Friday Reads: Gone to the Woods: Surviving a Lost Childhood by Gary Paulsen

A memoir in five parts. There is a reason Gary Paulsen is so popular: his writing – both his stories and his words.  The author’s method of storytelling creates a smooth transition that enables the reader to evolve from observer to active participant.

Many librarians have read or heard Paulsen say that the library saved his life.  Here, along with other tales of his childhood and young adulthood, the reader learns much more about the story behind his statement.  Part Four, titled “Thirteen,” contains this story.  It begins,

“Because it was safe there.

In the library. Only three places safe. The library, moving through the alleys at night after hard dark and, best of all, the woods.”

Part One starts the book with his mother putting him (at five years old) on a train, alone, in Chicago, for a total trip of about 800 miles to his relatives’ farm in Minnesota.  We join Paulsen as he encounters security with his aunt and uncle, then the opposite as his life changes on another person’s whim, with no consideration for his preferences or choices.  Throughout his life, he found security, safety, and peace in the woods, on his own. This book is for anyone who has loved any of Gary Paulsen’s books, from middle school age through high school and adulthood.  Readers of his other memoir, Guts, will find different stories of his life here.

Paulsen, Gary. Gone to the Woods: Surviving a Lost Childhood. (New York) Farrar Straus Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, LLC, 2021.

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