ISBN: 0689852509
ISBN 13: 9780689852503
By: Gary Paulsen Ruth Wright Paulsen

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Adventure Currently Reading Fiction Memoir Non Fiction Nonfiction Survival To Read Ya Young Adult

About this book

Gary Paulsen, Newbery Honor author of "Hatchet" and "Dogsong," is no stranger to adventure. He has flown off the back of a dogsled and down a frozen waterfall to near disaster, and waited for a giant bear to seal his fate with one slap of a claw. He has led a team of sled dogs toward the Alaskan Mountain Range in an Iditarod -- a 1,180-mile dogsled race -- hallucinating from lack of sleep, but determined to finish.Here, in vivid detail, Paulsen recounts several of the remarkable experiences that shaped his life and inspired his writing.

Reader's Thoughts

Jackson Melton

In Woodsong, by Gary Paulson, the story of Gary Paulson’s life as a dogsled runner is told. The story focuses mainly on the dogs that he would run with, their personalities, stories about running them, and what they taught him about the wilderness. When the book begins he is a man living with a wife, and a son in a small house in northern Minnesota. They are very poor because his writing career hasn’t taken off yet and he has to take other jobs to be able to live. Then when the state is having problems with a beaver infestation, Gary, decides to start running a dogsled to trap and kill beavers for the reward of the pelt. Through his dogsled running he sees the potential of his dogs, and the speed of them, so he decides to run the Iditarod race in Alaska. The theme of this book is that you can learn for animals and the wilderness. Through the whole book, Gary, is talking about how much the animals, mainly his dogs, taught him about the world. “It is always possible to learn from the dogs and in fact the longer I’m with them the more I understand how little I know” (70). The quote above describes how he felt about the dogs. Gary believes that the dogs are actually smarter than he is, and therefore, should trust that they know what they are doing. This theme comes up at all points in the book and the story, even during the race. “He [Storm] could look once at my shoulders and tell how I was feeling, tell how far we were to run, how fast we had to run, knew it all”(75). In this quote from Woodsong, Gary, talks about his dog, Storm. Gary talks about how Storm could tell everything that he needed to know, and more. Gary stated that Storm “knew it all”, showing his praise for the intelligence of his dogs, and to some extent admiration towards Storm. Gary believes that you can learn from animals and the wilderness, and that’s why he stresses it as his theme. Gary Paulson writes Woodsong in a unique way, the beginning of the book is all short stories, and the end is broken up into days. Gary also writes the book as a loose auto-biography about his time as a dogsled runner and racer. “The only way to do it is to break it down to simple, small units of time. The first run took seventeen days, fourteen hours and it can be best remembered in days” (85). Gary tells that the reason why he breaks the running of the Iditarod down into days is because it is how he remembers it. The author, also, likely used breaking the story down into days to shorten up the story, so the reader stays interested. “I killed yet thought that every story has a happy ending. Until a December morning…” (2). The previous quote depicts how the aspect of it being an auto-biography comes into place. Since the story is an auto-biography, it allowed the author to easily turn the book into a series of short stories. The short stories also made it so that the book didn’t drag on and turn you into boredom. The author used these unique ways of writing to help the reader stay interested. Overall, I thought that this story was good. The way of writing was extremely important because without it the book easily would have dragged on. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the wilderness and the animals in, and around it. I give this book a 4/5.


In the book Woodsong, the author Gary Paulson is writing about his adventure during the Iditarod with his sled dogs. The story focuses mainly on the hardships he faces during the race. The other main point was what he learned from his dogs. He learned that he shouldn’t trap or hunt living animals anymore because they deserve to live and since his dogs never hurt humans, so why would he want to kill the animals? He wanted to get to know the wilderness better so he decides to run the Iditarod. There is a very unique way the author writes the book. He uses flashbacks to explain an event happening during the dog sled race. “In the summer the dogs live in the kennel area”(22). This quote is an example because it’s a flashback to the summer before the race where Gary Paulson saw his dog Columbia mess with Olaf with a bone. “We were running along the top edge of a long ridge, we rose higher and higher” (67). This quote is an example of Gary Paulson writing about his Iditarod experience. His type of writing helps us understand a topic some people wouldn’t get because of it not being a very popular sporting event. There weren’t very many parts I could understand but when I could make a connection like these I was able to understand that part of the book. “The wolves. There was a pack of brush wolves and they began chasing her” (34). I made this connection to the movie The Gray, where there is a party of oil-men whose plane crashes and they have to find a way to escape a pack of hungry wolves. This was a very good example of nature because just like in the book, the wolves have to eat so they go after anything living. “But some dogs, and Strom was one of them, pull hard all the time, even when they are tired” (15). I made this connection to my dad’s husky when he lived in Alaska. His dog was a very hard working and loyal dog, the dog never stopped working. These connections help me understand and enjoy the book more than I would have if I didn’t make these connections. In conclusion, if you read this book, it’s always good to have background knowledge on the Iditarod. This book is a great read for adventure seekers looking for a novel. I would give this book a 2.5 out of 5 because of its topic and unique way of writing.


