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The haymeadow
1992
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Summary
Fourteen-year-old John Barron is asked, like his father and grandfather before him, to spend the summer taking care of their sheep in the haymeadow. Six thousand sheep. John will be alone, except for two horses, four dogs, and all those sheep.



John doesn't feel up to the task, but he hopes that if he can accomplish it, he will finally please his father. But John finds that the adage "things just to sheep" is true when the river floods, coyotes attack, and one dog's feet get cut. Through it all he must rely on his own resourcefulness, ingenuity, and talents to survive this summer in the haymeadow.
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School Library Journal Review
Gr 6-9-- Put in charge when the regular farmhand takes ill, 14-year-old John is sent up into the mountains for the summer to tend the ranch's sheep flock. Woefully unprepared, the boy has only the four sheep dogs, two horses, and his own common sense to see him through the experience. He also has his impressions of his great-grandfather, a man with whom he feels a strong indentification although they'd never met, to carry him along. The drive up to the summer pasture is uneventful but filled with observations of the landscape and the instinctive interaction between the sheep and the dogs. But as John has been forewarned, things have a way of just happening with sheep--and they do. A lamb who dies from a snake bite, a skunk encounter, an injured dog, a sheep stampede, a flash flood, and a coyote attack all test John's stamina and intelligence--and that's just in the first 48 hours. While the action has all of Paulsen's usual dramatic tension, it is a bit too much in such a short time span. Weeks are brushed aside, to be followed by more physical drama--a bear attack and a nearly fatal accident. Suddenly, John's reticent father appears and has found his voice, telling the boy the truth about the great-grandfather. While the new closeness of the two provides a satisfying ending, these abrupt and not fully credible revelations weaken an otherwise powerful, action-packed story. --Susan Knorr, Milwaukee Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Booklist Review
Gr. 6-9. Here's another fine adventure from Paulsen, who deftly blends an action-packed plot and a likable character into an easy-to-read novel even reluctant readers are sure to enjoy. Fourteen-year-old John Barron must take 9,000 sheep up to the haymeadow, their summer pasture, where he's to guard them by himself for three months. Though John isn't sure he can handle the job, he feels he has no choice; his father, who made the trip at the age of 15, must remain in town, and the hired man must tend the rest of the ranch. John also knows that his great-grandfather was only 18 when he claimed the vast Barron spread. Never close to his private, uncommunicative father, John hopes to earn his dad's approval by doing the job well. The trip to the haymeadow is uneventful, but once there, John contends with a flash flood, coyotes, snake-bitten lambs, and a bear. After six weeks, he has learned much about survival, protecting the herd, and his own abilities. In a satisfying conclusion, his father arrives and decides to stay for the remaining weeks, closing the gap between father and son. ~--Chris Sherman
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