THE TENT by Gary Paulsen

THE TENT

A Parable in One Sitting
Age Range: 12 & up
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A formulaic rags-to-riches tale about learning a skill and becoming a success, with an odd twist: The skill in question is preaching at religious revivals. Steven's father gets tired of working for minimum wage and decides to try his luck at evangelism, about which he knows nothing. Steven, 14, is initially skeptical, but comes around once the business takes off. Readers watch them gradually learn how things are done, from their uncertain first steps (about something as basic as setting up a tent), to a more confident position (they win over a hostile audience), to their eventual rise to success (they incorporate "healing" into the act). Their progress is measured by the increasing sums of money in the collection: $28, $150, $300, and much more, until Steven has run out of hiding places for it. The fake cripples who orchestrate the healings are genuinely colorful characters, full of insight: "Ever wonder why profits and prophets sound so much alike?" But as soon as he reaches the top, Steven's father has a revelation and, reforming in the last ten pages of the novel, decides to give away all the money and spend the rest of the summer preaching for real. This has a slightly manipulative plot -- the kind that overwhelms the protagonists, and makes readers willing to swallow any details as long as the characters reach their goal -- accompanied by some light moralizing by Steven (the narration remains gracefully nonjudgmental), which is always peripheral to the action and takes center stage only at the end. As with all stories of success, the most enjoyable thing about this book is how quickly it reads. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-15-292879-0
Page count: 96pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1995




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