ISBN: 0440210232
ISBN 13: 9780440210238
By: Gary Paulsen

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Childhood Currently Reading Fiction Historical Fiction Mystery Realistic Fiction To Read Ya Young Adult Young Adult Fiction

About this book

Two boys, separated by the canyons of time and two vastly different cultures, face the challenges by which they become men. Coyote Runs, an Apache boy, takes part in his first raid -- the one that will usher him into manhood. He is to be a man for but a short time....More than a hundred years later, while camping near Dog Canyon, fifteen-year-old Brennan Cole becomes obsessed with a skull that he finds, pierced by a bullet. He learns that it was the skull of an Apache boy executed by soldiers in 1864. A mystical link joins Brennan and Coyote Runs, and Brennan knows that neither boy will find any peace until Coyote Runs' skull is returned to an ancient sacred place. In a grueling run through the canyon to return the skull, Brennan faces the challenge of his life.

Reader's Thoughts

Hilary Lemon

Required Author - Gary PaulsenI love Gary Paulsen. In fourth grade, I read Hatchet and Brian's Winter and thought they were fantastic. And they were. Something about Canyons, though, didn't rub me the right way.In Canyons, Brennan Cole discovers a skull which, unbeknownst to him, belongs to Coyote Runs, a young Apache boy shot by American soldiers a century before. The book features a sort of supernatural connection between Brennan and the skull, which I found a little off-putting and atypical of Paulsen's usual style. Brennan, with the help of a biology teacher (and a close relationship that would be considered inappropriate today), discovers the secret of the skull and restores it to the proper mystical resting place.Paulsen's a well-informed outdoors writer. His character Brennan is likable and accessible to young readers, especially male readers. I would recommend this to middle school and young high school male readers, but it wouldn't be my first choice pick.

petes likes bacon

Canyons is a realistic fiction book by Gary Paulsen that takes place in the canyons of New Mexico and just outside them. This book is about two boys, an Apache boy named Coyote Runs who is going on his first raid to become a man, and Brennan who lives in modern times and finds Coyote Runs skull. They have a connection through "canyons of time" and Brennan knows he has to return he skull to the "medicine place" of Coyote Runs. I liked this book because it was a fast paced action story and had lots of description and sensory detail. When reading Canyons I could see the setting. I would recommend this book for readers who like action books and have read other Gary Paulsen books. I give this book four stars.

Sharon Zink

Quite disappointing. Good writing but substandard plot. Unbelievable. A modern boy finds a human skull in the canyons and believes he hears voice from the person who died telling him what happened and what to do with the skull.


I first read Canyons when it was required for my seventh grade reading class twelve years ago, and I never forgot the profound affect on me. Having just finish it again, I am again left sitting in amazement and a stunning silence that I don't know how to handle. I don't know what it is, but there is something powerful and breathtaking in this book. It is deeply moving and thought-provoking, and I highly recommend it to all readers in their early teens and up.

Ray Ziemer

Gary Paulsen's "Canyons" appealed to me for a number of reasons: First, I am always on the look-out for good young adult fiction to help me understand the higher end of the genre. Second, it takes place in the Southwest - the desert of the ElPaso region, to be exact. Also, it is partly historical novel dealing with Native Americans. And maybe most important, a significant element of the book is the mysterious, supernatural connection between the modern protagonist and the historical Apache boy who came to a violent end.I don't know if this book , or any other by Paulsen, is classified Young Adult. This seems to be aimed at Middle School readers, maybe 8th graders? It seems pretty tame in its writing - simple sentence structure and vocabulary. The plot, with its parallel structure, might be challenging to younger readers. I suppose the author deliberately keeps it simple, not weighing the book down with a lot of flowery description, or unnecessary details about traditional Apache culture and brutalities of the genocidal warfare of the 19th century. Still, I can't help feeling the lack of those things - but then, I'm not the target audience.The story begins with the 1864 story of the Apache boy Coyote Runs who is about to participate as a man in his first raid -- a foray across the border to steal horses from a Mexican herd. Alternating chapters with that narrative is the story of Brennan Cole, a teenager living in modern ElPaso, Texas with his single mom and struggling to find his way in high school. When on a camping trip in the canyons he discovers a human skull, he feels a strange compulsion to do something with it -- to find out its story, to take it where it belongs. Through research, with the help of a trusted teacher, Brennan eventually uncovers the true fate of Coyote Runs, and defying authority, makes a heroic dash back to the canyons to bring the skull of the Apache boy to its proper "spirit place." No explanation is given for the reason for Brennan's psychic connection with the spirit of the dead boy. I was interested in how the author might describe it and make it clear. But Paulsen just lays it out there and expects his readers to accept it. I guess I learn from this -- assuming this book is good example -- that I don't have a clue how to write a successful young adult novel. Because I would have cluttered the pages with more description of the setting, bogged it down with minutiae of Apache culture, added unnecessary scenes to underscore the political/racial background of the time and place, and wasted countless pages trying to justify and explain the supernatural events of the book.This isn't one of them, but Paulsen has written at least three Newbery Honor Books. Comments on line indicate his work is on school reading lists, and enjoyed by young readers who are fans.

