Gary Paulsen's Middle Grade Autobiography -- Fascinating and Heart-wrenching


Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Have you heard of the author Gary Paulsen? He is a three-time Newbery Honor winning author. He wrote books such as Hatchet, Dogsong, and The Winter Room. I haven't personally read them but they apparently are amazing middle school and young adult books. Now he is sharing his own childhood story in Gone to the Woods: Surviving a Lost Childhood

From the Publisher: 

A mesmerizing memoir from a living literary legend, 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, beloved 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.

A moving and enthralling story of grit and growing up, Gone to the Woods is perfect for newcomers to the voice and lifelong fans alike, from the acclaimed author at his rawest and realest.

From Me:

This book absolutely fascinated me. The life Gary describes from his own childhood is awfully amazing. At times I was fascinated at what he did and other times I was in tears at the painful childhood. The book starts with the shocking adventure of taking a train from Chicago to the woods in northern Minnesota by himself at the age of five-years-old. The saddest part for me though was when his mother came to take him from that home in Minnesota. It seems like it was truly the only home he had at any point in his childhood and of course where he was loved. His uncle tried to stop his mother from taking him but her sister forced him to let him go. What he learned in those north woods definitely helped him survive throughout his childhood. I honestly was drawn right into this book because I could not imagine such a childhood. His life was adventure after adventure. Each adventure taught him new skills for his survival and each adventure kept me wanting to read more. 

The book provides so many discussion points. There are times when he is bullied and then he shares how he overcame the bullies. Then there is the librarian who befriends him and introduces him to reading and writing. She gives him someone for whom to write. Imagine if he hadn't gone to the library to get warm. Imagine if she hadn't taken an interest in him. The world would not have gotten to read his award winning books. Another view on this book will be for kids to see what life could be like and perhaps compare their own. It also has the historical point of view. It starts during World War II and after leaving the north woods he is taken to the Philippines to be with his father who was serving there. The details in the book are so interesting. It gets specific with all the details of things he saw and did throughout his life. I hope you will check it out.