cover image Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass

Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass

Gary Paulsen. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $19.95 (120pp) ISBN 978-0-15-118101-8

Gary Paulsen, author of adventure novels for young people, shows us a world of unremitting hard work and self-sufficiency in his powerfully elegiac account of the seasonal activities of a multigenerational farming family of Scandinavian descent on the northern Great Plains some 70 years ago. This is not exactly Lake Wobegon, but akin to it. Uncertainties and rewards provide a theme. Spring represents a time of birth for animal stock. Summer means plowing, collecting wild fruit and canning garden produce on wood stoves. Fall brings the harvest and its chores--killing animals for meat--while winter, nominally a period for the farm to rest, entails gathering firewood and logging timber (a cash crop). Everybody worked, even when they relaxed at the end of the day--women quilted or crocheted, and men sharpened tools as they spun tales. Any reader with a rural background will be transported by Paulsen to the past. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Sept.)