The acclaimed children's author now writes a children's story for adults--a remarkably vivid, often shocking memoir of his growing up in the US and the Philippines circa WW II. Paulsen's first memories set the harrowing tone: In powerfully precise declarative prose (far removed from the rhythmic lyricisms of his autobiographical Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass, 1992), he writes of sitting up late, as a toddler, and listening to the radio while his baby sitter, "an old woman" who "had hair out of her ears and nostrils," would drink wine from a jelly jar. "Father" was off with Patton; "Mother," a beauty, worked at a munitions factory, and her first extended appearance here is when she kicks to death a tramp who tries to molest her son. Such sudden violence, as well as graphic sex, riddles the narrative: Called to the Philippines to join Father after the war, Paulsen and Mother take a boat across the Pacific; along the way, they see sharks devour many 0survivors of a plane crash. In the Philippines, as Paulsen adjusts to life with his stern father, the violence continues: A man is cut in half by flying debris from a typhoon; Paulsen jumps from a great height and severs his tongue. But there are unexpected boyhood pleasures too: forays into the jungle and into the arms of a young female servant; the wild joy of "going native" under the tutelage of a male servant. Mother drinks too much, however, and sleeps around, and Father also loves the bottle dearly--and so, after one drunken, bitter Christmas Eve, Mother drags back to the States a boy who's older, perhaps not wiser, but vastly more experienced. An indelible account of a childhood lived on the edge, hallmarked by Paulsen's sinewy writing, purity of voice, and, especially, by his bedrock honesty.