Cover Image: Northwind


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No one writes an adventure story like Gary Paulsen. Hatchet is very popular right now. This story will captivate the readers just as much if not more. I love the setting, the characters and the adventure.

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This middle grade novel set along the coast of Norway appealed to me because
a) the author
b) the setting (both my grandparents were from Norway. How utterly wonderful to have a book set in the beautiful Nordic outdoors)
C) the cover art is stunning

This both was and was not what I expected. I expected a novel following a lone character, experiencing the sea and coast the way Hatchet covers the forest (per the flap description). And it was this. I was surprised by the sad melancholy beginnings to this boy, Leif. After finishing, I can see how it is partly necessary background to his character transformation throughout the book. Although he is the lone human for the bulk of the book, we see his character develop dramatically. We also see beautiful descriptions of the natural world. However, there are many descriptions that involve blood and sickness and I didn’t like to read explicitly of it… and wonder if a 10 year old would? The beginning was, for me, too dark feeling and a tad too graphic.

The writing is lyrical, almost poetic. There is both a simplicity and a song-style to the writing and I thought it worked well for this type of story. I enjoyed the author’s note in the back for the extra information.

This is a slower paced book that will appeal to those who love nature and enjoy character growth.

*I was provided with a copy from NetGalley for an honest review.

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I'll admit, this was a total cover request - that cover is gorgeous! - but if I'd been able to read a sample first, I wouldn't have requested this book as I cannot get on with the style.

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When I saw that Gary Pulsen was the surhir of this book, I had to read it. I had to keep in mind that this book is targeted at middle grade aged readers.

I love the imagery that Gary Pulsen is consistently able to portray. I could see in my mind's eye the landscaping, I could feel the urgency when danger was around in the story.

Northwind is set in the North Sean where orphaned Leif is learning to survive and thrive.

My take away: to take what you learn in life and see how it works for you. Leif is taught life lessons from his time on the sea, as well as Old Carl and nature. Leif takes the things he learns ln admits those lessons that work for him and gains perspective from lessons that are different than his own thinking. In life we can always learn from our surroundings. Some things we learn will fit in to our lives and enhance our lives. Other things we learn give us perspective on how other people love and make choices.

The question I ask myself is, would I read this book again. The answer is yes. And again, make a movie on this book too.

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Northwind is Gary Paulsen’s newest novel. The story follows a boy on his journey up a river after a deadly event in his village. Leif kept paddling north following a river out to the sea. The book contains the backstory of Leif in places, which explains why he is where he is. The book also contains some Nordic legends and viewpoints.

While well written and obviously accurate in the facts about the ocean and traveling, the book did not seem to end in a way that I understood. I love how Leif is able to learn and he found comfort in his learning with the whales and other animals in the sea. I was less clear about when and where the book's setting was. The book’s descriptions were so well drawn I felt like I could see and hear them.

Northwind does have the adventure and surprises of Hatchet, but it is more meditative and quiet in its discoveries. I felt like the book just ran out of material as the boy ran further north. I am unsure how I feel about this novel, quite frankly. However I must say, I wanted to read the novel and I was mesmerized by the various interactions between Leif and the animals. Northwind is the type of book where kids either love it or find it okay.

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I've got a confession to make, this was my first Gary Paulsen book. [book:Hatchet|50] has been on my TBR since... well, forever. When I spotted this one on NetGalley, knowing it was Paulsen's last book after his death back in October 2021, I felt compelled to request it.

What I enjoyed...
- Northwind is survival story. While I would consider this story more of a "quiet" story without much thrilling action, reading about Leif's day-to-day struggles to survive the harsh environment kept me interested in Leif's journey. This book reminded me of my childhood reading experience of reading [book:Island of the Blue Dolphins|41044096].
- Paulsen's writing is lyrical, giving the story a poetic vibe. His writing style made me feel like I was listening to a bedtime story.
- The author's note is a must read to get the full impact of this story. Paulsen discloses that this story was inspired by his Grandmothers stories and from his own personal sailing experiences. If you read this story and have mixed feelings about the ending, I encourage you to read the author's note. The ending felt fitting after learning more.
- Paulsen does a wonderful job placing the reader in the setting. From the landscape descriptions to the animal encounters, I felt like I was in the canoe with Leif.

What could have been improved....
- Paulsen included far too much description of the landscape. If this bothered me, I would assume it would turn off middle grade aged readers too.
- Northwind is told in 3rd person. I wonder if it had been written in 1st if it would have helped readers connect a bit more with Leif.

I love a good survival story and Northwind delivers! I cannot wait to pick up Paulsen's backlist.

*** Thank you to Netgalley for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review***

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Pulled from Paulsen's own memories of paddling, this is the story of a young boy in a canoe - learning to trust himself and his instincts. The setting is brought to life in Paulsen's details and description. You can practically hear the waves lapping against the canoe as you read.

