Thursday, January 5, 2012

Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen

Book Jacket

Thirteen-year-old Samuel lives with his parents on the edge of the wilderness in the British colony of Pennsylvania, a long way from the civilization of any town.  Samuel knows how to hunt and how to survive in the untamed forest that surrounds his home on the frontier, where it can take days for news to arrive.  There are rumors that American patriots have begun a bloody war against the English; to Samuel, the fighting in the cities and towns to the east seems far away.

Then the war comes to him.  In a savage attack by British soldiers and Iroquois, Samuel's parents are taken prisoner.  Samuel follows their trail, drawing on his forest skills, determined to find a way to rescue them.  Each day he confronts the enemy, and the unbelievable cruelty, tragedy, and horror of the war.  But he also discovers unexpected allies, men and women working secretly on behalf of the patriots.  And he learns that he must plunge deep into enemy territory to find his parents.  He must follow them all the way to the British headquarters in New York City.

Gary Paulsen brings readers into the flesh-and-blood reality of one boy's struggle in the long and savage war that was the American Revolution--a war that changed people's lives in infinite ways, and whose outcome continues to reverberate throughout America today.


The strongsuit of this book is the outside-the-box information.  Stories of the American Revolution usually focus on big cities or famous events, and the bloodshed is minimal.  Woods Runner is the exact opposite.  I learned a lot about life in the frontier at that time, including that racoon meat is apparently delicious and guns are way more varied than I knew.

My biggest problem with the book is that although it does not shy away from the gritty aspects of war in most respects, it absolutely does in the main plot.  The reason why Samuel's father is captured instead of massacred is tenuous at best, and his mother's capture is even less likely.  Call me a cynic, I know.

I didn't think this was a great novel.  The non-fiction bits were the better parts.  I never really got invested in the story.

And anyway, I'm predisposed to be skeptical about American Revolution stories.  All I can focus on is how awful it is to fight both the people from whom you stole their land (Native Americans) and the people who currently own it (British).  I'm supposed to root for anyone in this mess?  Ugh.  America, not the best beginnings.  Is there ever a good beginning of a country that doesn't include violence and massacre?  Let me know, because I want to read about THAT.

Three out of five merchants who are also spies.

Release Date:  January 2010
Reading Level: Grade 6+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: CAUDILL

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