Paulsen - Book Reviews

***** - Excellent
**** - Good
*** - Okay
** - Bad
* - Terrible
+ - Half-star

Hatchet
(The Brian Robeson series, Book 1)
Gary Paulsen
Aladdin Newbery
Fiction, YA Adventure
*****

DESCRIPTION: Brian Robeson's thirteen-year-old life is disintegrating around him. His parents are in the middle of a divorce, and he - unbeknownst to either parent - knows the Secret why. His father has visitation rights, so during summers Brian is sent out to wherever he happens to be. Currently, it's a remote oil drilling facility in the Canadian wilderness, reachable only by bush plane. Before he goes, his mother gives him a small hatchet in honor of his woodsy summer destination. At the time, it seems a token gesture from a guilty parent, but soon Brian will come to treasure that gift. After the bush pilot dies at the controls and Brian's plane goes down after veering far off-course, that hatchet is the only weapon he has - aside from his wits. Can a city kid survive in the Canadian wilderness alone, with no camping knowledge and slim chance of rescue?

REVIEW: This is a classic young adult tale of survival. Brian grows up very fast in his time alone, realizing that his parents' divorce is nothing in the greater scheme of things. In addition to the ever-present danger, there is a sense of grandeur and beauty in the Canadian woods, and even as Brian fights to live he learns to see that beauty. The story moves quickly, with a sense of the real struggle for survival the hero endures.

You might also enjoy:
The Alexander Cold trilogy (Isabel Allende, YA Fiction - An American teen undergoes deeply transformative events in the remote corners of the world)
The Remnants series (K. A. Applegate, YA Fiction - Five hundred years after a meteor destroyed life on Earth, the surviving humans aboard a retrofitted shuttle awaken in a surreal new world)
Beyond the Western Sea (Avi, YA Fiction - Two Irish children and the son of an English lord undertake the difficult journey to America)
Tarzan of the Apes (Edgar Rice Burroughs, Fiction - The classic story of a boy raised in the African jungle by apes)
The Hunger Games trilogy (Suzanne Collins, YA Fiction - In a dark future, a girl becomes part of a deadly televised survival "sport")
Survival 101: The Essential Guide to Saving Your Own Life in a Disaster (Marcus Duke, Nonfiction - A basic guide to surviving without modern conveniences in times of crisis)
Survival Kit: Build a Perfect Bug Out Bag For Any Disaster (Sasha Fields, Nonfiction - Prepare your own emergency survival kit)
The Sword and the Cross (Ian Fleming, Nonfiction - The true story of two Frenchmen who set out to conquer the untameable Sahara)
My Side of the Mountain (Jean Craighead George, YA Fiction - A New York City boy heads out to the Catskills to live off the land in the forest)
Chomp (Carl Hiaasen, YA Fiction - A father-son animal wrangler team deal with an egotistical "survivalist" TV star in the Florida Everglades)
Boston Jane: An Adventure (Jennifer L. Holm, YA Fiction - In the mid-1800's, an East Coast girl follows her would-be husband to the untamed northwestern frontier)
Before Adam (Jack London, Fiction - In his dreams, a man relives a protohuman ancestor's life in the Mid-Pliocene era)
The Call of the Wild and White Fang (Jack London, Fiction - In two stories, a dog learns to live as a wolf and a wolf learns to live as a dog)
Field Guide to the Apocalypse (Meghann Marco, Nonfiction - A tongue-in-cheek guide to surviving and averting various catastrophes, based on the sterling examples presented in Hollywood blockbusters)
Never Cry Wolf (Farley Mowat, Nonfiction - In the mid-20th century, a biologist studies wolves in the Canadian wilderness)
Wolf Brother (Michelle Paver, YA Fiction - In the endless wilderness of prehistoric earth, an orphaned boy faces a marauding, spirit-possessed bear with a wolf cub companion)
The Last Survivors trilogy (Susan Beth Pfeffer, YA Fiction - A teen girl's diary chronicles life after a global catastrophe destroys civilization)
The Forgotten Arts & Crafts (John Seymour, Nonfiction - An overview of the skills and trades of yesteryear)
Letters of a Woman Homesteader (Elinore Pruitt Stewart, Nonfiction - A woman and her daughter establish a frontier homestead in 1909 Wyoming)
Rogue Wave (Theodore Taylor, YA Fiction - Short stories of the sea and more)
A Journey to the Center of the Earth (Jules Verne, Fiction - A professor, his assistant, and an Icelandic guide descend into a volcano and find a lost world beneath the Earth's crust)
The Martian (Andy Weir, Fiction - Left behind after a botched mission, an astronaut must survive on Mars until help can reach him)
Leepike Ridge (N. D. Wilson, YA Fiction - A river's current washes a boy into a hidden cave linked to an ancient secret and ruthless modern treasure hunters)

