At his best, Paulsen is a genius storyteller. And he's at his best with this book. It's similar to the well-known Hatchet, in that it tells the story of a young man learning to use his mind and skills to survive.
In The Haymeadow, set on a Wyoming sheep ranch, John's father has to stay in town with Tink, who is battling cancer. It's always been Tink who spends the summer with the sheep in the mountain rangeland. But this year, John has to do it. By himself for three months. With no one but the sheep for company.
When John's dad brings the restock supplies near the end of the summer, John gets a further gift. Because of John's success with the sheep, and his increased subsequent increased maturity, his father decides confides in him the family stories John has always yearned to hear.
Paulsen hits the perfect balance between teen survival tale and coming of age sentimentality. I think the story would appeal to both boys and girls equally, but probably is targeted toward young males.