Far North

by Will Hobbs. Novel. 304 pages. Grades 5-9.
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Teacher's Guide

cover art

This is an excellent survival novel. It will remind some of Paulsen's Hatchet but it does more than tell of mere physical survival. There's a pleading for respect for the Old Ways of the Dene people and for the animals. The myth of the raven plays a big role here as well.

Gabe and his Dene roommate, Raymond, together with Raymond's great-uncle Johnny Raven crash in the remote area of the Nahanni River in the Northwest Territories in November.

Johnny Raven transmits as much as he can of the myth and the skill of his people to the boys before he dies and the boys make their own way out. This is good, action-filled reading.

The first chapter ends with a clear bit of foreshadowing and the description of Gabe's encounter with the grizzly elsewhere in the book is a good, short piece to read aloud.

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Things to Talk About and Notice

  • How does the author keep the suspense going in this book?

  • Johnny Raven dies of the cold. What could have prevented this?

  • How did the characters in this story change over the course of the book? Were there any changes that surprised you?


  • Locate the Nahanni River on a map of the Northwest Territories. Can you locate Deadmen Valley?

  • Johnny Raven is a Dene Elder. Find out about the Dene people and the old and contemporary ways in which they live.

  • Find and tell some raven tales from Native American cultures. Investigate raven art in the same cultures.

  • Visit Will Hobbs' website. What experiences has the author had that make it possible for him to write this book?

  • Start a bulletin board with newspaper and magazine articles about real life animals and people who survived various situations to be added to as the theme progresses.

  • Read a variety of survival books and make a chart about the books with the following columns :
    Survival Site
    Main Character
    His/Her Skills Before Problem
    What He/She Acquired During Survival Tasks
    What the Author Had to Know
    • Decide which of the books were the most believable and why.
    • Did such a survival ever happen? Find documentation for a similar survival story from real life.
    • How did each of the characters keep track of time? Why did they bother?
    • How did each of the characters cope with loneliness? Was an animal involved?
    • Compare the emotional growth of each survivor.
    • Alter one event in a book and see how it would affect the outcome.
    • Could the character in one story be put into another setting or situation and still survive?
    • Which of the characters would be most apt to like living with you?
    • Decide which environment from the books you would be most likely to survive in. Which would be the hardest?

  • Investigate the latest natural disaster to affect people in your area. How did people survive? For how long?

  • Develop survival posters for natural phenomena.

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Related Books

  • Murphy, Jim. The Call of the Wolves. Illustrated by Mark Alan Weatherby. Scholastic, 1989. ISBN 0590419412. Order Info.
    The survival story of a young wolf, chased by hunters and wounded, who must find his way back to the pack if he is to survive the harsh winter. The book concludes with a two page history of the wolf. The illustrator thanks the Wolf Haven in Washington for the use of their wolves as live models for this realistic picture book.

  • cover artGeorge, Jean Craighead. Julie of the Wolves. Harper, 1972. ISBN 0064400581. Order Info.
    Julie has run from her new and much older husband's unwanted attentions to attempt to get to a pen-pal's home in San Francisco. She gets lost on the Alaskan tundra without food or shelter. Knowing that she must become accepted by a wolf pack in order survive, she studies their behavior and gains acceptance. In the process she turns toward the ways of the more traditional Eskimos. More Info.

  • George, Jean Craighead. My Side of the Mountain. Dutton, 1959. ISBN 0141312424. Order Info.
    Sam Gribley camps out in spite of the doubts of his family for a year on the land abandoned by his ancestors in a remote part of the Catskills. Readers will obtain a great deal of information on edible plants, survival techniques and falconry.

  • George, Jean Craighead. The Talking Earth. Harper, 1983. ISBN 0064402126. Order Info.
    Billie Wind, a young Seminole girl, is with her mother, Mamau Whispering Wind, on the tribal island for the three week festival of Green Corn. In an effort to put Billie in touch with her Native American roots, she is sent into the Everglades for three weeks of solitude. The odyssey turns into a 13 week ordeal when she is forced to retreat into a cave as fire overtakes her island.

  • cover art Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China by Ed Young. (1989, Philomel. ISBN 9780399216190. Order Info.) Picture Book. 32 pages. Gr 2-9.
    This tale from China is a version of Little Red Riding Hood. A mother leaves her three daughters while she visits their granny. While she's gone a wolf comes to their door disguised as their granny. It's the illustrations that bring this book to a high level. Young uses panels which echo Chinese decorative screens as well as full page spreads on which the image of the wolf is sometimes subtle but ubiquitous. It won the Caldecott Medal. We highly recommend it.

  • Holman, Felice. Slake's Limbo. Scribner, 1984. ISBN 0689710666. Order Info.
    Aremis Slake, one of society's rejects, escaping some bullies, finds a cave in a subway tunnel just outside of Grand Central Station. That cave becomes his home and refuge for 121 days. During that time, Slake learns how to survive and even thrive, reaching out to some people and receiving unexpected kindnesses. More Info.

  • Houston, James. Frozen Fire. Atheneum, 1977. ISBN 0689716125. Order Info.
    Based on a true incident in the Canadian Arctic, this story tells of Matthew Morgan and Kayak, his Eskimo schoolmate. When Matthew's geologist father is lost, Matthew and Kayak set out in a snowmobile to find him. Surviving in the arctic wilderness on their own takes all the survival skills both boys can muster.

  • Konigsburg, E. L. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler . Macmillan, 1976. ISBN 068985322X. Order Info.
    Claudia Kincaid feels unappreciated at home and so decides to run away. Being a good planner, but poor money manager, she allows her younger brother, Jamie, to join her. They hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and it seems they have thought of everything.

  • cover art

    The Goats by Brock Cole. (2010, Square Fish. ISBN 9780312611910. Order Info.) Novel. 192 pages. Gr 5-9.
    In this modern survival story Laura and Howie are the victims of a camp prank where a boy and a girl are stripped and left on an island in the lake. They are the Goats, chosen because of their inability to fit in. Laura and Howie decide to disappear both for revenge and because they don't want to return to the cruelty of the kids at the camp.

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