CLABBERED DIRT, SWEET GRASS
A lyrical and sensual celebration of four seasons on the American farm. Paulsen--a prolific and Newbery-winning children's author who's been venturing into the adult market lately (the thriller Kill Fee, 1990, etc.)--brings to this slim but rich appreciation a passion and wisdom not evident in his last adult nonfiction book, 1977's Farm. And also a burnished--at times preciously so--literary style, based on astute observation, wonderfully exact language, and definite cadence: "[The thresher machine] holds, oh yes it holds, and the grates begin to shuffle back and forth, the small saw teeth ripple like water, oh yes, the keyway holds and the machine--she--groans and heaves and humps and bucks and in a great crashing of noise and year-old dust and mouse nests it is there. It is there." Paulsen begins with his inspiration for the book--a moving encounter with an 82-year-old farmer whore beloved horse has just died--and then devotes an essay to each season, spring to winter, drawing on his own memories and telling stories he's heard to evoke and honor--sometimes with considerable power--farm life. And the nine postimpressionist paintings by Ruth Wright Paulsen, the author's wife, nicely complement his colorful prose.