The Book Reviews – Website

December 5, 2008

The Foxman

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The Foxman

Author: Gary Paulsen

Page Length: 119

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Carl is being sent to live in the country with his uncle and cousins because the court has ordered his home unfit. At first, Carl is terribly homesick for his own place, but soon he finds a home among his country family. Carl learns all about farming and hunting. One night, Carl and his cousin are lost in a terrible snowstorm. They stumble upon a cabin and become guests of the Foxman. Carl thinks about the Foxman often and decides to befriend him. As their friendship grows, Carl learns a great deal about hunting, trapping, and the realities of the war (the very war in which the Foxman became disfigured). One day, Carl suffers snow blindness and becomes lost in the wilderness. The Foxman may be his only hope but at what cost?

REVIEW: Like many Paulsen books, the book centers around the theme of survival. Carl must learn to endure harsh weather conditions and to fend for himself. The Foxman has survived on his own, rebuked by society for many years. Graphic details of hunting and gutting animals are involved. The plot is well developed and moving. I would preface the reading of this book with an understanding of survival, discussions of hunting and living off the land. It would be a great tool for reinforcing the different viewpoints and harsh realities of war – even years after it has ended. This is a touching story of friendship and of seeing beyond appearances coupled with healing from one’s past.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence, author’s purpose, historical connections, cause and effect, compare and contrast (of war reactions by the Foxman and Agile), descriptive writing

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: details of war disfigurement, alcoholism (lightly addressed)

RELATED BOOKS: Hatchet, Brian’s Winter, Brian’s Return, Dogsong, Sentries, Tracker, Dancing Carl

 

RELATED MOVIES: “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “Anne of Green Gables”

   

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.carolhurst.com/titles/foxman.html

http://falcon.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/paulsen.htm

http://www.randomhouse.com/features/garypaulsen/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Paulsen

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

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December 4, 2008

Tracker

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Tracker

Author: Gary Paulsen

Page Length: 90

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: John Borne has already lost enough in his lifetime. He lives with his grandparents and has just found out that his grandfather is dying. John has always hunted with his grandfather, but this year he will hunt alone. John sets out alone to kill a deer for his family to have meat. Yet, John begins to track the deer across the forest and through the night. It’s almost as if the deer has something to tell him.

REVIEW: This is a typical Paulsen book which is graphic in terms of describing the habits of the animal and the hunter. Students who have ever hunted before can certainly relate to the events John describes; students who have never hunted or tracked an animal can learn what that might be like. Paulsen is able to help the reader feel John’s mixed emotions and share his anxiety over losing his grandfather while coming to terms with the inevitability of death.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, cause and effect, plot, author’s purpose, imagery

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: use of a rifle, detailed descriptions of the voiding habits of a deer

RELATED BOOKS: Dancing Carl, Night John, Dogsong, Sentries, The Foxman

 

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://litplans.com/titles/Tracker_Gary_Paulsen.html

http://rrrs120.tripod.com/id3.html

http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/ALAN/fall94/Schmitz.html

http://www.randomhouse.com/features/garypaulsen/about.html

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

September 2, 2008

Brian’s Winter

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Brian’s Winter

Author: Gary Paulsen

Page Length: 133

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Brian’s Winter was written as an alternate ending to the one given in Hatchet. Brian is faced with winter in the wilderness. He must adapt his shelter and find ways to sustain himself under harsh winter conditions. Can he survive when the weather is below zero for days and days?  Can he evade being ripped to shreds by bears that are foraging for their last meal before hibernating? Will anyone ever find Brian, or is he destined to live alone for the rest of his life?

REVIEW: Paulsen continues Hatchet because he received fan correspondence wanting to know how Brian would have handled winter. Brian is indeed faced with a harsh winter. He must learn all over again how to survive. He must adapt his clothing, shelter, and hunting techniques or starve and freeze to death.

Paulsen is well known for his survival of the fittest like stories. This book is a good read for anyone – because one never knows when survival on your own might be necessary. This book leaves the reader considering how they could survive and pondering what they would do in Brian’s situation. Brian never completely gives up hope as he must learn the hard way to kill or be killed and to do whatever it takes to survive. This story is thought provoking about what is important in life. It sends a clear message that survival depends often depends upon one’s mental attitude (a lesson many teenagers could use).

Brian’s Winter is a great teaching tool. It naturally lends itself to journal responses (students might write entries as if they were Brian after each chapter). Students can connect with Brian’s feelings and experiences. Critical thinking is required for survival.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: theme, setting, point of view, characters, author’s purpose, responding to text, visualizing as you read, making predictions

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: killing animals for survival (vivid descriptions of skinning and gutting them)

RELATED BOOKS: Hatchet, The Cookcamp, Dogsong, Canyons, The River

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.allreaders.com/topics/Info_28922.asp

http://www.randomhouse.com/teachers/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780440227199&view=tg

http://falcon.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/paulsen.htm

http://litplans.com/titles/Brians_Winter_Gary_Paulsen.html

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/65720/wildnerness_survival_basics.html?cat=11

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

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

MOVIE CONNECTIONS:Alive” (1993)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://sam.dev.uen.org/utahlink/tours/tourViewSite.cgi?tour_id=15615 (awesome site about Dene culture, Northwest Territories, survival techniques, student activities, and teacher tips)

http://www.carolhurst.com/titles/farnorth.html

http://www.willhobbsauthor.com/teachers.html#farnorth

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

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