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Gary Paulsen Does it Again!

Woods Runner, Gary Paulsen’s latest novel, has what readers love about the famed author: the adventure, nature, and fast-paced narrative. This one has something more – the grittiness of the Revolutionary War – as seen through the eyes of 12-year-old Samuel, along with a unique style of presentation.  The story begins as most classic Paulsen’s do, in the woods, and quickly segues into the encroaching war. In an effort to set the historical context, Paulsen augments the third-person omniscient chapters with short notes (one to two page) to help the reader understand the historical context of the story. The main character, Samuel, sets off to track his family after they have been taken prisoner, witnessing the atrocities of war along the way. He takes a young girl who gets caught in the cross-fire under his wing and continues his journey to find New York City in the grips of the Revolutionary War.

Paulsen’s arrangement of alternating fiction and non-fiction is like having a friendly history teacher giving you short bursts of pertinent information while you are reading. The inclusion of the historical context is why this book is perfect for literature circles or a class read-aloud. At only 161 pages, the book is written for ages twelve and up. The depiction of war and how impacts both soldiers and local families is realistic and somewhat graphic, so squeamish people might squirm. The descriptions are not gratuitous or over-the-top, however, and add to the authenticity of Paulsen’s writing.

In New York State, 7th grade students study American history, so WOODS RUNNER would be a great offering for students who like action and read at a normal reading level. It also could be supplemental reading for an older student who has a lower reading level. If you are a teacher or librarian, make sure you add this one to your mix! Parents, if your child loves this popular author or gritty historical fiction, make sure to add it to your gift list. As an added bonus, an author study kit will be available through the publisher Wendy Lamb Books, a division of Random House. WOODS RUNNER goes on sale February 9, 2010.

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