Cover image for Woods runner
Woods runner
Library ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Random House/Listening Library, p2010.
Physical Description:
3 sound discs (ca. 74 min. each) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.
General Note:

Compact discs.
Added Author:
From his 1776 Pennsylvania homestead, thirteen-year-old Samuel, who is a highly-skilled woodsman, sets out toward New York City to rescue his parents from the band of British soldiers and Indians who kidnapped them after slaughtering most of their community. Includes historical notes.


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Samuel, 13, spends his days in the forest, hunting for food for his family. He has grown up on the frontier of a British colony, America. Far from any town, or news of the war against the King that American patriots have begun near Boston.

But the war comes to them. British soldiers and Iroquois attack. Samuel's parents are taken away, prisoners. Samuel follows, hiding, moving silently, determined to find a way to rescue them. Each day he confronts the enemy, and the tragedy and horror of this war. But he also discovers allies, men and women working secretly for the patriot cause. And he learns that he must go deep into enemy territory to find his parents: all the way to the British headquarters, New York City.

From the Hardcover edition.

Author Notes

Gary Paulsen was born on May 17, 1939 in Minnesota. He was working as a satellite technician for an aerospace firm in California when he realized he wanted to be a writer. He left his job and spent the next year in Hollywood as a magazine proofreader. His first book, Special War, was published in 1966. He has written more than 175 books for young adults including Brian's Winter, Winterkill, Harris and Me, Woodsong, Winterdance, The Transall Saga, Soldier's Heart, This Side of Wild, and Guts: The True Stories Behind Hatchet and the Brian Books. Hatchet, Dogsong, and The Winter Room are Newbery Honor Books. He was the recipient of the 1997 Margaret A. Edwards Award for his lifetime achievement in writing for young adults.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Set during the American Revolution, Paulsen's (Hatchet) slim novel candidly and credibly exposes the underbelly of that war. Sam is a skilled hunter with an instinctive knowledge of the western Pennsylvania forest-a "woods runner." When word of fighting between the British and the colonists reaches his family, the 13-year-old realizes that his life will change ("The loud outside world his parents had escaped by moving to the frontier had found them"). It is a brutal change: Sam returns from a hunting expedition to find houses in their settlement burned to the ground and the scalped bodies of neighbors. His harrowing quest to locate and rescue his parents-taken prisoner by the culprits, British soldiers aided by Iroquois-involves a nearly fatal run-in with a tomahawk-wielding native; a narrow escape from marauding Hessian mercenaries; and a fortuitous encounter with a Scottish tinker who's a spy for the patriots. Paulsen fortifies this illuminating and gripping story with interspersed historical sections that offer details about frontier life and the war (such as technology, alliances, and other period information), helping place Sam's struggles in context. Ages 12-up. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

Samuel, thirteen, finds the tracking, hunting, and survival skills he's learned in the deep forest put to new use when the events of the once-distant Revolution reach his family's western Pennsylvania homestead. By using a setting far removed from those more frequently used for historical fiction about 1776 (Boston, Philadelphia, etc.), Paulsen gets to deploy his considerable talent for wilderness adventure, here yoked -- via the British-ordered massacre of Samuel's neighbors and capture of his parents -- to the larger events of the era. The narrative is interspersed with brief nonfiction sections ("Weapons," "The Hessians," etc.) that inform the narrative in a straightforward way, including details that are helpful and interesting, and accenting rather than slowing the momentum. Hatchet (rev. 3/88) fans will appreciate the way Samuel's woodcraft allows him to find food and elude capture while tracking his parents even into the city of New York, and they will relate to the open and genuinely boyish emotion he displays for them and a little girl he rescues en route to the satisfying conclusion. From HORN BOOK, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

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.--Chipman, Ian Copyright 2010 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

