Enchanting language, lush scenery, a romping, completely factual story and a rascally, joyful raccoon are the fixings for this adorable and happy memoir by Sterling North.
This was my favorite animal story as a child. And it is still at the top of my list. I started squealing the moment Rascal was swiped from the woods, and made no efforts to contain my delight for the duration of the book. My adult squeals echoed the squeals of my 10 year-old self as Rascal snuggled his way into Sterling’s bed, made a sugar lump disappear and trilled all of his desires, questions, indignations and love.
Like Rascal, the characters in this book are captivating and exceptionally lovable. From Sterling’s sisters, Theo and Jessica, who flutter around the outskirts of his life, to Poe-the-Crow, who struts “like a poolroom bully,” each character defines a crucial element of Sterling and Rascal, who together, rather than separately, comprise the protagonist slot. At times you will find yourself looking up from your book with disbelieving eyes at the raccoon curled up on your rug, but it will only be your dog or cat or whatever wild thing that hangs out in your living room. At other times you will trill excitedly, perhaps at the thought of strawberry pop, and you will steal a quick glance at your paws before they turn into hands.
Lake Koshkonong is brought to life with North’s poetic voice. Just a mere two pages in North quickly establishes this as a multi-generational read with a stunning description of foxfire, which is “as luminescent as all the lightning bugs in the world…” The marriage of beautiful language and an otherworldly landscape create a magical glow, quite like foxfire, that snares the reader. No matter where you are when you read this, Lake Koshkonong of 1918 becomes your present place. You may be lounging on your reclining sofa when you bike to the Indian Ford dam, but your sofa will disappear beneath you and a curious wind will embrace you as you “peer ahead like the engineer leaning from the cab window of Old Ninety-Nine.”
Rascal will carry you through a memorable camping trip at Lake Superior, fishing forays galore, and the last few months of WWI, but more importantly, it will selflessly give you the long-ago friendship of a boy and his coon, and in return, ask only that you share their story with everyone you know.