HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The High Pasture
Author: Ruth Peabody Harnden
Illustrator: Vee Guthrie
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1964
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 10-14
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Harnden, Ruth Peabody. The High Pasture (published in 1964 by Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA). Thirteen-year-old Tim McCord lives some “two thousand miles back east” with his father Matthew, a veterinarian, and his mother who is very sick. The severity of his mother’s illness has resulted in Tim’s being sent to spend the summer on the Colorado ranch of his father’s elderly Aunt Kate. Soon after his arrival, he visits the high pasture where he sees what he first thinks is a wolf but decides is a German shepherd dog. Aunt Kate believes that it is the “ghost dog” which was left behind by a hiker who was killed in an avalanche around four years ago. The dog had escaped, and in his loneliness, Tim, who has always wanted a dog, strives to make this one his own. He calls it Lobo, later learning that its real name was Hobo.
During the summer, Tim makes friends with Danny and Judy, young people about his age who live on a neighboring ranch, and gets to ride with them in a rodeo parade. However, all during this time, he is concerned, even worried, about his mother. She began writing him every week, but all of a sudden she stops. Then Tim himself is seriously hurt while riding in the high pasture when he is thrown by a horse. Has anything happened to his mother? How will Tim’s injuries turn out? And will he ever get Lobo to come down out of the high pasture? This book is reminiscent of the golden age of children’s literature when plots that contained a lot of excitement or adventure were used as the basis for stories that taught important lessons and illustrated good character traits.
There are a few issues that some parents might care about and want to watch out for. A lot of euphemisms (danged, gee, darn it, heck, gosh, tarnation, etc.) are found. A reference to dancing occurs. And several of the adult characters, including Danny and Judy’s dad Shep, Kate’s hired man Buck, the doctor who comes to see Tim, and even Tim’s own father, smoke cigarettes, with specific descriptions such as Shep “dropped the cigarette he’d lighted and ground it into the ground,” and “Buck was rolling one of his home-made cigarettes,” and “Dr. Cole straightened and got out a cigarette…[and] blew a smoke ring,” and Tim’s dad “scrubbed out his cigarette in the ash tray, and…lit another cigarette.” Once one blows all the smoke away and gets some fresh air, there is a decent tale here that exemplifies how a family should handle a crisis situation. Those who enjoy stories about a boy and his love for a dog will like this book.