The Book Reviews – Website

July 29, 2008

Far North

Far North

Author: Will Hobbs

Page Length: 216

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Gabe, a teenager from Texas, has moved to Canada’s Northwest Territories to attend boarding school and to be closer to his father. His roommate is a teenager named Raymond, a native “Dene” to the Northwest Territories – Nahanni Country. Even though both boys share the same birth date, Gabe and Raymond are very different. Raymond finds it difficult to transition into his new school. He eventually quits and takes a plane ride back home. However, unbeknownst to him, Gabe is on the same Cessna plane yet for a different reason. Gabe is along for a scenic tour. Also along for the ride are Clint, the pilot, and Johnny Raven, Raymond’s great-uncle. Johnny Raven is riding back from a hospital stay.

Things quickly turn bad. Upon a water-landing, the engine fails to start again. Everyone but the pilot is able to escape. The plane and Clint, tumble to their demise. The boys and Johnny Raven spend the next several months surviving on their own. Many survival skills the boys learn from Johnny Raven who is accustomed to living off the land. Johnny, Raymond, and Gabe erect structures to sleep in, start fires from crude materials, hunt rabbits, beavers, and moose and avoid winter bears. Temperatures out in the Northwest Territories during the winter months drop as low as – 60 degrees Celsius. Johnny, Gabe, and Raymond feel this cold chill their bones. The only things that matter now are food, water, and movement. Raymond and Gabe convince Johnny that instead of waiting the winter out, they should trek towards Nahanni Butte (village of Johnny).

Johnny Raven eventually passes away in the wilderness and Gabe and Raymond ceremoniously cremate him. The boys trek on towards the Nahanni Butte. After several near-death experiences (escaping bears, falling through freezing water, avoiding wolverines) Raymond and Gabe reach civilization.

The story ends with a ceremony commemorating Johnny Raven’s life with the families of Raymond and Gabe in attendance.

REVIEW: I enjoyed this book very much. As one who has mountain climbed in freezing temperatures and has camped out with only the bear necessities, I understand what these characters have gone through to some extent. The realistic depictions of survival in sub zero conditions, is vivid and awesome. The theme of life and death is apparent all throughout the book.

The interactions between Raymond and Gabe seem a little childish, but not overdone. The book, at 216 pages in length, is representative of the many months that the boys were out on their own in the harsh conditions of the Northwest Territories. The author, in his note at the end, states that some of the elements of the story are based on real life experiences and history.

Even focusing on just one chapter of this book, one can feel the rush of emotion and conflict the boys encounter. This is a story that truly depicts what it means to survive.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: reading a map (map located at front of book), foreshadowing (Chapter 1), setting, writing good endings to chapters, simile (pages 55, 68, 77, 97, 113, & 177), sequence of events (Chapter 10), Native American stories (Chapter 12), letter writing containing theme of dying on the inside vs. outside (Chapter 14)

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: animal clubbing (page 116), death of a human (page 119), ceremonial act of human cremation (Chapter 13)

RELATED BOOKS: Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, Dangerous River: Adventures on the Nahanni, Downriver, Julie of the Wolves, & The Talking Earth


RELATED WEBSITES: (awesome site about Dene culture, Northwest Territories, survival techniques, student activities, and teacher tips)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton


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