Book Review: The Voyage of the Frog by Gary Paulsen

I re-read this book for a YA/kidlit class I’m teaching later this month. Gary Paulsen was one of my favorite authors as a kid. I devoured each of his books, loving the way his characters expanded their horizons to develop skills needed to survive life-or-death situations while under the age of sixteen.

The Voyage of the Frog follows a boy named David. Fourteen years old, he has been sailing with his Uncle Owen—old-school sailing on a boat called the Frog. The beginning of the book opens with some poignant scenes: Uncle Owen is dying of cancer and has less than two weeks to live. His dying wish is that David take the Frog out, alone, to scatter Owen’s ashes after his death. David, who learns he will be inheriting the ship, must go out far enough so that no land is visible.

After he scatters his uncle’s ashes, an unexpected storm hits, sending him far off track to the south. The rest of the book follows David’s journey—both the physical journey and the coming-of-age internal journey as he survives with just a few cans of food and limited water.

I’m using this book in my workshop as part of a lesson on the hero’s journey and how YA and kidlit can be used to teach the basic stages of the archetypal journey. Like most of Paulsen’s books, this one fits the journey well; Brian develops externally and internally.

Though his books are obviously meant for boys, I loved them as a girl. The issues the characters confront are universal to humans and not exclusive to males. I recommend his books to readers of all ages, and this one is a quick read that you won’t want to put down.

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