Snapshot: Thirsty for adventure but with no idea how to quench it? Woodsong will only intensify your itch for exploration. Known for his award-winning adventure-filled novels, Gary Paulsen's memoir detailing his dog-sledding history may be more exciting than his fiction. The book is divided in half, the first section filled with stories of experiencing the wild through various animal encounters. The second half is a day-by-day account of his first attempt at the famous Iditarod dog-sled race across Alaska. It's man vs. nature in this action-packed book sure to get your adventure juices flowing!Hook: The front cover captures the essence of the book, with a portrait of a bearded man above shadows of a figure on a sled being pulled by dogs. A snowy mountain and a sun are also visible, yet the mountain, or glacier, may not be identified by readers who have limited knowledge of this landscape. The first page encapsulates the theme by touching on humans' propensity for destroying the very nature they claim to love, and the author's initial misunderstanding of this concept. Paulsen's name on the cover may also attract students who enjoyed his other novels, including Hatchet and Dogsong. Challenges: The first section of the book, “Running,”is not written in chronological order, but rather as a collection of stories. Some are connected, while others are not. This may confuse readers, or dissuade them from continuing should they not be able to see the purpose for these seemingly random tales. Readers may also struggle relating to the author, as I'm willing to bet none of my students have seen a dogsled. This may prevent them from seeing the true theme of conquering fears and accomplishing goals.Students In Mind: I believe every student can take something from this book, as it taps into their thirst for exploration and adventure. Boys, especially, should enjoy this story, as well as outdoor enthusiasts and dog lovers.Conference Notes: This is a relatively safe book as far as sensitive material. There are a couple sections dealing with the death of dogs, which may upset someone who has recently lost a loved one, especially a pet. Level: Middle school, low-level high school

Bryan Enriquez

I have read many books by Gary Paulsen and i believe that this book is even better then his award winning book The Hatchet. Like many of his books this is one about a man finding himself having an extremely strong connection to nature. This book is basically about a man and his sled dogs. In the beginning he describes himself as having little knowlege about sled dogs. Over time he ends up learning more from the dogs than anyone ever could. Especially since his first sled dog was one of the wisest and greatest sled dogs ever! The dog was able to teach him about death, wisdom, strength, courage, toughness, but the one trait that he taught him the most was companionship. The dog would pull his heart out.In the 2nd half of the book we are told about the great race which he decides to run. In this run he seeks an adventure and gets a little more than what he wanted. He ends up getting injured and taught many lessons over this race. Yet, all of it is worth it as his dogs become the center of his world. Nothing else matters during the race, its just him, the dogs, and the wilderness and its challenges to come. Overall this is a great book and I strongly recommend it to children as it has many connections to life and life lessons. This book will never go old it will stand the testament of time!


I read lots of Gary Paulsen's books when I was younger. I ordered a classroom set of "Woodsong" this year as an example of autobiography, nonfiction, and personal narrative. We did not get to them before school ended, so I picked it up and read it on my own. Loved it! Paulsen has such an ability to relate human experiences with nature. Anyone interested in sled dogs, northern winters, the Iditarod, or just coming to terms with the "wildness" of nature will find this a quick and fun read.


