Woodsong

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by Gary Paulsen. Novel. 144 pages. Grades 3-9.
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Review

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These are autobiographical sketches of Paulsen's experiences in the north woods. There is acceptance and respect for animal life, especially sled dogs, in all its harsh reality. A good portion of the book relates the author's experiences in running the Iditarod. These are good adventure and outdoor stories which should appeal to outdoor enthusiasts and to animal lovers.

Paulsen's respect for the woods and for animals is apparent here and many of his descriptions of the scenes and of the animals are worth reading aloud. There are also wildly funny parts which contrast to his graphic and sometimes bloody descriptions.

Woodsong is also a book about the ignorance which comes from thinking you know it all. The process by which Paulsen learns his lessons and the depth of those lessons taught by "dumb" animals is one he shares with the reader. It is not so much a book of "man against nature" as it is that of a single man hoping to establish an accord with it. Paulsen avoids anthropomorphizing his animals but his respect for them is apparent. There is no chronological sequence here and so the book takes on the character of memories shared at a campfire.

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Related Books

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    Grades 5 - 8
    Alida's Song: A Companion to The Cook Camp by Gary Paulsen. Novel. 88 pages.
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    Alida is the grandmother in The Cookcamp (Orchard, 1991 ISBN 0531085279). In Alida's Song, that grandmother rescues him again. She's not working in the cookcamp now but is housekeeper and cook for two bachelor farmers. She writes asking her grandson to join her. He will, she says, be able to help with the farming. The book is tender and quite wonderful. The knowledge that the work is largely autobiographical lets us feel grateful that the man whose work we so admire today had such nourishment, at least for a summer. Read More.

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    Grades 5 - 9
    The Foxman by Gary Paulsen. Novel. 128 pages.
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    In this powerful anti-war novel, the narrator, a 15 year old town boy, is sent to live on a remote farm in the Minnesota woods. There he forms a friendship with the disfigured Foxman who was injured during World War I and who teaches him many things. The book has some sexual references though they are not specific and are alluded to rather than narrated. Read More in our Featured Book article including classroom activities, related books and links.

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