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Woods Runner

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Page-turner peppered with Revolutionary War history.
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What parents need to know

Educational value

As historical fiction, readers will learn much about life in the 1770s, including descriptions of food and its preparation, equipment and tools (including guns of the time), clothing, attitudes, hunting and survival in the woods. Readers also learn a bit about the Revolutionary war itself -- such as the role of the Native Americans, the French, and the Hessian armies employed by the British -- but the story doesn't go into details about politics or particular battles.  The author does include brief historical notes throughout the book that alternate with the fiction. Topics include: "Communication," "Frontier Life," "Weapons," "The Americans, "Civilian Intelligence," "Treatment of Prisoners of War," and others.

Positive messages

Depicts the intesity of life in war time, including rampant death, destruction, creation of orphans, mistrust, hatred, etc. but the take-away message is that war is awful. The story also includes human kindness, generosity, and bravery (not to mention the results of that war changed history forever). 

Positive role models

Samuel is incredibly courageous for a 13-year-old, as he tracks down and finds his kidnapped parents; strangers along the way feed Samuel, although it puts them in great danger and takes from their supplies; perfect strangers help him heal after he'd been attacked by Indians; others put themselves at risk to help him on his journey; and Samuel's family adopts Annie full-heartedly.

Violence

Gritty Revolutionary War violence, but not described graphically. Samuel comes across people who have been scalped or shot with arrows, he watches people get killed and houses burned to the ground, he shoots two people dead in self defense, he buries mutilated bodies.

Sex
Not applicable
Language

"Hell" and "damn."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Samuel notices that adults tell "stories" when they have had too much hard cider or blackstrap rum. Samuel also notices that a neighbor's face is always red because he drinks 3 quarts of home beer for breakfast every morning.  Samuel refers to a time when he tried tobacco in a clay pipe and as chew, but says it made him sick and he couldn't understand why folks kept with the habit.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is a war story, and as such, there is violence and sadness. There's gritty war violence (the main character, a young teen, shoots and kills a couple people in self-defense and watches others get killed) but it's never described graphically.  Parents also need to know that this book offers positive characters who are generous and courageous and lots of historical information about the Revolutionary War.

What's the story?

In the wild frontier of Bristish Pennsylvania, 13-year-old Samuel is a "woods runner," or someone who hunts food for his entire settlement. Growing up sheltered by his gentle parents, Samuel feels far from the American patriot war they have barely heard about -- until his village is attacked and burned, leaving neighbors murdered and his parents kidnapped by Iroquois and British Redcoats. Armed with only a knife and a rifle, Samuel uses his forest skills to track the kidnappers. When he learns that his parents, as prisoners of war, are being taken to New York, Samuel sets out into enemy territory.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

WOODS RUNNER is a worthy page-turner, just right for the reader who is ready for a gripping, informational book with some violence. The book offers meaningful characters, true adventure, helpful and interesting historical notes, as well as an epilogue and an afterword.  The story doesn't go into the politics or particulars of the Revolutionary War, yet it sets a tone of learning under the action and in the author's historical notes that pepper the story. Kids will get through this book easily, though it will leave a mark on them. It would also make a good tie-in to a school study of American history.

Families can talk about...

  • Samuel's parents read aloud to each other every night.  Why do you think they did that?  Has your family ever spent time reading aloud together? If so, what have you read together?  What would you like to read together now? What do people get out of shared reading? 

  • Samuel's parents left a bigger town to live on the frontier (the colony of Pennsylvania).  It was difficult for them to get news and they had no idea the war was as close as it was.  How do you get news?  Do you live in a big or small town, and does that make a difference in how you get your news?

  • Samuel says, "I didn't even know there was anyone to fight.  Who was good or bad, which side to be on."   Is it always clear in war who is the good guy and who is the bad guy?  Who says who is good and who is bad?  What role does the media play in our attiutudes toward war?

  • Many innocent lives are lost at war, including those of non-soldiers, the elderly, women, and children. How do nations try to protect innocents? Are there rules of war?  Ask your parents about or research The Geneva Conventions of 1949.

Book details

Author:Gary Paulsen
Genre:Historical Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Wendy Lamb
Publication date:January 12, 2010
Number of pages:176
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17

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Kid, 12 years old April 23, 2011

Woods Runner Review

I am 11 years old and we read this book in class. At parts, specifically in the beginning, I thought it was a little too graphic... Like when it describes the neighbors being mutilated and scalped. Over all I liked the book. It sets a positive message, fight for what you believe in.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Educational value
Great messages
Kid, 12 years old March 15, 2011
My teacher recommended this book for me. It is addictive, but more than a bit violent. There is death, but other than that it is a good educational book. I would suggest it.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 12 years old April 28, 2013

Amazing

it is a good book and it is in my opinion, a great book
What other families should know
Educational value
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

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