Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In Rascal: A Memoir of a Better Era, Sterling North created a story of both innocence and emerging maturity by recalling a year of his life as a young boy. The book details the lively adventures of an eleven-year-old Sterling and his pet raccoon, Rascal, during the last year of World War I. It was a simple time, but it was also a time of crisis in American life. Together, Rascal and Sterling enjoyed many pleasant adventures as Sterling faced the difficult task of growing up. North’s account of this era is divided into chapters that detail the months of the year that he and his pet spent together. Each chapter recollects the specific and important highlights of their lives as well as significant events in history.

The author’s memories of this time are both pleasant and thoughtful. Beginning with the simple excursion of two friends fishing on a May evening that led to the capture of a baby raccoon, they follow a year of new responsibility and maturity. The book chronicles the relationship that grew between boy and pet, the wonders of exploring and discovering, and the heartbreak of decisions and separation.

Rascal becomes a narrative account of the people and events that shaped that memorable year of North’s life. He gives attention to both the local and national events of the time. Summer vacation, the start of school, and the Irish Picnic and Horse Fair are aligned with the worries and casualties of war, the influenza epidemic, Armistice Day, and the eventual end of the war. Along with the joys and freedoms of childhood, the difficulties of growing up are remembered. A frequently absent father and a recently deceased mother cause Sterling to contemplate the questions of life alone. He must collar and ultimately cage Rascal by himself. As the year closes, Sterling realizes that he must face the future and deal with changes that are inevitable. Rascal chooses to return to nature, and Sterling emerges from their association resourceful and capable of moving into adulthood.


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The action of the novel takes place at the end of World War I, the point at which America was losing its innocence and developing a mature...

(The entire section is 159 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

On one level, Rascal is a simple story about a boy and his pet. The story's primary appeal lies in its realistic depiction of the...

(The entire section is 237 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Rascal never concentrates on the experiences and feelings of young people at the expense of adults. Mr. North may be a distracted, possibly...

(The entire section is 96 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. At several points in Rascal, the narrator parallels his experiences with the larger events in America during World War I. How...

(The entire section is 183 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. After conducting research on raccoons, discuss the accuracy of North's descriptions of Rascal's behavior.

2. Describe ways in...

(The entire section is 118 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

In 1965 North adapted Rascal for young children and published it as Little Rascal. In Raccoons Are the Brightest People,...

(The entire section is 79 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Commire, Anne, ed. Something about the Author. Vol. 45. Detroit: Gale Research, 1986. The entry on North, expanded from that presented...

(The entire section is 106 words.)