It's hard not to get caught up in this good-natured revenge fantasy: What if you got back at a boy who dumped you by (1) swearing off all boys for the rest of high school, and (2) getting a surprising number of popular girls to go along? Penny, who shares her parents' dorky obsession with the Beatles, starts the Lonely Hearts Club, and soon the meetings hardly fit in her basement. Romantic adventures ensue, and readers won't care if they are a bit tidily resolved and result in a completely boy-crazy plot (weren't we supposed to be over that?). THE BORED BOOK By David Michael Slater. Illustrated by Doug Keith. Simply Read. $16.95. (Ages 5 and up) This wordless book begins perfectly, with an image of two bored siblings fighting on the sofa in Grandfather's study while he looks on morosely. Then he opens a secret door leading to a cobwebby attic where a mysterious tome awaits: like characters in a wittier version of the Magic Tree House series, the brother and sister fall through the pages and into perilous adventures involving snow monsters and pirates. We get the message, and so do they. THE HUMBLEBEE HUNTER Inspired by the Life and Experiments of Charles Darwin and His Children. By Deborah Hopkinson. Illustrated by Jen Corace. Disney-Hyperion. $16.99. (Ages 4 to 8) Hopkinson frames her charming if slender story around a historical fact: the way Darwin's children helped him collect specimens and make observations, frequently in the family's own gardens. Here Darwin's daughter Henrietta helps him count the flowers one "humblebee," or bumblebee, can visit in a minute: 21. It's a lovely reminder for modern children of how much there is to notice just outside the window. LITTLE CLOUD AND LADY WIND By Toni Morrison and Slade Morrison. Illustrated by Sean Qualls. Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster. $16.99. (Ages 4 to 8) Qualls's gorgeous acrylic, collage and colored-pencil drawings set the tone for this tale, loosely based on the same idea as Aesop's "Bundle of Sticks": many are stronger than one. At first, "This Little Cloud" drifts alone, "not wanting to blend into a group" or "join the other clouds" in scaring Earth. But in the end Lady Wind teaches her how much she's a part of everything, even on her own. A lulling, maternal take on the simplest of stories. WOODS RUNNER By Gary Paulsen. Wendy Lamb. $15.99. (Ages 12 and up) Paulsen's talent for scene-setting, especially in an exciting wilderness drama, is paired here with a vivid story of the American Revolution. Samuel lives in the British colony of Pennsylvania in 1776; at 13, he's an expert hunter and tracker. He needs those skills when his parents are captured by British soldiers in a violent attack; to rescue them, he follows their trail deep into enemy territory. The story is instantly involving; less effective are curious single-page history lessons that break it up (with headings like "Frontier Life" and "War Orphans"). NIGHT LIGHTS Written and illustrated by Susan Gal. Knopf. $14.99. (Ages 4 to 8) A darkly lit and rhythmic bedtime story that could also provide early reading help: it's good to get used to those tricky "night" and "light" words that don't sound at all the way they look. The sun has already gone down when a "streetlight," "headlight" and "porch light" provide all the light there is a smalltown neighborhood. If Gal's charcoal drawings didn't look so homey, the atmosphere would be almost spooky - but she also wisely puts in a smiling pooch having a dog-biscuit cake by "candlelight." The story ends just right with "good night." JULIE JUST

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6-9-Samuel, 13, lives in the British colony of Pennsylvania. He spends his days exploring and hunting in the woods far from civilization. His father wants to live a quiet life learning to use tools and build a house, while his mother tries to get the garden to grow. There are rumors that American patriots have begun a bloody war against the English but news takes weeks to arrive and the fighting seems far away from the peaceful frontier. Suddenly, the war comes to Samuel. While he is hunting, British soldiers and Iroquois attack, taking Samuel's parents prisoner and killing many in the settlement. He follows their trail determined to rescue them. Paulsen takes readers inside the reality of this war, revealing the horrific conditions of the civilians who were taken prisoner. Between each chapter Paulsen includes information on various aspects of the war such as weapons, civilian deaths, orphans, and communication. Through Samuel's story, readers discover the brutality and cost of war. In the afterword, the author informs readers that he is not attempting to write the history of the Revolutionary War but instead to clarify some aspects of it. His story will leave readers with a new sense of admiration for those who lost their lives in the creation of the nation. This fast-paced novel will appeal to Paulsen fans and is a good choice for reluctant readers.-Denise Moore, O'Gorman Junior High School, Sioux Falls, SD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



