Harris and Me: A Summer Remembered by Gary Paulsen

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Summary

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and many other novels for adolescents, Harris and Me is a book about a special summer. It is rich in autobiographical overtones of Paulsen's own youth when problems with his alcoholic parents sent him at various times to stay with relatives. Me, the unnamed eleven-year-old narrator of the story, finds himself living on the isolated Larson farm far from the friendly town he is used to. The one person near his age and his constant companion for the summer is second cousin Harris, a Tom Sawyer-like nine-year-old, whose initial taunt, "Man, you don't know nothing, do you?" sets the stage for numerous comic adventures.

Quickly the narrator discovers that Harris is a relentless, restless instructor in the chores and games of farm life. Whether it is milking, playing soldiers in a pen of pigs, or trying to get a fair share of food at mealtime, farm life has its own rules and rituals. Few of them favor the timid and ignorant. To survive— to avoid embarrassment, exhaustion, and exploitation—the narrator learns that he must compete with Harris both physically and by his wits.

There is a rich prize for Me every time he proves that he now knows something. He learns what it means to "belong." Two weeks after his arrival at the Larsons he has all but forgotten he had another life, and he settles contentedly into a rhythm of work, backyard adventure, and biweekly drives to what passes for a town. More importantly, Me learns that the Larsons contentedly accept him, affectionately christened "Gooner" by Harris, as one of the family. The novel ends with a letter to Gooner, again with his parents as Autumn arrives, urging him to "come back home."