Gary Paulsen is nothing if not a great story teller. This is a story of a boy in late 1940's from an alcoholic home that goes to live with his country cousins for the summer. He has a cousin about his own age named Harris, and together they get into all kinds of trouble. Harris has an active imagination, and a marked lack of common sense. They end up trying crazy things, like jumping from a hay loft onto the back of a plow horse trying to be like Gene Autry, and hooking the clothes washer engine onto their old bike to make a makeshift motor cycle. The two boys just about kill themselves a dozen times but everything ends with a laugh until the magical summer is over and the main character has to return to his drunken parents.
This book comes with a huge caveat. It has every kind of potty humor you could imagine. Both boys get numerous groin injuries and land in endless piles of animal dung. Harris swears just about every sentence, mostly damn's. At one point one challenges the other to pee on an electric fence. This is not a book for the prim of heart. But, if you can bear the crudeness, it is pretty funny and 5th and 6th grade boys would love it.
Gary Paulsen spoke at the Provo Library last summer. I wouldn't be surprised if the book is partly autobiographical. His parents were alcoholic and abusive. He ran away frequently and lived in the woods by himself as soon as he could manage to survive alone. I hope he did get one good summer with a kind family and a crazy cousin.