Woodsong Review In the book Woodsong by Gary Paulsen, he is the main character and a dog sled leader in the Iditarod race. He loves his dogs so much and is very close with them. They fight through the cold and arctic wilderness and go through tough challenges together. The dogs teach Gary so much throughout the book. They tell him to keep going and to not let things overcome him even if it’s hard to do so. Nothing will stop Gary and his dogs from giving it their all and not giving up. The leader of the pack and my favorite character would have to be Storm the fearless sled dog. “Storm was an almost classic sled dog” (14). Nothing stops Storm in any situation no matter what the circumstances. Storm teaches Gary like he is a therapist. Gary loves him and gets so much from the tough sled dog. “I didn’t know what questions to ask, or how to ask them, and I would not begin to learn until Storm taught me” (11). Storm is the only dog I’ve ever heard of to teach a human the way he does. The way he is portrayed in the book makes him seem like he’s not a dog. It makes him seem like he is a philosopher. He has the guts to fight through anything in the race. Another main part of the book is the theme. The theme is that Gary Paulsen is always learning from the dogs. The dogs teach Gary so many valuable lessons which I cannot describe. They communicate with him so well and know what he is feeling. “It is always possible to learn from dogs and in fact the longer I’m with them the more I understand how little I know” (70). The dogs make Gary go deep in thought and really think about things. He figures out the person he really is when he is around the dogs. The dogs are very caring towards Gary Paulsen and help him out whenever they can. “He was one of the first dogs and taught me the most and as we worked together he came to know me better than perhaps even my own family” (75). The dogs do unimaginable things for Gary and teach him to have great integrity. They make him really value his life so much more and be more caring towards every little aspect. The dogs are like Gary’s little counselors in the pronounced ways they benefit and teach him. Woodsong is an all right book for the outdoorsman. It has lots of outdoors and nature features in the book. It isn’t a great action filled story though. Throughout the book the story gets off topic and unrelated to the main plot. He wanders off into matters that quite frankly don’t mean anything at all. The book is taking place during a dog race but it doesn’t seem that way half of the time. I give this book a 3 out of 5 rating because of it being very uninteresting at most times and its lack of keeping my attention span. Many other people feel this way as well. I do not recommend this book for any type of pleasure reading.


In the book Woodsong the main character and author Gary Paulsen goes on an exciting adventure through trapping as well as his journey in the Iditarod. Gary goes through many challenges and problems on his journey to the finish. The most interesting and distinguished character is Gary Paulsen’s top dog, Storm. Dogs are known to teach people; Gary Paulsen is a strong believer in this and thinks Storm has taught him a lot about the woods and life. “It is always possible to learn from dogs and in fact the longer I am with them the more I understand how little I know. But there was this one dog that taught me the most, Just one dog. Storm. ” (70) Storm was a very wise dog and very smart. “He could look once at my shoulder and tell how I was feeling, tell how far we were to run, how fast we had to run – knew it all.”(75) One day in the spring I went out to watch my dogs enjoy the beautiful weather and lay back in a chair basking in the sun. I woke up to a terrible noise the sound of my dog eating freshly born rabbits. I chased my dog all around the yard hoping to stop him. When I finally gave up there was nothing I could do accept watch just, like how Gary Paulsen could do nothing but watch wolves eat a doe. Devoured its body and left nothing but scraps. “The wolves held the doe by the nose, held her head down to the ice and the other wolves took turns tearing at her rear end, pulling and jerking and tearing, until they were inside of her pulling out parts of her and all this time she was still on her feet, still alive.”(6) “I had hunted and trapped and had been in the army and seen and done some awful things, but I was still not mentally prepared for this.” (6) Overall I would give this book a nine out of ten. This book is great it because it describes what Gary Paulsen had to go through and what life would be like to live in Alaska. It shows what life for animals was like and what strange things he came upon in his journey.


Woodsong by Gary Paulsen is one of my all-time favorite books for kids and students. I read it many times with my 6th and 7th grade students and created a unit around the Iditarod Dog Sled Race in Alaska. The book is a non-fiction biography of Gary Paulsen's true adventures while in the wilderness training dogs to run the Iditarod Dog Sled Race in Alaska. The book captures the reality of the adventure, and the trials and tribulations training for the race and the 1180-mile run with the dogs. As a dog-lover, I truly enjoyed this adventure. I mostly feel that this book is a launching book to introduce students to any number of activities, research, and further study of dog training, running the Iditarod, and the Alaskan wilderness.Wood Song is also a three-time John Newbery Award Winner.An activity that I would do with students is the Scholastic.com online writing workshop. It takes students through the writing process to create a persuasive essay about how the dogs are treated in the training and race process of the Iditarod Dog Sled Race. It involves a research component prior to writing the essay. There's also a 10-question quiz that tests comprehension and it gives instant feedback.