William Lui

THis books has a plot that is sort of interesting but it gets confusing because its like two stories being told at the same time and you forget what happens in one story when you read the the other story. This book is about a boys whos skull is buried along time ago when he was in the army. It describes how group of people lived back then in the days. Another side, a boy goes to camp with his mother and mother's boy friend. They are in the same mountains as the skull that is buried in. When he sleeps, it bothers him and after a while he is able to pull it out. When they leave he takes it home and tries to find out what it means but they don't. All the momeries that happened to the boy whoses' skull it belonged to comes to the boy who finds it. Later his mom finds it and calls the police. He tells them the whole story. I thought the story was cinfusing but it is okay.


Coyote Runs is trying to become a man as he grows up in a tribe that requires many rituals and marks of manliness to become accepted. In the same place at another point in time we watch Brennen Cole as he runs through the canyons and is struggling on his journey to become a man. The paralleled journeys add a great element to the story but by the time that I got halfway through the novel I enjoyed Coyote Runs' story much more than Brennan so I separated myself from the novel. Brennan finds a skull with a bullet hole in it that he obsesses over and it becomes a sort of mystery to him that he must solve. He eventually finds out that it is the skull of an apache boy who was murder by soldiers in the mid 1800's. I would recommend this novel to people who have a love for Paulsen.Honestly this wasn't my favorite of Gary Paulsen's books

Jill English Johnston

Interesting storyline. Engaging characters. Couldn't put it down.


This book absolutely blew my mind!I picked this up for an assignment in a class of mine, and I did not expect to fall so fully in love with it. Not only is it a great learning tool for children, but it's a great story in and of itself!The book follows two different fourteen-year-old boys: Brennan (present day) and Coyotes Run. They are the same age, but lived in different times in completely different ways. The contrast is incredible as you watch Coyotes Run want to become a 'man,' and Brennan struggles with his own, personal problems. The story intensifies when Brennan goes on a camping trip and discovers a skull buried amongst the sand in the canyon. I am having a hard time getting a decent synopsis of this, because it is just so fantastic I want to talk about every aspect of it.What got me, I think, wasn't how incredible the story was - though it was amazing - but how beautiful and breathtaking the writing was. I just...ugh. I loved it.

Melanie Olson

We read this book as a family throughout a recent vacation. It was a creative, thrilling book that encouraged all of us to think ahead and predict outcomes. It was especially fun to read about the box canyons, rock fissures, and yucca plants as we were experiencing each of those. This book is appropriate for older elementary school and junior high/middle school students. Younger readers may need help pronouncing some words and discussing some ideas and concepts.


"I liked how it was about a kid my age" according to my 5th grade cumulative reading log. I started it on 10/13 (1997 I believe) and gave it a 5/6.


I thought that this book had a good story. I never really wanted to put the book down. I thought what the author did with the last part of the book was pretty cool. What he did was he kind of distracted you with tons of details about the story, and then some action happens and throws you off track. The only reason I rated this book three stars was because their was some mild swearing with the main character. Also, the author put some real thought and effort in the first part of the book, put squished everything together in the last part of the book. Other than those two reasons, I really liked the book! I thought the story was suspenseful and full of emotions towards the characters and their decisions.

Cait D

The author, Gary Paulsen, didn't win four Newbery Awards for nothing. The book is just another example of his amazing writing skills.Though best known for his famous Hatchet series, the Canyon feels no less real. The story line is an odd one -- divided between these two separate time zones of boys living "worlds" apart. Brennan is somehow drawn to this skull and can't get it off his mind until he does what it "wants" -- and takes the skull home to rest. But it changes school-boy Brennan and he never looks at the world the same way again.The prose is excellent. Everything flows effortlessly, with the right amount of action, the right scenes, feelings, dialogue, and right mix between the two boys' stories. It's not a long read and sparsely detailed. But that only adds to the power and flow of the prose. While this "tug" towards Brennan and the skull is a little sketchy in reality, it did make for an interesting story. If not for the well-written style, I wouldn't have enjoyed the story-line extremely much.It's a good, quick read. Easy to take in. Brief and to-the-point. The ending leaves you with that big, fat question, "Well, what happens next?" and you get to go away either cross at the author for such an unsatisfactory conclusion -- or you get to chew over what was said, consider it, and make up your own ending. Personally, I enjoy the latter.


This was required reading in 7th grade and I remember really liking it, but I couldn't really remember what all happened. Turns out it's a good book, but it comes to pretty rapid end. I guess that's not a bad thing for 12 year olds and their attention span, but definitely not a book I would recommend to someone older than like 14. It just lacks substance and character development.


I'm glad that there are great books like this for young boys. Paulson brings you on a journey, and it's worthwhile.

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