Monday, March 22, 2010

Woods Runner, by Gary Paulsen (ages 11 to 14) - a gripping story set in the American Revolutionary War

Historical fiction brings me into a time period I can only imagine, and makes me feel what it would be like to live in a completely different place and time. Gary Paulsen, best known for Hatchet (one of my all-time favorite books), does just this in his new novel Woods Runner, bringing readers into the American Revolutionary War as a young frontier boy. It is a gripping story which I loved listening to as an audiobook.
Woods Runner
by Gary Paulsen
read by Danny Campbell
NY: Listening Library, 2010
ages 11 - 14
available on Amazon, Audible, or at your local public library
You can listen to a clip of the audiobook (this is the beginning of the story):

Thirteen year old Samuel lives in Western Pennsylvania, in a small settlement far away from any large city. He spends his days in the forest, hunting for food for his family. In order to survive, Samuel has learned how to track game, sense changes and follow trails in the woods. Samuel’s parents moved to the frontier to escape the pressures and complications of life in the city.

Soon after Samuel hears news of the Revolutionary War, the brutal realities of the conflict are brought right to his home. British soldiers and Iroquois attack his settlement, burning all the homes, slaughtering most of the inhabitants and taking Samuel's parents away as prisoners. Samuel follows the British, tracking them silently through the forest, determined to find a way to rescue his parents. Along the way, Samuel sees more devestation caused by the war, particularly brutalities caused by the Hessian mercenaries. But he also finds allies: men and women who help him, feed him, protect him. Samuel learns that he must go all the way to New York City, to find his parents.

Paulsen’s writing carries emotional weight, as you connect with Samuel and feel his isolation, his pain, his anger. But Paulsen intersperses each chapter with a short nonfiction section explaining such things as weapons, war orphans, Hessians and other issues related to the story line. These nonfiction sections are short, usually one or two paragraphs, and without illustrations. While some readers might skip them, I found them interesting on audio, a short break from the intense story, and always related to the story. I was hoping Paulsen would provide sources for further reading, but am hooked enough on the story to want to seek out more information on my own.

This was a great story to listen to as an audiobook. Danny Campbell creates a deep, rough voice that feels like he's telling Samuel’s story sitting around a campfire. As Audiofile says, “Campbell skillfully employs pace and projection to build suspense and convey Paulsen's page-turning action. Campbell uses a deeper, flatter tone to differentiate brief paragraphs of background information appended to each chapter.” Because of the violence and emotional impact of this story, I would not recommend it for younger readers. It is appropriate perhaps for 5th graders, or more likely for 6th grade and above.

Other great reviews:
A wonderful article about Gary Paulsen by Jim Trelease is here.

Gary Paulsen will be visiting bookstores through the US in April to talk about Woods Runner. See his schedule here.

This audiobook was kindly sent by the publisher. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small percentage will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support.

1 comment:

  1. This looks like a great one and Gary Paulsen is so popular that I really should read more of his books. Sounds like audio would be a good way to go!