Cooper Jones

This book got the same reaction that Guts by Gary Paulsen got, I really just wasn't interested. I mean I never really liked nonfiction, and the fact that this particular book just so happened to be nonfiction and a subject I didn't find interesting made me hate it. I wouldn't say it was a bad book I just didn't want to continue reading something I wasn't interested in. I finished reading it just because it was a school assignment, but trust me I enjoyed nothing of that experience. I am hoping that one day I will find a book by Gary Paulsen that I enjoy in some way shape or form, but so far I'm not doing so well.


The biography called Woodsong by Gary Paulsen is definitely a read worth while. I personally am a huge fan of dogs, thus this tale had an impact on me. Paulsen describes some of the conditions that he endured with his sled dogs. He also talks about the incredible bond between a person and their best friend, a dog. It is a true story, where Paulsen shares his experiences and survival he went through in Minnesota, as well as the Iditarod in Alaska. The part I liked most about Woodsong was the different feelings the reader can feel throughout it. For example, the feeling of losing a pet, or the funny things that animals will do. I like the countless stories he tells throughout the biography. For example, when the children from the Shageluk school made a pot of Moose chili for him. These stories made me want to keep reading and not put the book down! Overall, I feel this transitional book would be great for middle schoolers, in particular seventh or eighth grade. The book teaches readers various life lessons, while also containing higher content that may not be appropriate for younger grade levels. In a nutshell, this story tells readers how one man's ambition, determination and help from his dogs all fused together in one is a perfect combination for braving nature and living to tell people about it.


I loved this book! I just found it with some of my husband's old childhood things. It is written for a younger audience, but I'd recommend it to readers of any age.I would love to meet this author. Gary Paulsen is a wonderful storyteller, and he seems like such an interesting person. He has such a fun sense of humor and a way with animals. He knows their thoughts and motivations. I cannot imagine putting myself into the dangerously freezing cold weather and harsh wild that Mr. Paulsen does so willingly, along with his sled dogs. For him, the time spent outdoors running with his dogs is worth suffering frostbite, debilitating illness, and even hallucinations. He understands his dogs and they understand him. I am grateful to the author for sharing his observations, insights, and adventures.*I recently reread this book, and was reminded of how gruesome some of the descriptions are. Paulsen gives very detailed descriptions of witnessing wolves attacking a deer or a squirrel killing a chipmunk. I did not enjoy these sections, but they are short. Just warning you. :o)


Book reviewI thought this book was really good. It is about Gary having to go through some tough times during the race. He had to deal with sicknesses and the fact that all dogs would die. He had to go though some dogs dying and some dogs getting really sick. But when GAry got sick he wold be out of it. He would get really bad hallucinations and one of them was whne a man would come and help him tie his dogs or, help him out and smile and wave. HE would be fairly confused because he would just show up and then just dissapear. And he wuldn't know if the man was a hallucination or if he was actually helping him. Gary had to fight a lot of things. sometimes he had to deal with getting sick. or he had to deal with some issues when he got stuck or the time he fell of the cliff and his dogs ignored him cause he yelled at them. There were plenty of things that had kept him occupied. But to me the one thing that seemed to have made his really unsure was when he actually got to the end of the race he wanted to go back and just be in the woods and just be in the middle of nowhere with his dogs. He just wanted to turn around. I personally would want to get out of the woods and get back home safe. But in GAry's opinion he could see it as the best thing. And that is when I thought "WOW! He rally likes this race and he really doesn't want to do it to win!" Maybe it would be nice to win but it is nicer to just know you love it. Even if you didn't finish. It's just that you like what you do.I wanted him to finish the race because he had worked so hard to get where he was standing. But he was unsure. Then when he heard his wife he turned his sled and went to the finish line, I think the dogs wanted to win. I mean if you train them this hard you want them to be able to have a good run! And you can kind of tell when they are excited. I really liked this book. It tells you that the race is not riding dogs to a finish line, YOU have to be able to like it and you have to be able to enjoy what you do and what your dogs can do for you. As long as you just enjoy it!

