Rascal: A Memoir of a Better Era Critical Context - Essay

Sterling North

Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

North’s autobiography is more than a description of the events and activities of a boy growing up during World War I. Rascal has become a classic tale of friendship, describing the unique comradeship existing between Sterling and his pet. They develop a mutual respect, become family to each other, and share adventures as well as a growing awareness of the world around them. This friendship serves as preparation for a future filled with inevitable changes, responsibilities, and challenges.

Although the separation of Sterling and Rascal is poignant, readers have the knowledge of all the pair accomplished and of the qualities that will serve them well. The basic moral truths found in Rascal make the book more than a simple story of a boy and his pet raccoon; rather, it becomes an account of the relationship between humans and nature working together.

North wrote books for both adult and juvenile readerships; he was also a literary editor at various publications in the 1930’s and 1940’s. His adult works ranged from plays to an anthology containing various portrayals of the devil in literature to a collection of cocktail recipes. It is for his children’s work, however, that he is probably best remembered. His popular 1947 book So Dear to My Heart, about a boy who takes his pet lamb to compete in the state fair, was made into a film by Walt Disney two years later. Disney also produced a motion-picture adaptation of Rascal, which was released in 1969.