good book. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 2, 2002
A Great Adventure
A Review by Cody
A young boy, who's name is never mentioned in the story, is sent to spend a summer on his aunt and uncle's farm. Although he was raised in the city, living on the farm gave him an all kinds of adventures, stomach bulging meal, and hard chores with his cousin Harris. Harris was a wild, out of control, daredevil of a boy who always seems to get into some kind of trouble.
This story's subject really appeals to me because it takes place on a farm and is about two kids my age going on adventures and always getting in trouble, although they wouldn't always try to. It was a really funny book at times, but got serious at times. For example, when Harris broke the shotgun, and he made the boy take the blame, it was really serious because you never knew what was going to happen. The author chose the perfect length for this story. It was not to short, but it did not seem to drag. It might have been better if he would of extended it a little more, only because the ending was horrible and it just stopped.
I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who likes to read funny, adventurous, and exciting books. It is also easy, and fun to read.
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