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The River
(The Brian Robeson series, Book 2)
Gary Paulsen
Laurel-Leaf Books
Fiction, YA Adventure
****+

DESCRIPTION: Two years after his incredible survival in the Canadian wilderness, the hype and publicity have finally died down. Brian is doing his best to return to "normal," though he knows the experience has permanently altered him. One day, a team from the government shows up on his doorstep. They train pilots and soldiers how to survive in the wilderness, but nobody has studied the psychological changes required to live in the wild for any length of time. They want Brian to go back to the Canadian woods, this time with an observer, to help them teach others how to survive, especially how to think to survive. The wilderness, however, isn't a party to the "game," and before long what was a relatively pleasant return to the woods becomes a real life-or-death struggle, as lightning fries their radio and sends the observer into a coma-like state. Brian must get the man to civilization, and that means braving an unknown river with an untrustworthy map in the middle of nowhere.

REVIEW: This is another excellent tale of Brian in the wilderness. His return to the wilderness teaches him new lessons, building on the old. Highly recommended to people who liked Hatchet.

You might also enjoy:
The Alexander Cold trilogy (Isabel Allende, YA Fiction - An American teen undergoes deeply transformative events in the remote corners of the world)
The Remnants series (K. A. Applegate, YA Fiction - Five hundred years after a meteor destroyed life on Earth, the surviving humans aboard a retrofitted shuttle awaken in a surreal new world)
Beyond the Western Sea (Avi, YA Fiction - Two Irish children and the son of an English lord undertake the difficult journey to America)
Tarzan of the Apes (Edgar Rice Burroughs, Fiction - The classic story of a boy raised in the African jungle by apes)
The Hunger Games trilogy (Suzanne Collins, YA Fiction - In a dark future, a girl becomes part of a deadly televised survival "sport")
Survival 101: The Essential Guide to Saving Your Own Life in a Disaster (Marcus Duke, Nonfiction - A basic guide to surviving without modern conveniences in times of crisis)
Survival Kit: Build a Perfect Bug Out Bag For Any Disaster (Sasha Fields, Nonfiction - Prepare your own emergency survival kit)
The Sword and the Cross (Ian Fleming, Nonfiction - The true story of two Frenchmen who set out to conquer the untameable Sahara)
My Side of the Mountain (Jean Craighead George, YA Fiction - A New York City boy heads out to the Catskills to live off the land in the forest)
Chomp (Carl Hiaasen, YA Fiction - A father-son animal wrangler team deal with an egotistical "survivalist" TV star in the Florida Everglades)
Boston Jane: An Adventure (Jennifer L. Holm, YA Fiction - In the mid-1800's, an East Coast girl follows her would-be husband to the untamed northwestern frontier)
Before Adam (Jack London, Fiction - In his dreams, a man relives a protohuman ancestor's life in the Mid-Pliocene era)
The Call of the Wild and White Fang (Jack London, Fiction - In two stories, a dog learns to live as a wolf and a wolf learns to live as a dog)
Field Guide to the Apocalypse (Meghann Marco, Nonfiction - A tongue-in-cheek guide to surviving and averting various catastrophes, based on the sterling examples presented in Hollywood blockbusters)
Never Cry Wolf (Farley Mowat, Nonfiction - In the mid-20th century, a biologist studies wolves in the Canadian wilderness)
Wolf Brother (Michelle Paver, YA Fiction - In the endless wilderness of prehistoric earth, an orphaned boy faces a marauding, spirit-possessed bear with a wolf cub companion)
The Last Survivors trilogy (Susan Beth Pfeffer, YA Fiction - A teen girl's diary chronicles life after a global catastrophe destroys civilization)
The Forgotten Arts & Crafts (John Seymour, Nonfiction - An overview of the skills and trades of yesteryear)
Letters of a Woman Homesteader (Elinore Pruitt Stewart, Nonfiction - A woman and her daughter establish a frontier homestead in 1909 Wyoming)
Rogue Wave (Theodore Taylor, YA Fiction - Short stories of the sea and more)
A Journey to the Center of the Earth (Jules Verne, Fiction - A professor, his assistant, and an Icelandic guide descend into a volcano and find a lost world beneath the Earth's crust)
The Martian (Andy Weir, Fiction - Left behind after a botched mission, an astronaut must survive on Mars until help can reach him)
Leepike Ridge (N. D. Wilson, YA Fiction - A river's current washes a boy into a hidden cave linked to an ancient secret and ruthless modern treasure hunters)

