How a Book Affects your Worldview: A Personal Connection
Fishbone’s Song. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016.
There is a deep ache in all of Paulsen’s stories. But there is also expansive love. They kind of love that recognizes we are all part of each other. Even when we think we are alone, we are not truly alone. We are part of all life on our earth. This Side of Life, an autobiographical account of some of the author’s relationships with animals, expands on this theme.
Fishbone’s Song, however, is his most lyrically profound novel. A young boy, a foundling, grows up in the woods, raised by an an old poor man, a veteran of the Korean war, who teaches him much more than how to survive. He teaches him how to live with wisdom and honour. And he teaches him the power of stories. And that is the power of Gary Paulsen. He shows us that your story and my story and all our stories are connected. [Country life; Foundlings; Hunting; Nature stories; Old age; Self-reliance; Storytelling]
Paintings from the Cave. Wendy Lamb Books, 2011.
Three novellas tell the stories of adolescents who survive despite neglect and abuse, survive with the help of art and dogs. Gary Paulsen writes at the beginning, “I was one of the kids who slipped through the cracks….We were broke, my parents were drunks, they had…an unhappy marriage. I was an outsider at school and I pretty much raised myself at home. I had nothing and I was going nowhere. But then art and dogs saved me” (ix). [Poverty; Homelessness; Art; Dogs; Violence; Short stories; City life; Courage; Hope]
The Car. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1994.
Fourteen-year-old Terry wakes up one morning to discover that his parents have disappeared. The next day, his mother calls and says that she is tired of fighting with his father and is not coming back. She hangs up and his father calls. He is tired of being married to his mother and is not coming back. He hangs up, leaving Terry alone in a shabby rented house with only a little over a thousand dollars he has saved up from mowing lawns and a car kit his father does not want. Terry has his own mechanic’s set of tools, so he builds the car and sets off, leaving Ohio behind and heading west to find his uncle in Oregon. On the way, he meets two Vietnam War veterans who change his view of life. A young adult novel with some swearing and realistic references to the violence of war, this novel will be appreciated by readers of Sunrise over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers, Shattered by Eric Walters and Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick. It might be helpful to look at the picture book Patrol: An American Soldier in Vietnam by Walter Dean Myers before reading this memorable story by rightly acclaimed author Gary Paulsen. [Soldiers; Vietnam conflict; Automobiles; Voyages and travels; Young adult fiction]
The most accurate gun created in two centuries, The Rifle, has passed from hand-to-hand since it was last loaded by Revolutionary War sharpshooter, John Byam; no one has checked to see if it is loaded until everything in one boy’s life is altered drastically in 1.43 seconds. He is shot through the head when an accidental spark from a candle enters the barrel, ignites the powder and fires, leaving his devastated family and those who know of the tragedy to mourn and get rid of the gun, unknowingly passing it on to a man who fishes it out of a river. . . You can get this suspenseful book by Gary Paulsen from the school library. (David in gr. 7)
Have you ever been curious about dog sledding? If so, Woodsong by Gary Paulsen (Bradbury, 1990) is the perfect book for you. In it, Paulsen tells his own story as a 40-year-old man living with his wife and son in northern Minnesota. He describes living in a small cabin with no electricity. He works for the state as a hunter and a trapper, is paid a small amount of money by the state, and sells pelts and furs for a living. He works alone and doesn’t like his job because he doesn’t want to kill the animals. His kind and compassionate nature creates a major conflict as he struggles to do a job he doesn’t enjoy in order to support his family.
As he continues his life as a trapper, his friends give him a broken sled and four dogs: Storm, Obeah, Yogi and Columbia. At first, the dogs resist pulling the sled. But after Obeah is put as the lead dog, the dogs get better at pulling the sled and Paulsen extends his trap line to sixty miles. He gets three more dogs so he can have a seven-dog team which he runs during the day while working on trap sets. At night, he pitches a tent and camps with the seven dogs sleeping around him in a circle to keep him warm.
In this book, other than the author, there are few human characters. But you will encounter many wild animals including wolves, moose, deer, bears and chipmunks. And there are the domesticated animals: the sled dogs; Hawk, the banty hen that adopts the ruffed grouse eggs that Paulsen finds in an abandoned nest; and Fred, the yard dog that varies his diet by biting Gary on the leg.
Paulsen continues to run the dogs day and night. And as they get better, he thinks about entering a famous dog sledding race in Alaska, the Iditarod. This race includes 29 checkpoints, is 1150 miles long and takes up to 17 days to complete. And there are many dangers: avalanches, frostbite and possibly freezing to death. But if he wins, he will receive money which he can use to support his family and so end the conflict between his work and his beliefs. He decides to run the race in which he will battle the elements, encounter wild animals and face many challenges.
I enjoyed this book. Every chapter left me in suspense. I felt like I was riding along with Paulsen on an adventure. Read this autobiography and find out for yourself! (Jayson in gr. 6)