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Gary Paulsen has written more than 175 books and some 200 articles and short stories for children and adults. He is considered one of the most important writers for young adults today. Three of his novels -- HATCHET, DOGSONG, and THE WINTER ROOM -- were Newbery Honor books, and his works frequently appear on the best books lists of the American Library Association. Mr. Paulsen and his wife, Ruth Wright Paulsen, an artist who has illustrated several of his books, divide their time between their home in New Mexico, a boat in the Pacific, and adventures in the wilderness.
Gr 6-9 Paulsen gives young readers another wonderful survival story. Fourteen-year - old David Alspeth's uncle Owen has died of a rapidly spreading cancer, but not before bequeathing David his sailboat and extracting the promise that David will, alone, scatter Owen's ashes at sea. Setting off without checking the weather and his supplies, David is caught in a freak storm that pushes him 350 miles from his home harbor in Ventura, Calif. Once again Paulsen gives double meaning to survival: David not only survives his nine-day ordeal at sea, but he also learns to survive his uncle's death. The concurrent experiences awaken self-assurance and growth as well. The spare, dramatic style aptly conveys David's feelings and evokes the simultaneous beauty and danger of the open ocean. Readers will have a real sense of participation, and will be left hungry for more when the book concludes with David's finally connecting with people yet refusing their helphelp that would mean leaving the Frog behind. As the book ends, David, with new supplies, sets off alone on his voyage home. Paulsen's knowledge of the sea and sailing is obvious. A black-and-white diagram of the boat and a map of the voyage supplement the story. Readers will find this book very hard to put down. Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, Maine
Paulsen's admirers will be satisfied with his latest survival story, this time set in the open sea. The author ranges through his accustomed territory, focusing on both the actual aspects of the voyage and the wisdom brought on by one boy's isolation in the elements. David Alspeth, 14, sails into the Pacific on the 22-foot Frog to scatter the ashes of the boat's owner, his beloved uncle Owen. A freak storm leaves David adrift for days in which he encounters sharks, a near-collision with a tanker, and the awful dragging loneliness of sitting in a becalmed boat. In that tedium, however, the boy finds a relationship with the boat and the elements themselves, and when the wind returns David discovers how far he has traveled (in more than miles). A unexpected, affirmative ending closes this middle-grade book with one boy's finally knowing where he's been, and where he might be going. Ages 11-13. (Mar.)