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Brian's Winter
(The Brian Robeson series, Book 3)
Gary Paulsen
Laurel-Leaf Books
Fiction, YA Adventure
*****

DESCRIPTION: At the end of Hatchet, Brian is unexpectedly rescued after nearly two months in the Canadian wilderness. By then, he had learned enough to live on his own. But what if events had gone slightly differently, and Brian hadn't been rescued before the weather turned? This is the story of the alternate-history Brian Robeson, who must adapt all over again as the weather robs him of the resources he has come to rely on, except his wits. And his hatchet.

REVIEW: This is an excellent "sequel" to Hatchet, as Brian relies on dim memories and observation of the natural world to survive as the seasons change. The author's extensive experience with the North in winter lends a distinct ring of authenticity to Brian's struggles. As a warning, it does have more bloodshed, as Brian is forced to move beyond fish and small animals to find food. I found I actually preferred this alternate tale to the original ending, if only because I liked seeing how the hero kept rising to the challenges piled upon him by the unforgiving wilderness. A great adventure.

You might also enjoy:
The Alexander Cold trilogy (Isabel Allende, YA Fiction - An American teen undergoes deeply transformative events in the remote corners of the world)
The Remnants series (K. A. Applegate, YA Fiction - Five hundred years after a meteor destroyed life on Earth, the surviving humans aboard a retrofitted shuttle awaken in a surreal new world)
Beyond the Western Sea (Avi, YA Fiction - Two Irish children and the son of an English lord undertake the difficult journey to America)
Tarzan of the Apes (Edgar Rice Burroughs, Fiction - The classic story of a boy raised in the African jungle by apes)
The Hunger Games trilogy (Suzanne Collins, YA Fiction - In a dark future, a girl becomes part of a deadly televised survival "sport")
Survival 101: The Essential Guide to Saving Your Own Life in a Disaster (Marcus Duke, Nonfiction - A basic guide to surviving without modern conveniences in times of crisis)
Survival Kit: Build a Perfect Bug Out Bag For Any Disaster (Sasha Fields, Nonfiction - Prepare your own emergency survival kit)
The Sword and the Cross (Ian Fleming, Nonfiction - The true story of two Frenchmen who set out to conquer the untameable Sahara)
My Side of the Mountain (Jean Craighead George, YA Fiction - A New York City boy heads out to the Catskills to live off the land in the forest)
Chomp (Carl Hiaasen, YA Fiction - A father-son animal wrangler team deal with an egotistical "survivalist" TV star in the Florida Everglades)
Boston Jane: An Adventure (Jennifer L. Holm, YA Fiction - In the mid-1800's, an East Coast girl follows her would-be husband to the untamed northwestern frontier)
Before Adam (Jack London, Fiction - In his dreams, a man relives a protohuman ancestor's life in the Mid-Pliocene era)
The Call of the Wild and White Fang (Jack London, Fiction - In two stories, a dog learns to live as a wolf and a wolf learns to live as a dog)
Field Guide to the Apocalypse (Meghann Marco, Nonfiction - A tongue-in-cheek guide to surviving and averting various catastrophes, based on the sterling examples presented in Hollywood blockbusters)
Never Cry Wolf (Farley Mowat, Nonfiction - In the mid-20th century, a biologist studies wolves in the Canadian wilderness)
Wolf Brother (Michelle Paver, YA Fiction - In the endless wilderness of prehistoric earth, an orphaned boy faces a marauding, spirit-possessed bear with a wolf cub companion)
The Last Survivors trilogy (Susan Beth Pfeffer, YA Fiction - A teen girl's diary chronicles life after a global catastrophe destroys civilization)
The Forgotten Arts & Crafts (John Seymour, Nonfiction - An overview of the skills and trades of yesteryear)
Letters of a Woman Homesteader (Elinore Pruitt Stewart, Nonfiction - A woman and her daughter establish a frontier homestead in 1909 Wyoming)
Rogue Wave (Theodore Taylor, YA Fiction - Short stories of the sea and more)
A Journey to the Center of the Earth (Jules Verne, Fiction - A professor, his assistant, and an Icelandic guide descend into a volcano and find a lost world beneath the Earth's crust)
The Martian (Andy Weir, Fiction - Left behind after a botched mission, an astronaut must survive on Mars until help can reach him)
Leepike Ridge (N. D. Wilson, YA Fiction - A river's current washes a boy into a hidden cave linked to an ancient secret and ruthless modern treasure hunters)

