Friday, September 9, 2011
Son of Liberty, Too
by Gary Paulsen
Wendy Lamb Books; Reprint edition
January 11, 2011
Usually, stories about the American Revolution, i.e. Johnny Tremaine, take place in town--Boston, Philadelphia, Lexington, Concord--but Gary Paulsen (Hatchet and Harris and Me) has set Woods Runner on the Pennsylvania frontier. Thirteen-year-old Samuel, the eponymous Woods Runner, must depend on his wilderness instincts to rescue his captive parents from the British, while avoiding getting caught or killed himself.
His parents' capture comes shortly after Samuel and his family receive news of the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Samuel is deep in the woods on a hunting expedition when their settlement is attacked by British soldiers and Iroquois warriors. Samuel sees smoke coming from the settlement and runs home to help only to find the settlement wiped out and everyone either dead or missing, his parents being among the missing. Although only thirteen, Samuel is skilled at survival in the wilderness, far more skilled than his city-bred parents, and he must use those skills to track them. Unimaginable horror awaits him on his quest.
Most accounts of the American Revolution are romantic, stirring stories of heroism and patriotism. Not this one. Woods Runner is a riveting, graphic story of the brutality and insanity of war. As Paulsen points out in the novel's afterword, "combat is outrageous" and young soldiers die terrible deaths far from home, alone and forgotten. The American Revolution is no exception: Our most patriotic war lasted "eight long slaughtering years," and half of those who fought, died in battle.
O.k., this video might be stretching a connection to Woods Runner, but at least Paul Revere and the Raiders are in period costume.