Author: Gary Paulsen
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Publication Date: January, 2010
Genre/Format: Historical Fiction/Novel
Summary: Samuel is 13 and lives with his parents peacefully on the frontier in America. They live in a small settlement in a dirt floored cabin that backed up to the forest. Samuel loved the forest, he'd become the sole provider of food for the settlement and he enjoyed every minute he spent in the forest. They lived far from any town so that it took sometimes months before any news got to their ears, including the beginning of the war. It was not long after they'd heard about the war against the British that Samuel was out in the woods searching for deer that he noticed smoke coming from where his settlement was- way too much smoke. When he arrived he found destruction and death. All the cabins in his settlement were burnt down and bodies were everywhere; however, it seemed his parents were taken captive. It is now Samuel's only mission in life to track down and save his parents. On this adventure, he learns more about more about the horror of the war that America is now in.
What I Think: I love historical fiction! Well, good historical fiction and Woods Runner is good historical fiction. After first I was feeling so-so about the book, but then on page 20 the book becomes such a page turner. This book is only my 5 historical fiction book about the Revolutionary war, but it is the first that shows what happened from an American that live on the frontier. This book also showed me some of the side work the British army and its allies did. Being in war with someone and fighting them is one thing, but the British along with Iroquois Indians as well as the Hessians, the German fighters for Britain, were ruthless and often committed war crimes. This book is built to not only entertain you, but to teach you. Gary Paulsen puts snippets of historical information between chapters to help the reader understand more specifically what is going on in the book- I loved learning that little bit more!
Next to how much I loved the historical element of this novel, Gary Paulsen also crafts such an amazing survival adventure with a protagonist that anyone will root for.
Read Together: Grade 5 - 8
Read Alone: Grades 6 - 9
Read With: Chains and Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, Island of the Blue Dolphin by Scott O'Dell, Dear America books from the Revolutionary War, Nonfiction books about the Revolutionary War
Snatch of Text:
"Oh, he knew the forest could kill. Once, sitting by the fire, a distant relative, a shirttail uncle who was a very old man of nearly fifty named Ishmael, had looked over his shoulder as if expecting sea monsters and said, 'Nothing dies of old age in the forest. Not bugs, not deer, not bear nor panthers nor man. Live long enough, be slow enough, get old enough and something eats you. Everything kills.'" (p. 5)
"There wasn't noise in the forest. There were smells: wood smoke filled the air in every season because it wasn't just for heat, but to cook as well; the smell of oak for long fires, pine for short and fast and hot fires. The smell of bread and sometimes, if they were lucky and had honey or rock sugar to pulverize in a sack with a hammer, sweet pie. The odor of stew cooking in the cast-iron pot over an outside fire or in an iron kettle hung in the fireplace, the scent flying up through the chimney and out over the ground as the wind moved the smoke around. There was the tang of manure, stacked in back of small shedlike barns to age before it was put on gardens; horse and cow and chicken manure from their farm and other farms. So many smells swirled by the same wind throughout the small valley." (p. 8)
"He cried over each corpse, thinking of them living, thinking of them meeting in the cabin and living and talking and laughing and. . . just being. And now all gone. Gone. He could not stop crying, thinking of his parents, wondering, worrying." (p. 31)Topics Covered: Revolutionary War, Family, Death, Nature, Survival