Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Set in northern Minnesota in the period prior to mechanized farming, this short novel is narrated by eleven-year-old Eldon, who lives on an eighty-acre farm with his parents, older brother Wayne, his father’s Uncle David, and David’s friend Nels. Eldon, a third-generation Norwegian American, presents a picture of a simpler way of life as he describes what he likes and dislikes about life during each of the four seasons. Gary Paulsen provides crisp and sometimes graphic descriptions of the softness of spring when the land thaws, the back-breaking work of summer thrashing, the autumn slaughter of pigs and chickens, and the camouflaging snows of winter. Work, particularly repetitive, physical labor, is the major component of the lifestyle that Eldon depicts. The love and bonds among Eldon’s extended family compensates for the lack of material comforts and the isolation of the family from the rest of society. Paulsen also includes some vignettes about the pranks of Eldon and his brother, as well as vivid profiles of Eldon’s father and his Uncle David. Eldon’s mother, for the most part, remains a shadowy figure in the book.

Although Eldon finds some attractive elements in each of the seasons, he loves winter best without question because it is the time when Uncle David enlivens the evenings with his stories, four of which conclude the book: the story of the death of Uncle David’s young wife, Alida; a Norse legend; a tall tale about a practical...

(The entire section is 477 words.)