CHAPTER 1 He was not sure exactly when he became a child of the forest. One day it seemed he was eleven and playing in the dirt around the cabin or helping with chores, and the next, he was thirteen, carrying a .40-caliber Pennsylvania flintlock rifle, wearing smoked-buckskin clothing and moccasins, moving through the woods like a knife through water while he tracked deer to bring home to the cabin for meat. He sat now by a game trail waiting for the deer he knew would come soon. He had heard it, a branch brushing a hairy side, a twig cracking, smelled it when the wind blew toward him, the musk and urine of a buck. He checked the priming on his rifle while he waited, his mind and body relaxed, patient, ears and eyes and nose alert. Quiet. Every part of him at rest, yet focused and intense. And he pictured his life, how he lived in two worlds. Sometimes Samuel thought that a line dividing those worlds went right through their cabin. To the west, beyond the small parchment window made of grease-soaked sheepskin scraped paper-thin, lay the forest. The forest was unimaginably vast, impenetrable, mysterious and dark. His father had told him that a man could walk west for a month, walk as fast as he could, and never see the sun, so high and dense was the canopy of leaves. Even close to their homestead--twelve acres clawed out of the timber with a small log cabin and a lean-to for a barn--the forest was so thick that in the summer Samuel could not see more than ten or fifteen yards into it. Some oak and elm and maple trees were four and five feet in diameter and so tall and thickly foliaged their height could only be guessed. A wild world. And while there were trails made by game and sometimes used by natives, settlers or trappers, the paths wandered and meandered so that they were impossible to use in any sensible way. Except to hunt. When he first started going into the forest, Samuel went only a short distance. That first time, though he was well armed with his light Pennsylvania rifle and dry powder and a good knife, he instantly felt that he was in an alien world. As a human he did not belong. It was a world that did not care about man any more than it cared about dirt, or grass, or leaves. He did not get lost that first time, because he'd marked trees with his knife as he walked so he could find his way out; butstill, in some way he felt lost, as if, were he not careful, a part of him would disappear and never return, gone to the wildness. Samuel had heard stories of that happening to some men. They entered the forest to hunt or trap or look for new land to settleand simply vanished. "Gone to the woods," people said of them. Some, he knew, were dead. Killed by accident, or panthers or bear or Indians. He had seen such bodies. One, a man mauled to death by a bear that had attacked his horse while the man was plowing; the man's head was eaten; another, killed by an arrow through the throat. An arrow, Samuel knew, that came out of the woods from a bow that was never seen, shot by a man who was never known. And when he was small, safe inside the cabin near the mud-brick fireplace with his mother and father, he had heard the panthers scream; they sounded like a woman gone mad. Oh, he knew the forest could kill. Once, sitting by the fire, a distant relative, a shirttail uncle who was a very old man of nearly fifty named Ishmael, had looked over his shoulder as if expecting to see monsters and said, "Nothing dies of old age in the forest. Not bugs, not deer, not bear nor panthers nor man. Live long enough, be slow enough, get old enough and something eats you. Everything kills." And yet Samuel loved the forest now. He knew the sounds and smells and images like he knew his own mind, his own yard. Each time he had entered he'd gone farther, learned more, marked more trees with his knife, until he always knew where he was. Now he thought of the deep forest as his home, as much as their cabin. But some men vanished for other reasons, too. Because the forest pulled them and the wild would not let them go. Three years ago, when Samuel was ten, he had seen one of these men, a man who moved like smoke, his rifle a part of his arm, a tomahawk through his belt next to a slab-bladed knife, eyes that saw all things, ears that heard all things. One family in the settlement had a room on their cabin that was a kind of store. The man had come to the store to buy small bits of cloth and powder and English flints for his rifle at the same time Samuel was waiting for his mother to buy thread. The man smelled of deep forest, of smoke and blood and grease and something green--Samuel knew he smelled that way, too. The stranger could not be still. As he stood waiting, he moved. Though he was courteous and nodded to people, as soon as he had the supplies for his rifle and some salt, he left. He was there one moment and gone the next, into the trees, gliding on soft moccasins to become part of the forest, as much as any tree or leaf or animal. He went west. Away from man, away from the buildings and the settled land. From the Hardcover edition. Excerpted from Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.