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Father Water, Mother Woods


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About the Author

Gary Paulsen is the distinguished author of many critically acclaimed books for young people, including three Newbery Honor books: The Winter Room, Hatchet, and Dogsong. He won the Margaret A. Edwards Award given by the American Library Association for his lifetime achievement in young adult literature. Among his Random House books are Road Trip (written with his son, Jim Paulsen); Family Ties; Vote; Crush; Flat Broke; Liar, Liar; Paintings from the Cave; Woods Runner; Masters of Disaster; Lawn Boy; Notes from the Dog; The Amazing Life of Birds; Molly McGinty Has a Really Good Day; How Angel Peterson Got His Name; Guts; and five books about Francis Tucket's adventures in the Old West. Gary Paulsen has also published fiction and nonfiction for adults. He divides his time between his home in Alaska, his ranch in New Mexico, and his sailboat on the Pacific Ocean. Ruth Wright Paulsen is an artist, illustrator, and author of books for young readers. She graduated from the University of Colorado, where she studied painting, and then taught art at a junior high school, which informs her illustrations for children's books. She frequently collaborates with her husband, author Gary Paulsen, and her illustrations can be seen in his books Father Water, Mother Woods and My Life in Dog Years. She lives and works in New Mexico.


Gary Paulsen, in a foreword to this collection of autobiographical essays, identifies his youthful experiences in the woods and rivers of northern Minnesota as the source for his Newbery Honor novel Hatchet (about which he receives 30,000-40,000 letters a year), and its sequel, The River . ``In the normal course of things,'' he writes of himself and his companions, ``our lives hurt. When we were in the woods or fishing . . . our lives didn't hurt.'' A few scattered references to his parents' alcoholism suffice to indicate the ``normal course of things''; the emphasis here is squarely on the intensity of Paulsen and his friends' sometimes earnest, sometimes comic adventures. The boys fish and hunt, for survival as well as for excitement. The seriousness of their endeavors is evident from their carefully cultivated expertise (they invent ways to make flies and plugs; they create frog pits to get bait for walleyes; etc.) and from the sober matter of finances (``a dollar a fish . . . sounds good, but to get a fish . . . is a day at the ditch, another fish for the old man, nights working at the smoke-shed for the old man''). Throughout it all, descriptions of light and water, of fish and wildlife, kindle in the reader a measure of the author's own complex respect for nature. Illustrations not seen by PW. All ages. (Sept.)

Gr 7 Up-Paulsen begins this collection of compelling memoirs with a forword that reflects on the genesis of his novel Hatchet (Macmillan, 1987). He concludes by poignantly expressing doubts about the moral correctness of hunting. In between, he pares away the layers of his life, revealing a lost kid who sought sanctuary in friends and the outdoors. In half of the selections, he relates the joys of fishing. There's one essay on camping as comic disaster during high summer; the rest are about hunting. All are intensely personal and steeped in a bygone time of hand-set pins in a bowling alley, lack of equal rights for African Americans, corporal punishment, dress codes, and ducktail haircuts. Readers of the author's earlier works will hear echoes as old as Winterkill (Elsevier-Nelson, 1976; o.p.) in Paulsen's description of snagging fish by the hydropower dam. The metaphor of life as a dance; his characteristic good humor; and the frequent references to blood, madness, prostitution, farts, and beer will strike a familiar chord, as will the seasonal structure through which the essays cycle. The pieces are rooted in the details of a youth spent in search of perfection: the perfect cast, perfect catch, perfect shot. Equally on target are descriptions of the pain of feeling the outsider, of being a failure at school, and of being ashamed of his parents' drunkenness. This book will appeal to Paulsen's many fans, to lovers of the outdoors, and to students of the essay.-Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Jr. High School, Iowa City, IA

"This book is obviously a feast for the outdoor lover--the hunter, fisherman, or camper--but it will also draw those who love the beauty of the carefully crafted description, so detailed and vivid....The essence of Paulsen."--Booklist

"The pieces are rooted in the details of a youth spent in search of perfection: the perfect cast, perfect catch, perfect shot...On target." --School Library Joumal "Descriptions of light and water, of fish and wildlife, kindle in the reader a measure of the author's own complex respect for nature."
--Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

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