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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Steering his narrative through an unsentimentalized and deglorified depiction of the American Revolution, Paulsen’s latest work of historical fiction provides a stark glimpse of just how awful the war really was for those who suffered through it. Though his parents are city folk trying to hack out a life on the frontier in Pennsylvania, 13-year-old Samuel is entirely at home in the woodland wilderness that surrounds their little settlement. Soon after word arrives of the uprising in Concord and Lexington, Samuel returns home from a jaunt in the forest to find his home burned down, the neighbors slaughtered, and his parents missing. Samuel tracks his captured parents through the countryside to British-held New York, encountering scalping bands of Iroquois, pillaging squads of mercenary Hessians, and a few hardy, helpful rebels along the way. Paulsen alternates chapters of Samuel’s story with historical notes that illuminate the sobering realities of the Revolution and add some context not found in most history books. Paulsen’s rewarding and fast-paced novel offers an honest assessment of heroism writ both small and large. Grades 6-9. --Ian Chipman --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Starred review, Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2010: "A superb reflection on the nature of war."

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Audio CD: 3 pages
  • Publisher: Listening Library (Audio); Unabridged edition (January 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307710327
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307710321
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 5.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (115 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #959,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gary Paulsen is one of the most honored writers of contemporary literature for young readers. He has written more than one hundred book for adults and young readers, and is the author of three Newberry Honor titles: Dogsong, Hatchet, and The Winter Room. He divides his time among Alaska, New Mexico, Minnesota, and the Pacific.

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

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#58 in Books > Teens
#58 in Books > Teens

Customer Reviews

This book was very well written.
Team LitPick
Gary Paulsen's WOODS RUNNER is a book that I would have loved when I fifth grade.
N. S.
Purchased this book for our middle school library.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Marjorie Light on January 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Woods Runner, Gary Paulsen's latest novel, has what readers love about the famed author: the adventure, nature, and fast-paced narrative. This one has something more - the grittiness of the Revolutionary War - as seen through the eyes of 12-year-old Samuel, along with a unique style of presentation.

The story begins as most classic Paulsen's do, in the woods, and quickly segues into the encroaching war. In an effort to set the historical context, Paulsen augments the third-person omniscient chapters with short notes (one to two page) to help the reader understand the historical context of the story.

Paulsen's arrangement of alternating fiction and non-fiction is like having a friendly history teacher giving you short bursts of pertinent information while you are reading. The inclusion of the historical context is why this book is perfect for literature circles or a class read-aloud. At only 161 pages, the book is written for ages twelve and up. The depiction of war and how impacts both soldiers and local families is realistic and somewhat graphic, so squeamish people might squirm. The descriptions are not gratuitous or over-the-top, however, and add to the authenticity of Paulsen's writing.

In New York State, 7th grade students study American history, so WOODS RUNNER would be a great offering for students who like action and read at a normal reading level. It also could be supplemental reading for an older student who has a lower reading level. If you are a teacher or librarian, make sure you add this one to your mix! Parents, if your child loves this popular author or gritty historical fiction, make sure to add it to your gift list. As an added bonus, an author study kit will be available through the publisher Wendy Lamb Books, a division of Random House.
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83 of 96 people found the following review helpful By RevWar author on March 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
After spending the past 30 years researching, writing and doing school presentations on the Revolutionary War, I always have mixed feelings when I learn about a newly published YA novel on this subject - I look forward to reading it, but am apprehensive it will be full of historical inaccuracies. I am also hard to please. I consider Johnny Tremain too slow, April Morning too philosophical, My Brother Sam is Dead too depressing, and Octavian Nothing much, much too difficult for young readers.
I recommend L.M. Elliott's Give Me Liberty for how it shows how political events on the eve of the war impact ordinary Virginians. Also, Ann Rinaldi's The Fifth of March for her excellent portrayal of life in 1770 British army occupied Boston, with a nice love story thrown in. As for stories showing how inexperienced teenage soldiers cope with their first battle, I have yet to see any book as good as my own two, Patriots and Gone to Meet the British.
Now I'm adding WOODS RUNNER to this short "recommended" list. It has all the elements I consider essential to a good children's novel: a main character the reader can identify with, and it's exciting, suspenseful, fast paced and easy to read. Gary Paulsen's description of how Samuel uses his woods skills is right on, as well as the boy's feelings and thoughts. The story is believable, and I read it straight through to see how the conflict was resolved.
However, nearly every chapter had an extra page or two after it where Paulsen provided historical context info that took me out of the moment; those pages would have been better placed in a lengthy Afterword. I suspect this book will be around for a few decades.
If Mr.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on March 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Gold Star Award Winner!

In WOODS RUNNER, Gary Paulsen takes readers inside the American Revolution. It is not the history book version, but instead, the story of one young boy's fight to survive and save his parents.

Thirteen-year-old Samuel loves the woods. He spends his time exploring the forest and hunting for game to feed his family. One day while in the woods, Samuel sees black smoke in the distance. The longer he watches the smoke, the more uncomfortable he feels.

He heads for home, but when he arrives, he discovers his house and all of the other buildings in his small settlement burned to the ground. As he searches for survivors, he finds casualties, but his parents are not among them. He stays long enough to bury those who were killed, and then he heads off in search of his parents.

Samuel travels cautiously. He keeps to the brush and ducks for cover whenever he hears a noise. As he follows the trail of the Redcoats, he hears news about how they are traveling toward New York, where most prisoners are being held. His goal is to get there, too, and rescue his mother and father.

Along the way, Samuel witnesses horrible scenes of death and destruction. He is badly injured in one attack, but thanks to the help of strangers, he recovers enough to continue his journey. Other strangers also step in and lend a helping hand as Samuel heads east.

Gary Paulsen not only tells Samuel's adventurous tale, but he also inserts factual information telling about the British, the Colonists, and others involved in this tumultuous time in history. WOODS RUNNER is definitely not your typical, boring historical recap. There is action, suspense, and touching moments about what it was like to live and die during the American Revolution.

Reviewed by: Sally Kruger, aka "Readingjunky"
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