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The winter room
Publication Information:
New York : Orchard Books, c1989.
Physical Description:
103 p. ; 22 cm.
Geographic Term:
A young boy growing up on a northern Minnesota farm describes the scenes around him and recounts his old Norwegian uncle's tales of an almost mythological logging past.


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A young boy growing up on a northern Minnesota farm describes the scenes around him and recounts his old Norwegian uncle's tales of an almost mythological logging past.

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

Following the events of one year, from plowing to harvest to butchering, this novel offers a compelling description of farming in a bygone time. The narrator, Elgon, is the younger son of a Scandinavian family in northern Minnesota. He begins in spring, a time of softening rather than awakening, and finishes with stories old Nels and Uncle David tell around the stove in winter (the story is set some time in the first half of this century). While work fills their time, the year is not without its lighter moments, like the time Elgon's brother Wayne, inspired by Zane Grey, decides to leap from the hayloft onto the back of one of the plowhorses. Elgon's steady, believable voice tells a story that will inevitably recall Laura Ingalls Wilder--but by way of Hemingway and Jim Harrison. Newbery Award-winner Paulsen never disappoints, and proves his talent again in this remarkably good tale. Ages 11-14. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

Fiction: I Although set in the thirties, a sensitive yet unsentimental view of life on a remote Minnesota farm bears the flavor of a much older era. Another fine example of Paulsen's writing gifts. Review, March 1990. Horn Rating: Superior, well above average. Reviewed by: ert (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

Gr. 6-8. In a change of pace from his recent survival stories, Hatchet [BKL N 15 87] and The Voyage of the Frog [BKL Mr 1 89], Paulsen shapes a narrative that is more a reminiscence than a story. Eldon, an 11-year-old boy, uses the evolving seasons to describe growing up on a northern Minnesota farm. The evocative prologue (which rates with Babbitt's Tuck Everlasting and Lowry's Autumn Street) entitled "Tuning," says that "if books could be more, give more, show more, own more . . . they would have smells . . . sounds . . . light." Paulsen then supplies the foundations for those elements as Eldon recounts the softness of spring when the land thaws and frozen manure begins to stink, the back-breaking work of summer thrashing and the sweetness of juicy-tasting pies, the hated autumn slaughter of pigs and chickens, and the first softly camouflaging snows of winter. Woven into the spare, crisp, and sometimes graphically written descriptions are vignettes about the pranks of Eldon and his brother and vivid profiles of Father and Great Uncle David (Mother, however, remains a shadowy figure). The book concludes with three tales told by Uncle David of his days in Norway as a younger man; one of which gives the boys new insights into the man, his stories, and the process of growing old. Meditative and provocative. --Barbara Elleman

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6-9-- Of the four rooms downstairs in the northern Minnesota farmhouse, the one that might be called a living room is where Wayne and Eldon, their parents and great-uncle, and old Norwegian Nels spend their winters. There the family sits near the corner wood stove and listens, uninterrupting, as Uncle David tells stories--of the old country, of old times, of a semi-mythical lumberjack. Eldon, the younger son, begins his own story, in spring, when everything is soft. While he describes for readers the farm activities of each season and narrates memorable pranks and milestones of his boyhood, it is the palpable awareness of place and character that is unforgettable. Paulsen, with a simple intensity, brings to consciousness the texture, the smells, the light and shadows of each distinct season. He has penned a mood poem in prose. Uncle David's final story precipitates within the brothers a fuller understanding of personal identity and integrity. For those special readers who find delight in The Winter Room, it will become a part of their own identity and understanding. Teachers who seek to illuminate the use of ordinary English words with extraordinary descriptive power will find the introductory chapter, in particular, to be a godsend. --Katharine Bruner, Brown Middle School, Harrison, TN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

More a prose poem than a novel, this beautifully written evocation of a Minnesota farm perhaps 40 years ago consists of portraits of each of the four seasons, along with four brief stories told by old Uncle David in the room the family calls ""The Winter Room."" And, in its way most revealing, there is also an introduction (""Tuning"") so skillfully written that it ironically belies its own message: that books cannot have smells, or sound, or light, since these must be supplied by the reader in response to the author's words. With his authentic descriptions, Paulsen makes it easy for the reader to comply. It's not clear to whom Eldon, the 11-year-old narrator, speaks--mostly he describes, rather than explains, though the explanatory creeps in: ""Each cow has to have a calf or it won't. . .give milk."" Unlike the novels of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Jean George, which also conjure life in a particular setting through the accumulation of detail, this presentation of the marvelous minutiae of farm life supports only a gossamer plot hinging on the relationship between story and reality. As carefully structured as cobweb, the idea is there, almost invisible, from early on, when emulating a feat in a Zane Grey novel results in a dangerous prank; it resurfaces in the character of Father, who doesn't answer questions but enjoys speaking in simile; and climaxes when Eldon's brother challenges the fragile illusion of Uncle David's stories by calling them lies, causing a moving philosophical crisis in this taciturn family. Readers will be rare, but this is too fine to be ignored as a shelf-sitter. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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