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Brian's Return
(The Brian Robeson series, Book 4)
Gary Paulsen
Laurel-Leaf Books
Fiction, YA Adventure
*****

DESCRIPTION: After being rescued from the Canadian wilderness in the harsh Northern winter, Brian tried to return to a normal life, but something felt wrong. After two years of growing unease, culminating in an uncharacteristically violent retaliation against a bully, Brian realizes that he needs to return to the woods. Try as he might to deny it, he was changed irrevocably by his survival experience. When he returns to the wilderness, can he find the piece of himself he left behind and resume his old city-bound life?

REVIEW: Another excellent story, the last in Brian's survival sequence. His journey of self-discovery is interesting and powerful. Also interesting is the author's afterword, where he describes how Brian's experiences mirror many of his own. (Barnes & Noble sometimes lists this as the first in Brian's saga, although perhaps it is simply the start of a new trilogy: I see a new hardcover book, Brian's Hunt, is in bookstores now. Considering Paulsen's afterword, which is essentially a farewell-and-good- luck to Brian, I don't know why another book is needed, but I'll be buying it as soon as it comes out in paperback nevertheless.)

You might also enjoy:
The Alexander Cold trilogy (Isabel Allende, YA Fiction - An American teen undergoes deeply transformative events in the remote corners of the world)
The Remnants series (K. A. Applegate, YA Fiction - Five hundred years after a meteor destroyed life on Earth, the surviving humans aboard a retrofitted shuttle awaken in a surreal new world)
Beyond the Western Sea (Avi, YA Fiction - Two Irish children and the son of an English lord undertake the difficult journey to America)
Tarzan of the Apes (Edgar Rice Burroughs, Fiction - The classic story of a boy raised in the African jungle by apes)
The Hunger Games trilogy (Suzanne Collins, YA Fiction - In a dark future, a girl becomes part of a deadly televised survival "sport")
Survival 101: The Essential Guide to Saving Your Own Life in a Disaster (Marcus Duke, Nonfiction - A basic guide to surviving without modern conveniences in times of crisis)
Survival Kit: Build a Perfect Bug Out Bag For Any Disaster (Sasha Fields, Nonfiction - Prepare your own emergency survival kit)
The Sword and the Cross (Ian Fleming, Nonfiction - The true story of two Frenchmen who set out to conquer the untameable Sahara)
My Side of the Mountain (Jean Craighead George, YA Fiction - A New York City boy heads out to the Catskills to live off the land in the forest)
Chomp (Carl Hiaasen, YA Fiction - A father-son animal wrangler team deal with an egotistical "survivalist" TV star in the Florida Everglades)
Boston Jane: An Adventure (Jennifer L. Holm, YA Fiction - In the mid-1800's, an East Coast girl follows her would-be husband to the untamed northwestern frontier)
Before Adam (Jack London, Fiction - In his dreams, a man relives a protohuman ancestor's life in the Mid-Pliocene era)
