Author: Sterling North
Major Themes: Wisconsin, World War I, Racoons, Animal Stories
Synopsis: In the spring of 1918, young Sterling and one of his buddies caught a baby raccoon, and Sterling raised it.
I remember really enjoying Rascal when I first read it many years ago, and now I finally had the opportunity to read it to my boys. They loved it, too—but I’m not sure anymore that it was such a good idea to read it to them! My 13-year-old now wants a pet raccoon (I’m thankful they don’t live here), and badly wants to build a canoe just like the boy in the story did.
The story begins in May 1918, when 11-year-old Sterling and a friend were spending an evening in the woods of Wisconsin. They found a mother raccoon and her brood in their den under a tree, and tried to catch the mother so she could raise the babies for them. Their plan failed, but they did manage to capture one of the babies. Sterling fed it with milk through a wheatstraw, and did his best all summer to keep the raccoon out of trouble. What happened, however, when the raccoon matured and started exploring the neighbor’s gardens and henhouses?
A side theme of Rascal is World War I. Sterling’s brother was a soldier, fighting in Europe, as many others from the area were, too. The war was a very real part of life in Brailsford Junction, so you get a picture of the homefront along with a charming story of a boy growing up. This is a great book for any animal-lover, especially for boys.
WARNING: Evolutionary beliefs are mentioned in chapters 4 and 6. There were some words I am not comfortable with using in chapters 4, 5, and 6—once per chapter.
Read Aloud—5 – 8, 8 – 12, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 7 – 9, 8 – 12