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Monday, October 20, 2014

How to Get Back into Reading


I’ll Read When the Baby Goes to College
By Elaine Rooker Jack

The books:
Woodsong – In this 1990 memoir, the well-known author writes of his love of the woods, his working relationship with a sled dog team, and their first experience running the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race across Alaska from Anchorage to Nome.
Dogsong – The 1985 coming-of-age tale wherein the main character, a modern Eskimo boy, learns the old ways of his people on an Alaskan trek via dogsled. (It’s a Newbery Honor book, one of three by Paulsen.)



The Author: Gary Paulsen (Note: If you read one book by Paulsen and you like it, you are in luck, for the man has written over 200 books!)


What hooked me: My kid selected Woodsong on CD to listen to in the car this summer. For years I’ve been recommending Paulsen’s Hatchet to reluctant teenage readers and their parents; so I was interested in the author’s life. I picked up Dogsong not long after that because I’d loved Woodsong, and because of the image of sled dogs on the cover.


Why I’m glad I read them close together: I could appreciate how elements of the author’s real life had informed his fiction.


Who would like them: Particularly adventure-kids, but anyone who likes tales of the outdoors, although a lot of the character development in Dogsong takes place in the main character’s head. Woodsong is full of dry humor and some good laughs. No spoilers here, but I loved the part about the banty hen called Hawk protecting her chicks, and the part about Wilson the sled dog running on three legs so he could suck happily on one foot.


Quote from Woodsong:
“I was so ignorant, so steeped in not-knowing, that I did not even know what I didn’t know. I didn’t know what questions to ask, or how to ask them, and I would not begin to learn until Storm [the sled dog] taught me.”


Possible deal-breakers: Neither book is for the squeamish; both are quite gory. Woodsong includes a description of a wolf pack killing a deer. Yes, it is natural and “the way of things,” but that doesn’t mean it isn’t graphically violent. Dogsong has a lot of hunting scenes, descriptions of butchering kill, and the eating of raw meat.


Tip for making reading happen in a busy life: Pick up one of these books on CD - or another recorded book on CD from the JUV or YA sections of the library – to listen to with your kid(s) in the car. Better yet, ask your kid to pick out a book to listen to together that he or she thinks you might enjoy. (Personal bias: The Harry Potter series is perfect for long car trips.)


Read Elaine's review of The Lacuna right here.

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