Book Review: Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen

Hatchet was one of my favorite books as a young reader. I loved imagining a survival situation and how I might use my resources and brain to survive even with the odds stacked against me.

I’m also a fan of the American Revolution, simply because of the incredible odds the colonists faced.

Hence, I was happy to see that Gary Paulsen had a book written about the Revolutionary War. With a toddler and baby at home, I use their screen time and bath time to read young adult and middle grade books that don’t require too much attention (as opposed to, say, Faulkner). It’s also a chance for me to preview books that I can share with the little ones when they get a bit older. The challenge with reading these kinds of books is that sometimes I feel they are written in a way that belittles the reader. This was not the case with Woods Runner.

The book is a fast read, and an easy one. It follows Samuel, a 13-year old living on the outskirts of society during the Revolutionary War. It is briefly established that he is an expert at living in the woods. He has taken care of his parents since they moved away from the city, for instance. We are given just a brief glimpse into this expertise before he is dragged into the war when his parents are taken captive (with the surrounding families slaughtered).

I do wish the book were a bit longer—with a few more chapters establishing Samuel’s life before he was dragged into the war. I’m fascinated by history, and I love books that take me into the time period with details that were everyday facts for those who lived back then. Still, there was enough to establish the flavor of life at the time, such as mention of Samuel’s shoes and the fact that a girl he meets later didn’t even have any to wear.

As Samuel resolves to rescue his parents, he meets several people who help him, even though they didn’t have to—a head wound leaves him near death, for instance. Nonetheless, he survives because of his own skills and the kindness of strangers.

The novel provides a glimpse into some of the less well-visited elements of the Revolutionary War, especially when it comes to the treatment of prisoners. When imprisoned, Americans were barely fed and were kept in conditions that often encouraged death. Paulsen includes brief, easily-understood glimpses into some of the history of the time, such as the fact that very few children (war orphans) were ever officially adopted.

I would like to read a more in-depth version of the story, especially to see what Samuel does when he gets older—maybe in a book written more for young adults or even adult readers. Still, it was a good read, and it’s one I’ll share with my kids when they are older.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.