The Call of the Wild and White Fang (Jack London, Fiction - In two stories, a dog learns to live as a wolf and a wolf learns to live as a dog)
Field Guide to the Apocalypse (Meghann Marco, Nonfiction - A tongue-in-cheek guide to surviving and averting various catastrophes, based on the sterling examples presented in Hollywood blockbusters)
Never Cry Wolf (Farley Mowat, Nonfiction - In the mid-20th century, a biologist studies wolves in the Canadian wilderness)
Wolf Brother (Michelle Paver, YA Fiction - In the endless wilderness of prehistoric earth, an orphaned boy faces a marauding, spirit-possessed bear with a wolf cub companion)
The Last Survivors trilogy (Susan Beth Pfeffer, YA Fiction - A teen girl's diary chronicles life after a global catastrophe destroys civilization)
The Forgotten Arts & Crafts (John Seymour, Nonfiction - An overview of the skills and trades of yesteryear)
Letters of a Woman Homesteader (Elinore Pruitt Stewart, Nonfiction - A woman and her daughter establish a frontier homestead in 1909 Wyoming)
Rogue Wave (Theodore Taylor, YA Fiction - Short stories of the sea and more)
A Journey to the Center of the Earth (Jules Verne, Fiction - A professor, his assistant, and an Icelandic guide descend into a volcano and find a lost world beneath the Earth's crust)
The Martian (Andy Weir, Fiction - Left behind after a botched mission, an astronaut must survive on Mars until help can reach him)
Leepike Ridge (N. D. Wilson, YA Fiction - A river's current washes a boy into a hidden cave linked to an ancient secret and ruthless modern treasure hunters)

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Brian's Hunt
(The Brian Robeson series, Book 5)
Gary Paulsen
Laurel-Leaf Books
Fiction, YA Adventure
***+

DESCRIPTION: Brian Robeson, the boy who survived for months in the Canadian wilderness after a plane crash, has quickly settled into life in the northern woods. It's almost as if he never left, as if the time between being rescued and coming back of his own accord was some sort of bad dream of noise and crowds and city stenches. One night, a wounded dog comes to his campsite, and he has a chilling sense of foreboding about its arrival. He's been meaning to visit his Cree friends, the Smallhorns, in their camp to the north, and the dog's mysterious arrival - from the north - sets Brian's deepest instincts on edge. Has something happened to his friends? If so, is it too late to do anything to help them? Brian and his new four-footed companion have no choice but to investigate.

REVIEW: This wasn't really a necessary continuation of Brian's story for Brian's sake, as the other books in the series were. It was nice to revisit him, but he was less profoundly changed by his "hunt" than he was by previous events. That aside, it was another good tale of life in the wilderness, where the artificial line we like to draw between man and animal, predator and prey, doesn't exist. The ending's a little disturbing, though.

