Paulsen, Gary. Woodsong. New York; Macmillan Publishing Company, 1990.
An action-packed adventure story of life in the snowy, sub-zero outdoors, Woodsong is sure to captivate all readers, from 12-year-olds to adults. Gary Paulsen shares his humorous, and often times frightening, experiences from his love of dogs and sled dog racing. Paulsen is the ever-learning student, and his dogs and Mother Nature are his mentors. He reveals his own determined character in this book, and readers can see the human characteristics in the animals, particularly his dogs, that Paulsen describes. The book is divided into two parts. In the first part, “Running,” Paulsen tells numerous anecdotes about his dogs, his other animals, and the native animals near his home in frosty Minnesota. It is here that readers are drawn into Paulsen’s love for his dogs and the life-altering lessons they teach him. The second part of the book, “The Race,” is a day by day account of Paulsen’s first journey across Alaska in the Iditarod, the legendary dogsled race that covers nearly 1,200 miles of glacial landscape. Paulsen writes candidly about himself and accurately about the events of the Iditarod, and he gives vivid descriptions of the animals, people, places and landscapes he encounters during his expedition. Writing in a conversational style, Paulsen makes it easy for readers to follow the fast-paced action and understand the enormity of his emotions towards his dogs and the landscape.
The tone of the book is thrilling, but not scary. The story makes readers feel as though they are listening to an old friend; the story is tense and grueling at times, but it leaves readers wanting more. The language is clear, but younger readers may have trouble with a few difficult words. There are only two pencil graphics, by Ruth Paulsen, the author’s wife, although the lack of graphics does not hinder readers’ imaginations, but may, instead, help them. Paulsen’s descriptions are graphic enough themselves. Woodsong
is a stunning true tale of personal triumph and the beauty, mystery and violence of the frozen world. This book is highly intriguing, and animal-lovers (boys especially) will love the graphic details of wolves on the chase and pell-mell wrong-turn adventures through the snow. This book opens the door for readers to explore Paulsen’s other books about living in the wintry outdoors.