Carey Henderson

I love, love, LOVE this book! I wish I had waited a couple weeks before I wrote the blog on my top 10 favorite books because this memoir would've been on it! No idea how or when this quick read ended up in my bookcase, but I'm disappointed that I took so long to pick it up to read! Not a big book, less than 150 pages, I knocked it out in a couple hours on a snowed-in afternoon. WoodSong is one page-turning adventure! It's the true life, hard-to-believe-it's-actually-nonfiction memoirs of author Gary Paulsen (Hatchetf, Dogsong, The Winter Room, etc) & his life running a sled-dog team, training for the Iditarod. The first half of the book tells how the author first got interested in dog sledding; the trials, hit & misses, ignorance, mistakes that he made as his passion grew. This is one of the best novels I've ever read on wildlife conservation & the relationships between pets & their owners. The author wrote with such honesty & rawness over his own misunderstanding at nature & her unforgiving spirit. He also is openly candid at admitting his many failures, mistakes & ignorance at owning a team of intelligent, high-strung working dogs. The regret with which he wrote about at "ruining" some of these dogs over his lack of knowledge is something that, those of us who work & have worked in the animal industry, have seen first hand way to many times. I was not bored or lost interest on any page of this novel. I laughed outloud in several parts describing his mistakes & how the dogs corrected him, I bawled over the words he wrote on the death of his favorite sled dog, Storm & I found myself saying,"sooooo true" in agreement with him over the ways in which man destroys wildlife & nature. The second half of the novel was about his weeks running the Iditarod dog sled race held annually in Alaska. A grueling 1150mile course through unforgiving mountains, backcountry wilderness & heavy waterways. Mushers & dogs work as a team to finish in less than two weeks time. It was fascinating to read behind the scenes on what really happens, the non-televised versions; deaths, hallucinations, sleep & hunger depravity, injuries, & basic survival instincts kicking in for both man & animal. I read with captivity. Truly is a testimony on what the body goes through when pushed to the brink of competition, with others & yourself. If you're a nature-freak, survivalist, animal lover, dog obsessed, conservationist or adventure seeker you'll love this book! It's a super fast, easy read full of honest & raw, non-exaggerated writing. The author is a natural teacher who simplifies his passion for readers & conveys his love for wildlife & environmental conservation, as well as, animal rights. If I could rate this higher than 5 stars On Goodreads I would!


GARY PAULSEN CATEGORY, NON-FICTION CATEGORYUnlike many other of Gary Paulsen’s novels, Woodsong is not a fictional story; it contains instead several thematically related experiences from Paulsen’s own life. He tells of his experiences learning about dogs, how to travel by dogsled and grow close to these animals, how to live in the woods, and finally he concludes with the story of his first time racing the Iditarod. The subject matter of this novel was, frankly, unappealing to me, and as a result this wasn’t one of my favorite books I’ve read for this class. At times I felt like Paulsen was using cheap writing tricks to sound dramatic. On the whole, this was not a book I enjoyed very much. However, I do think that if someone were especially interested in the types of stories he was telling about the outdoors they would probably enjoy this book very much.

Chris F

In Woodsong, the main character named Gary connects with his dogs and trains them for a race called the Iditarod. He is always in the woods riding with his dogs training them for the big race. Gary is always telling wise stories and talking about the mistakes he has made in the past. The book is very action packed and always keeps you on your toes wanting to read on. Gary has many struggles in the book but always ends up overcoming them with the help of his dogs who are always present in the book. While on Gary’s runs with the dogs he always sees things that change him as a person. He sees life, and death, and it hugely affects him. Gary is special in the book because the whole time he says he does not care about winning, just finishing and staying true, which gives the book a special meaning. A special theme in the book is actions/mistakes can depend on your life and well-being. Gary learns this a number of times on his runs and adventures. “I have made many mistakes in my life, and will probably make many more, but I hope never to throw a stick at a bear again” (40). In this part of the book, Gary is frustrated and throws a stick at a bear in his yard. The bear charges him and jumps on top of Gary. The Bear could have easily killed him. Gary also gets hurt a lot because of simple mistakes. “I have been injured several times running dogs, (cracked ribs, broken left leg, broken left wrist, various parts that have been frozen trying to stop fights, but nothing ever felt like landing on that knee”(27). . Gary makes the mistake of falling off his sled and breaking his knee which almost cost him his life. This theme stays with Gary the whole book and plays a role in the book. If I were the author, I would have included more details to give the reader more of an image of what is happening. Often times it was unclear of where Gary was and was hard to tell what was happening. “Out of anchorage just madness” (89). Gary does not explain the madness that well; he just says there is “madness”. “With the darkness comes chaos” (91). Gary does not explain the chaos and it makes you wonder what it is. In conclusion this book gets a 5/5 because of the amazing stories that happen to Gary. You always want to keep reading and find out what will happen because you are always so engaged in the book.

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