Disclosure: I received this complimentary product (Gone to the Woods) through Raincoast Books.
Every once in a while you start a book thinking, meh, might good, might not be and then end up being surprised by your enjoyment of it. Gone to the Woods is one of those books. I laughed, I frowned, I groaned with frustration, and I cheered. I saw a young man seeing hard things and making choices about what he would see. Over time I got to see that young man think, grow, and become something more than. I rejoiced in that journey. Come, read Gone to the Woods. I don’t think you’ll regret it.
Affiliate links will be used in this review. No cost to you, but it does help encourage me in my journey here! 🙂
The Straight Facts
Gone to the Woods is a biographical study by the author of his own troubled upbringing. From times of immense joy, to times of struggle, we watch a boy mature into a man. Gary Paulsen speaks candidly, but not so candidly that he would alarm his readers. Those readers are in the 8-12 year old bracket where they are venturing more into harder fiction, but still need to be mindful of what they read.
Gone to the woods: surviving a lost childhood runs at 368 pages and is published by Farrar Straus Giroux. Gary Paulsen is the author and I’m reviewing on behalf of Raincoast books.
Telling You More
Gary Paulsen writes a book that draws the reader in, wondering how the boy in the book is faring now. Has he be shipped off to another cousin, or up to gramma’s or still with his folks? What part of the world was he living in now? I loved when his Aunt Edy said “you’re our newest little potato.” We learned later what it meant to be a new potato and all the wonderfulness of that!
We learn of his being shipped to relatives, of his parents coming to take him, of the brutality of war in Manila, of his grit in taking care of himself, and the random kindness of strangers. Strangers who would give him work to do, and strangers who carefully noticed and found ways to encourage.
It’s a beautiful book to hold in your hand to read. Feels very solid and secure with a nice-sized font to facilitate easy reading. The language used is appropriate to the reader.
Should You Get Gone to the Woods?
If you enjoy Not always an easy read, you will enjoy knowing the story behind the stories. Seriously. I laughed, I occasionally commiserated, and I was thankful for kind people.
In many many ways, Mr. Paulsen shows us in Gone to the Woods, how awful his missed childhood was. He doesn’t tell the story in a “poor me” way, or with too much graphic detail (though there is some), but more in a matter-of-fact life wasn’t fun manner. You will learn why he writes as he does, his survivalist instincts, his knowledge of what it means to be a soldier, and more.
Not always an easy read, but told in such a matter-of-fact manner that it just becomes part of who he is. You need to judge if your children are ready to learn about some of the subject matter he touches on. These subjects include the brutality of war, alcoholism and neglect on the part of his parents, promiscuity, and gruesome death. BUT it also talks about the kindness of family, the careful attention by a librarian, and how he thought everything through. Thinking it all through is a vital part of surviving life don’t you suppose?
Would it be a good book for middle school? I think so. Yes, it has difficult things that happen. But you know what… , difficult things happen in life. Being exposed to those difficult things is not a bad thing, and having them written about in a not graphic, but matter of fact manner should be okay for most youth. NOW.. would I want an 8 year old? Perhaps not, it would depend on the child involved. But 11 and up, I really wouldn’t have a lot of issues.