Gone to the Woods: Surviving a Lost Childhood by Gary Paulsen
A middle grade memoir, giving readers a new perspective on the origins of Gary Paulsen’s famed survival stories.
His name is synonymous with high-stakes wilderness survival stories. Now, author Gary Paulsen portrays a series of life-altering moments from his turbulent childhood as his own original survival story. If not for his summer escape from a shockingly neglectful Chicago upbringing to a North Woods homestead at age five, there never would have been a Hatchet. Without the encouragement of the librarian who handed him his first book at age thirteen, he may never have become a reader. And without his desperate teenage enlistment in the Army, he would not have discovered his true calling as a storyteller.
Gary Paulsen’s books have been in my household for what seems like forever. My oldest son and I would read them together when he was growing up, and now my younger kids who are now in elementary enjoy them. I’ve even read some of his adult books about the dogs he’s had throughout his life, so when I came across this memoir for middle-graders, it was an instant purchase.
This book is told in narrative form and reads like fiction, but it’s all about his rough upbringing from about the age of five when he’s thrust off to live with distant relatives. His mother doesn’t have the time for him, and his dad is involved in WWII. Gary is sent on a train to Minnesota where he’s introduced to the woods, learns about life on a farm, and most importantly: the meaning of family. As time moves forward, his mother does return for him, and then he’s moved to the Philippines and eventually back to the States.
Gary Paulsen takes the reader into his experience growing up and it’s shocking at times. Many times he’s neglected, and some of the events that he’s exposed to are outright dangerous, but he’s able to overcome, and it’s what made him who he is today. How inspiring that a chance encounter with a librarian inspires his future as an author. I’ve learned about parts of his life in previous books, but Gone to the Woods is just an amazing story.
Personally, I think the story is beautifully written. There were only a few times where the pacing felt a little slow. The entire book kept my interest; however, some of the content may be a little heavy for younger middle-grade readers. It would probably best suit teen to YA readers. This is one to keep.
- Publisher : Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (January 12, 2021)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0374314152
- ISBN-13 : 978-0374314156
- Reading age : 8 – 12 years
- Grade level : 7 – 9
Thanks for reading my review. Have you read any of Gary Paulsen’s books? Which are your favorites? Let’s chat in the comment’s section below.