Tuesday 12 January 2021

Gone to the Woods

Gone to the Woods by Gary Paulsen (Macmillan Children’s Books) PB RRP $14.99 ISBN 9781529047721

His name is synonymous with high-stakes wilderness survival stories, the first being Hatchett. Now, beloved author Gary Paulsen portrays a series of life-altering moments from his turbulent childhood as his own original survival story. The first sentence of this autobiographical book sub-titled ‘The True Story of Growing up in the Wild’, reads, ‘He was not literally an orphan, but he was a lost child.’ Paulsen did not meet his soldier father until he was seven years old. Working in a Chicago factory, his mother was caught up in a life of heaving drinking and wild partying.

The memoir’s chapters are titled ‘The Farm’, ‘The River’, ‘The Ship’, ‘Thirteen’ and ‘Soldier’ which gives the reader an overall idea of the direction of Paulsen’s life. Writing in third person, Paulsen proceeds to tell how, at the age of five, he escaped from a shocking upbringing to a North Woods homestead, finding powerful respect for nature that would stay with him throughout his life. At the age of thirteen, a librarian handed him his first book, and there he found a last love of reading. As a teenager, he desperately enlisted in the Army, and there discovered his true calling as a storyteller.

Gone to the Woods reads like fiction, told from the perspective of ‘the boy,’ Gary. His character’s many forays into the woods are depicted with Gary finding haven, sustenance, and adventure. The writing is simple but sweeps the reader along as the boy faces blood suckers, fish gutting, scrounging for food, even standing his ground against a ferocious posse of wild geese.

Paulsen has received great acclaim and many awards for his novels written for young readers. Hatchet, and its sequel, The Return, are among his best-known works. He is a three-time Newbery Honor-Winning author. 

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