Thursday, September 1, 2011

TEACHER REVIEW - Woods Runner By Gary Paulsen

Woods Runner
By Gary Paulsen
Published by Random House Children's Books, 2010
176 pages (hardcover)

Samuel, 13, spends his days in the forest, hunting for food for his family. He has grown up on the frontier of a British colony, America. Far from any town, or news of the war against the King that American patriots have begun near Boston.
But the war comes to them. British soldiers and Iroquois attack. Samuel’s parents are taken away, prisoners. Samuel follows, hiding, moving silently, determined to find a way to rescue them. Each day he confronts the enemy, and the tragedy and horror of this war. But he also discovers allies, men and women working secretly for the patriot cause. And he learns that he must go deep into enemy territory to find his parents: all the way to the British headquarters, New York City. (from

This is a wonderful, historical fiction novel for the young adolescents.  It is a short story (only 161 pages) about a thirteen year old boy named Samuel and his experiences at the start of the Revolutionary War.
What I find most interesting about this book is the fact that Paulson chooses to focus the story on the experiences of a civilian.  There is no talk of legendary battles or of American War Heroes.  It is just a snapshot of what an average day might look like if you lived during this time period.  In addition, Paulson throws in sidebar-style commentary throughout the book giving the reader additional background knowledge to help make sense of the scenes about to be presented.
As an adult, this book may seem very juvenile, but as a teacher it would make a great addition to an early American Social Studies curriculum.  Because the reading level seems to be late elementary and the book is short, it would be easy to read it during class as a read aloud or individually to help Middle School students paint a clearer picture of what life was like during this time period. ---Review by Ms. Ackerman, 7th grade Social Studies teacher

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