You might also enjoy:
The Alexander Cold trilogy (Isabel Allende, YA Fiction - An American teen undergoes deeply transformative events in the remote corners of the world)
The Remnants series (K. A. Applegate, YA Fiction - Five hundred years after a meteor destroyed life on Earth, the surviving humans aboard a retrofitted shuttle awaken in a surreal new world)
Beyond the Western Sea (Avi, YA Fiction - Two Irish children and the son of an English lord undertake the difficult journey to America)
Tarzan of the Apes (Edgar Rice Burroughs, Fiction - The classic story of a boy raised in the African jungle by apes)
The Hunger Games trilogy (Suzanne Collins, YA Fiction - In a dark future, a girl becomes part of a deadly televised survival "sport")
Survival 101: The Essential Guide to Saving Your Own Life in a Disaster (Marcus Duke, Nonfiction - A basic guide to surviving without modern conveniences in times of crisis)
Survival Kit: Build a Perfect Bug Out Bag For Any Disaster (Sasha Fields, Nonfiction - Prepare your own emergency survival kit)
The Sword and the Cross (Ian Fleming, Nonfiction - The true story of two Frenchmen who set out to conquer the untameable Sahara)
My Side of the Mountain (Jean Craighead George, YA Fiction - A New York City boy heads out to the Catskills to live off the land in the forest)
Chomp (Carl Hiaasen, YA Fiction - A father-son animal wrangler team deal with an egotistical "survivalist" TV star in the Florida Everglades)
Boston Jane: An Adventure (Jennifer L. Holm, YA Fiction - In the mid-1800's, an East Coast girl follows her would-be husband to the untamed northwestern frontier)
Before Adam (Jack London, Fiction - In his dreams, a man relives a protohuman ancestor's life in the Mid-Pliocene era)
The Call of the Wild and White Fang (Jack London, Fiction - In two stories, a dog learns to live as a wolf and a wolf learns to live as a dog)
Field Guide to the Apocalypse (Meghann Marco, Nonfiction - A tongue-in-cheek guide to surviving and averting various catastrophes, based on the sterling examples presented in Hollywood blockbusters)
Never Cry Wolf (Farley Mowat, Nonfiction - In the mid-20th century, a biologist studies wolves in the Canadian wilderness)
Wolf Brother (Michelle Paver, YA Fiction - In the endless wilderness of prehistoric earth, an orphaned boy faces a marauding, spirit-possessed bear with a wolf cub companion)
The Last Survivors trilogy (Susan Beth Pfeffer, YA Fiction - A teen girl's diary chronicles life after a global catastrophe destroys civilization)
The Forgotten Arts & Crafts (John Seymour, Nonfiction - An overview of the skills and trades of yesteryear)
Letters of a Woman Homesteader (Elinore Pruitt Stewart, Nonfiction - A woman and her daughter establish a frontier homestead in 1909 Wyoming)
Rogue Wave (Theodore Taylor, YA Fiction - Short stories of the sea and more)
A Journey to the Center of the Earth (Jules Verne, Fiction - A professor, his assistant, and an Icelandic guide descend into a volcano and find a lost world beneath the Earth's crust)
The Martian (Andy Weir, Fiction - Left behind after a botched mission, an astronaut must survive on Mars until help can reach him)
Leepike Ridge (N. D. Wilson, YA Fiction - A river's current washes a boy into a hidden cave linked to an ancient secret and ruthless modern treasure hunters)

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Guts
Gary Paulsen
Laurel-Leaf Books
Nonfiction, YA General Nonfiction
*****

DESCRIPTION: In the widely-acclaimed young adult book Hatchet, a city boy named Brian finds himself stranded in the wilderness, relearning the very basic human skills of observation and survival which modern civilization has largely forgotten. The author, Gary Paulsen, based most of Brian's adventures on his own experiences, from a childhood spent hunting in the Minnesota wilderness to later runnings of the Iditarod. In this book, Paulsen describes the parts of his life that later formed the basis of young Brian Robeson's transformative experiences in the deep woods.

REVIEW: Someday, Gary Paulsen needs to write himself a proper autobiography, but in the meantime this makes for a fascinating glimpse into a life full of adventures that some would relegate to another age: run-ins with insane moose, attacks by bloodthirsty insects swarming thick enough to block daylight, white-knuckle flights in Alaskan bush planes, even watching as seemingly tame wildlife showed its true spirit to unwary, foolish bystanders. Looking beyond the basics, it reveals a way of thinking that too many of us never learned. As an increasingly materialistic and urban civilization, we seem to be forgetting the mentality that made us such a successful species, the ability to observe and become one with the world around us, the drive and desire to know and learn which not only makes survival possible on a basic level, but makes for a more fully- experienced life. I wonder how much longer we will have people like Gary Paulsen and his fictional proxy, Brian, to remind us of that... and tracts of unspoiled wilderness in which to exercise it.

