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The Beet Fields Paperback – February 8, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The striking cover picture of a beautiful young man's bare, muscular back foreshadows the sensuality of this brilliant autobiographical novel for older boys by the author of Hatchet and Soldier's Heart. In this remarkable book, Gary Paulsen reworks material from his own life that has appeared earlier in his novels, to tell--with simple words and Hemingwayesque cadences--the story of a summer when a 16-year-old boy became a man.

Fleeing his mother's confusing drunken advances, a boy runs away and finds work in the beet fields of North Dakota. Wielding a hoe for long, hot days, he learns about cruelty from the farmer's wife and about kindness from his Mexican coworkers. Later an attraction to a girl glimpsed only once leads him into accepting a job driving a tractor, but a brush with the deputy sheriff sends him running again, only to be taken in by a sleazy carnival as a roustabout. He learns to shill for the geek, a fake wild man of Borneo who bites the heads off chickens, and yearns for Ruby, the voluptuous hootchy-kootchy dancer. During the summer the boy learns about life and people and his own ability to work and survive, and when Ruby invites him into her bed, his transition to manhood is complete.

While the sensual scenes and occasionally gritty language may make this novel problematic for adults, there is not a 15-year-old boy around who would not find that this poetic, powerful novel speaks to his soul. (Ages 14 and older) --Patty Campbell --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

No stranger to memoir, Paulsen (My Life in Dog Years; Father Water, Mother Woods) returns to a series of episodes he previously fictionalized in the 1977 Tiltawhirl John and now presents the material "as real as I can write it, and as real as I can remember it happening," as he says in an author's note. It is punishingly harsh stuff: 16 years old in 1955, "the boy," as he is called throughout, wakes up to find his drunk mother in his bed and realizes that tonight "something [is] different, wrong, about her need for him." He runs away and lands a backbreaking job on a beet farm in North Dakota, where his wages are cancelled out by the farmer's charges for the use of his hoe, for the tumbledown lodgings and for the only food available, sandwiches made of week-old bread that cost a dollar apiece. Eventually the boy starts working with a carnival, where he learns carny scams and is initiated into sex by the carnival stripper, Ruby. In a mannered prose style, Paulsen serves up strings of studied, impartial observations in paragraph-long sentences. The technique calls attention to itself, as does the occasional circumlocution (e.g., the seemingly endless sentence describing intercourse with Ruby concludes with "sinking into the wetness, the forever-warm wetness of Ruby"). Paulsen fans, however, will probably respond to the vote of confidence in their ability to handle such gritty subjects, and no one can fail to appreciate the author's transcendence of the appalling circumstances he describes. Ages 14-up.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 174 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (February 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375873058
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375873058
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,027,719 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gary Paulsen is one of the most honored writers of contemporary literature for young readers. He has written more than one hundred book for adults and young readers, and is the author of three Newberry Honor titles: Dogsong, Hatchet, and The Winter Room. He divides his time among Alaska, New Mexico, Minnesota, and the Pacific.

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

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#49 in Books > Teens
#49 in Books > Teens

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jan Chapman on October 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Paulsen's The Beet Fields does indeed evoke Hemingway in its spare, evocative prose. I have been a bit underwhelmed by some of Paulsen's recent fiction for young adults and was pleasantly surprised to read such a superb memoir. Yes, I did buy it for the young adult collection of my library and am puzzled by another reviewer's comment that it was "inappropriate" for her library. It is indeed unflinching in its look at Paulsen's often brutal childhood experiences, but that makes it all the more memorable.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on April 22, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The book The Beet Fields is about Gary Paulsen�s teenage years. Paulsen is famous for the books that he writes and for running the Iditarod, a 1200-mile race for Iditarod Alaska to Nome. His accomplishments in The Beet Fields are that he runs away from home at sixteen, works the fields with immigrants, and learns to support himself. The book focuses on people helping other people because they want to, not because they have to. The parts that seemed glossed over were why he left home, where his father was, and that the book just ends.
The book was easy to read and understand. Information is well organized and in order. The strongest aspect of the book was that a sixteen-year-old boy ran away from home and supported himself by doing odd jobs. The ending and beginning need to be improved because the end just ends and the beginning does not give you any background.
I gave four stars to the book because it is an incredible book, and has a lot of details. I would recommend the book to people who enjoy adventure, and suspense, because it takes you all over South Dakota. Paulsen is trying to tell us that there is more to people then we think, and that we should get to know people before we put them down. I think it is an important message because I get to know people first, like he dose in his books. Paulsen passes his message successfully through his books.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Celina on July 23, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I really liked this book. Despite some more adult conten that, no, would not be apropriate for even i think 13 and/or 14 year olds, for the appropriate age group it is a great read! I have been through so many paulson books I can barely remember them all, but it still amazes me that gary can write on so many subjects. A breakaway from the usual adventure outdoors books, and even the indian and american historical books, this book still shows off paulson's love an talent for drawing in all kinds of people. This is not just a book for tean-age boys, though if you refuse to read anything else read this. The struggles "the boy" goes through are very real and very interesting. His freindship with the mexicans helps to show that when in need and in the real world diversity does not matter, and his latching onto carneys is a great turn of events. This book shows the value of hard work and is of course a coming of age book, but if anything it is definately a paulson book and i thouroughly enjoyed it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Cathy A Belben on September 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Gary Paulsen's latest installment in his collection of memoirs is a glimpse into his sixteenth summer, when he left his drunken parents to pursue life on his own. He takes work as a laborer in the beet fields, where he befriends Mexican workers and learns to hunt pigeons with his bare hands, and later does farm work, joins the crew of a traveling carnival, and learns about lust and love from an older, much more experienced woman.
While this isn't a book for younger readers, it will most definitely find an audience with teenagers who are familiar with Paulsen's writing and yearn to know more about his hardships and adventures when he was their age. Readers who enjoyed Hatchet and its sequels will find that the details of Brian's survival in the wilderness find an equally appealing match in the stories of Paulsen's own survival on the road in The Beet Fields.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
A Review by Clint
This book is about a boy with a troubled home life so he decides to take a chance and help himself. He finds many friends along the North Dakota prairies that give hope but his old life continues to trouble him. He has troubles with the law, girls and again his former life.
This book seems somewhat real but is still fictional. It fits right in with the rest of the books that you may have read about being lost in this world. The characters in the book are seemingly real almost all are hard working farm hands or illegal Mexicans and some are alcoholics. The book does not have a ton of action but it kept me wanting to know more.
I suggest that anyone who has ever read a Gay Paulsen book and liked it read this book. I personally think this book is one of the top 15 books I've ever read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
While I might have my qualms about 14 year olds reading this too, I thought it depicted the way a teenager thinks about the mysterious of sex very well. I am a little disappointed about the "unfinished" aspect of the end, and abrupt changes in the different settings, the writing more than makes up for it. You are able to stand in "the boy's" shoes and feel and think like he does. Like all Paulsen books, it is good for reluctant (male?) readers, and my favorite one so far.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lisa (sweetheart1844@aol.com) on June 22, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I personally don't read books that often, but I needed a books for a class project,so I chose this one. I was surprised because this book is really good. I would recommend it to anyone that just wants something to read. There are many interesting facts that the author portrays in the book. This book understands some of the different things a young adult may go through in life. The author did a very good job on writing this book.
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