cover image The Tent: A Parable in One Sitting

The Tent: A Parable in One Sitting

Gary Paulsen. Harcourt Children's Books, $15 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-15-292879-7

Billed as ``a parable in one sitting,'' Paulsen's newest is not so much a full-fledged novel or novella as a story dominated by a single theme. Although the title may lead the Newbery Honor author's many admirers to expect an adventure like Hatchet, the wilderness his characters contend with here is spiritual, not geographic. Fourteen-year-old Steven doesn't know what to think when his down-and-out dad, Corey, cynically proposes that they try their fortune as preachers. Swiping a Bible from a motel and equipping themselves with a huge old army tent, Corey and Steven set out for the road. Corey quickly discovers a knack for raising big collections from small-town believers, and the riches multiply when a couple of hustlers help them add faith-healing to the act. But when father and son finally pay attention to the Word they ostensibly spread, they are overtaken by a sudden surge of faith. The pacing is expert and the settings dense, but the symbolism and message are trumpeted too loudly, drowning out attempts to create lifelike complexity in either the characters or their situation. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)