You might also enjoy:
The Alexander Cold trilogy (Isabel Allende, YA Fiction - An American teen undergoes deeply transformative events in the remote corners of the world)
The Remnants series (K. A. Applegate, YA Fiction - Five hundred years after a meteor destroyed life on Earth, the surviving humans aboard a retrofitted shuttle awaken in a surreal new world)
Beyond the Western Sea (Avi, YA Fiction - Two Irish children and the son of an English lord undertake the difficult journey to America)
Tarzan of the Apes (Edgar Rice Burroughs, Fiction - The classic story of a boy raised in the African jungle by apes)
Wreck of the Whale Ship Essex - Illustrated (Owen Chase, et al., Nonfiction - The true story of the wreck that inspired Melville's classic Moby-Dick, along with period articles on whaling and whales)
Survival 101: The Essential Guide to Saving Your Own Life in a Disaster (Marcus Duke, Nonfiction - A basic guide to surviving without modern conveniences in times of crisis)
Survival Kit: Build a Perfect Bug Out Bag For Any Disaster (Sasha Fields, Nonfiction - Prepare your own emergency survival kit)
The Sword and the Cross (Ian Fleming, Nonfiction - The true story of two Frenchmen who set out to conquer the untameable Sahara)
My Side of the Mountain (Jean Craighead George, YA Fiction - A New York City boy heads out to the Catskills to live off the land in the forest)
Chomp (Carl Hiaasen, YA Fiction - A father-son animal wrangler team deal with an egotistical "survivalist" TV star in the Florida Everglades)
The Call of the Wild and White Fang (Jack London, Fiction - In two stories, a dog learns to live as a wolf and a wolf learns to live as a dog)
Field Guide to the Apocalypse (Meghann Marco, Nonfiction - A tongue-in-cheek guide to surviving and averting various catastrophes, based on the sterling examples presented in Hollywood blockbusters)
Never Cry Wolf (Farley Mowat, Nonfiction - In the mid-20th century, a biologist studies wolves in the Canadian wilderness)
This Side of Wild (Gary Paulsen, YA? Nonfiction - Tales of the popular author's encounters with all manner of animals)
Wolf Brother (Michelle Paver, YA Fiction - In the endless wilderness of prehistoric earth, an orphaned boy faces a marauding, spirit-possessed bear with a wolf cub companion)
The Last Survivors trilogy (Susan Beth Pfeffer, YA Fiction - A teen girl's diary chronicles life after a global catastrophe destroys civilization)
Letters of a Woman Homesteader (Elinore Pruitt Stewart, Nonfiction - A woman and her daughter establish a frontier homestead in 1909 Wyoming)
Rogue Wave (Theodore Taylor, YA Fiction - Short stories of the sea and more)
A Journey to the Center of the Earth (Jules Verne, Fiction - A professor, his assistant, and an Icelandic guide descend into a volcano and find a lost world beneath the Earth's crust)

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The Rifle
Gary Paulsen
Laurel-Leaf Books
Fiction, YA General Fiction
****

DESCRIPTION: In 1768, when America began to chafe under British rule and the first hints of revolution were stirring, the gunsmith Cornish McManus built perhaps the perfect flintlock rifle, impossibly accurate and incredibly beautiful, a weapon and a work of art. From him, the rifle comes to the hands of John Byam, a legendary marksman in the Revolutionary War, before it passes on to another owner... and another... After Byam's death in the trenches, none of its successive owners thought to check the old muzzle- loading gun to see if it was still loaded as it passed through the years to the present day. If they had, things might have been different...

REVIEW: This is a book about what guns mean to various people in various times, and poses the question of whether the gun or the owner is truly the killer when terrible accidents occur. An interesting story which doubles as a cautionary tale about having respect for firearms, even old antiques that seem harmlessly rustic but were truly designed for the purpose of taking a life.

You might also enjoy:
Wolf Rider (Avi, YA Fiction - After receiving a call from a man confessing a murder, a boy can't stop obsessing over it)
Ghost Hawk (Susan Cooper, YA Fiction - Young native Little Hawk witnesses Puritan colonization and displacement of his people, both before and after his murder)
Rogue Wave (Theodore Taylor, YA Fiction - Short stories of the sea and more)
The Rifleman, Volume 1 (1958 DVD - Armed with a distinctive rifle, a rancher raises his son on the unforgiving frontier of New Mexico territory)

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This Side of Wild: Mutts, Mares, and Laughing Dinosaurs
Gary Paulsen
Simon and Schuster
Nonfiction, YA? Animals
****

DESCRIPTION: Popular author Gary Paulsen reflects on animal encounters through his life, from the dog Gretchen (who would hold long "conversations" over cups of bitter-dark coffee) to the toy poodle Corky (who proved unexpectedly brave against Alaskan grizzlies), not to mention his ongoing, frequently contentious relationship with ravens.

