Friday, May 16, 2008

Happy Birthday Gary Paulsen!

Saturday, May 17th is Gary Paulsen's birthday! So, in his honor, today's post will highlight online resources about Gary Paulsen and his books. But first, a quick story...

One of my favorite books by Gary Paulsen is Woodsong. Paulsen is a master craftsman in creating breathtaking, heart pounding, powerful moments in his books and in Woodsong, he is at the top of his game. I had been looking forward to reading this book with my son when one day he came home from school and told me he was reading some story in language arts class about a man and a dog in the Alaskan Iditarod. My heart sank, "What's the title of the story?" I asked. "I don't know, it's really boring" he replied. If it was really boring, then, of course, it couldn't be Woodsong, but I asked him to bring home his language arts anthology the next day so I could check...and of course, it WAS Woodsong--or should I say, an excerpt from Woodsong--the middle of chapter 7 to be exact. No wonder it was "boring," there was no context, no plot development, no character development...no story. I felt robbed. So I grabbed my copy of the book and promptly read aloud the first chapter to him. He was enthralled, moved, and compelled to read the entire book that night. He loved it and became a big Paulsen fan. Aren't you glad this story had a happy ending? I certainly am!

If you are planning your summer reading list, I urge you to include as many books as possible by Gary Paulsen. His books will immerse you in a range of emotions from hilarity to sadness, but all will engage you in reflection. Some of my favorites are: Harris and Me, The Rifle, Nightjohn, Hatchet, The Winter Room, Sarney, Dogsong, and of course Woodsong.

Online Resources

Listen to Paulsen answer questions about writing Woodsong here.

Visit Gary Paulsen's website where you can find a list of many of his books, read his Iditarod journal, read about his varied and interesting life, and find teachers/readers guides and how to send correspondence.

Jim Trelease has written a wonderful essay on his website about Gary Paulsen, including an excerpt from one of his latest compilations, Shelf Life.

The Internet School Library Media Center has a comprehensive page with a biography, bibliography, lesson plans and criticism.

Kay Vandergrift's website also has a biography and bibliography along with a list of literary awards, reviews, interviews, and a list of resources for further reading.

Listen to an interview on NPR with Gary Paulsen about writing Dogsong (approx. 12 min.) and an interview on Eye on Books about How Angel Peterson Got His Name (approx. 5 min).

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