REVIEW: This is an interesting, if sometimes meandering, collection of stories demonstrating the intelligence, playfulness, and occasional spite of all manner of animals. In his observations, he comes to agree with a conclusion reached by an animal trainer friend of his: one does not train animals, but animals train us, having far more awareness and agency than humans like to credit them. Paulsen sees how even wild animals learn to manipulate humans, in memorable encounters at a highway rest stop and on a desert horseback ride. He also offers glimpses into his long and colorful life, not to mention a brief detour into the true horrors of nuclear warfare, as part of his military training introduced him to facts that were deliberately withheld from the general population on warhead lethality. (It's Gretchen, the dog who appeared to have figured out a way to hold wordless talks with her people, who helps him deal with this troubling knowledge.) As usual, I enjoyed Paulsen's writing style, though the chapters sometimes wavered and wandered in their focus. Overall, though, it's an interesting collection of animal encounters, mostly domestic but a few wild, that can be enjoyed by somewhat older children and adults alike. (Some of the material is a little graphic for very young readers.)

You might also enjoy:
Being a Beast (Charles Foster, Nonfiction - A man attempts to live as various animals to gain insight into how they perceive the world)
The My Side of the Mountain trilogy (Jean Craighead George, YA Fiction - A New York City boy heads out to the Catskills to live off the land in the forest)
James Herriot's books (James Herriot, Nonfiction - A veterinarian recounts his experiences in the late-1930's Yorkshire countryside)
Chomp (Carl Hiaasen, YA Fiction - A father-son animal wrangler team deal with an egotistical "survivalist" TV star in the Florida Everglades)
Secrets of the Cat (Barbara Holland, Nonfiction - Cat guide and anecdote collection)
The Call of the Wild and White Fang (Jack London, Fiction - In two stories, a dog learns to live as a wolf and a wolf learns to live as a dog)
Never Cry Wolf (Farley Mowat, Nonfiction - In the mid-20th century, a biologist studies wolves in the Canadian wilderness)
Animal Wise (Virginia Morell, Nonfiction - Scientists study how animals think and feel, with surprising results)
The Cat Who Couldn't See in the Dark (Howard Padwee, D.V.M. and Valerie Moolman, Nonfiction - A vet recalls stories of feline patients and their owners)
Guts (Gary Paulsen, YA Nonfiction - The author of the Brian Robeson series describes the true-life incidents and experiences that shaped the books)

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The Transall Saga
Gary Paulsen
Laurel-Leaf Books
Fiction, YA Sci-Fi
***

DESCRIPTION: Thirteen-year-old Mark was hiking across an abandoned missile range in the desert when a strange light from the sky transports him to another place, another world. Here, Mark finds his skills put to the ultimate test. Can he survive in this strange new wilderness, among warring primitive tribes and other, stranger enemies, long enough to find a way back home?

REVIEW: Something about this story just didn't "click" with me, though I can't for certain say why. I've certainly read worse. Paulsen's experience with survival and wilderness adventure lends an air of authenticity to Mark's experiences, but this isn't an alien-world Hatchet. Much of the book concerns Mark trying to fit in with the native cultures and their peculiar customs. Some of the plot twists seemed a little obvious, and Paulsen's girls were essentially decorative pieces so far as characterization was concerned, nowhere near as capable of fending for themselves as Mark or the other men. Paulsen also goes out of his way so Mark can try his hand at the old modern-kid-dazzles -rustic-natives trick of not only remembering the ingredients of gunpowder, but being able to recognize them in their native state, find them all in easy distance, and grind them finely enough and in proper proportions for a nice explosion without any preliminary experimentation or guesswork. The ending... well, it wasn't all a dream, I'll give him that, but it still felt like a letdown of similar proportions. I enjoyed parts of this book, and Paulsen's efforts at creating alien wilderness regions were good, but I'm not sure how well his writing translates to the sci-fi genre.

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