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A lyrical tale of survival, in which the main character Leif slowly comes to an awareness of himself. Kind of a typical mid-grade plot perhaps but this story struck me as unique and that is probably due to Paulsen's wordsmithing.
Leif's journey begins as he is sent away from his village due to a plague. From death, illness and encounters with wildlife, common (or less-than common) choices are granted a broader weight from the perspective of a child-to-man/survivor - still unsure of exactly how I want to phrase this distinction. It is a knowledge of self, a knowledge of a journey undertaken that I seek to highlight with this description here. Leif's logic and rationalization from one setting to the next is fascinating to follow. It is, at once, disarming, thought-provoking, and compelling. Compounding this character depth with Paulsen's characteristic sense of setting, environment and it is a quick read that lingers in the mind. I would definitely recommend this as a library/lesson addition for any public and school librarians

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Gary Paulsen was a master storyteller. His ability to capture a person’s essence was remarkable. And that was never truer than in Northwind. It’s a character study of Leif, who spends the majority of the novel surrounded by nature rather than humans. His interactions with the natural world are full of danger and surprise.

Northwind is a beautiful narrative that draws you in from the beginning. Gary’s writing is elegant and sparse. You feel as if you are in the boat alongside Leif, paddling through the cold, blue waters. Though Gary wrote for young readers, his words will resonate with adults, too.

Northwind is among my top books by Gary. It should be on your to-read list if you haven’t already read it.

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The late author crafted one last novel about survival, set in ancient times.

I think <em>The Hatchet</em> was a pivotal novel for me, it made me think about survival and resilience in a way I had never thought about before; and left me wondering about the abundance of food, the incredible power of tools and what it takes to make it out alive from a difficult situation.

(I have to stop and tell you that <em>The girl who loved Tom Gordon</em> by Stephen King marked such a moment, too, but in a deeper, different kind of way).


Gary Paulsen was an expert on survival and the outdoors, a great writer and a prolific one, at that. He passed away on October 2021, at age 82, and this book was the very last one he has written. It follows the growth and learning of a young orphan called Leif, who may be a fisherman of ancient times, with Nordic ideas about life and death, who lived inside boats, catching whales and eating smoked fish, since he was very little.

When a plague hits the small fish camp where he lives, the elders throw two kids inside a cedar canoe, intent on saving them from the poisoned air. Only Leif survives the trip; following the North wind, traipsing along a wild, fjord-riven shore, navigating from one danger to the next, trying to survive not only the guilt of being alive when so many have died, but listening for a purpose, for a reason to stay alive.

The language is simple and beautiful:

For a longest time he only knew, or thought he knew, he was dead. He had gone to that place in the dark world where all was without knowledge or understanding and what he believed was true did not really exist and when that was gone there was nothing to replace what he had been. Replace his life.

The quantity of animals, of intelligent creatures that are busy in their outdoor lives is such, the sheer silence of human activities so immense, that he might not find a reason to live. That is, until he tunes in, slowly, into the big song of the Earth, of the Sea, and feels connected to all of it. Just as Gary Paulsen did, in every moment of his long and eventful life.

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My review has been long in the creation mode, for I read and finished this book a week before Gary Paulsen died. Every reminder to review was met with a internal sad sigh, for how could I comment on a last novel? If there was an author who was pivotal in my early reading years, Gary Paulsen was it. Hatchet is practically permanantly imprinted on my brain, as I suspect this one will be as well in the coming years. Northwind is, once again, a simple, realistic concept of life and death, set within a grim yet beautiful world; a journey that allows decisions and internal reflection to flow from a sole character.

I found myself rereading sections and even setting the book aside in order to mentally set a scene. I absolutely adored how he captured death. I loved the vivid descriptions of water and its moods. I enjoyed how the main character aches to have his story told. While I am sad this is the last penned words of Gary Paulsen, I am so glad it was with such a great story.

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Set along the Norwegian coastline, Northwind is the story of young Leif, raised on a ship by Old Carl, and later sent away to avoid The Death. As he takes to the water in a small canoe, he only knows Old Carl's final instructions: "Go North." But where? How far? How will he know when he gets there? And what will it take for him to survive? Written by renown survival/adventure author Gary Paulsen, Northwind is the story of a young boy on an incredible journey of adventure and self-discovery.

Part survival, part nature study, part spiritual journey, Northwind plays with a poetic, semi-melodic tone. The first several chapters, in particular, are somewhat vague, as if the reader himself is in a dream. This book is labeled as a middle school reader, marketed to ages 10-14. However, I'm not sure that most middle schoolers would be captured by the beginning of the book. Rather, although the protagonist is young, the themes of life and death, and knowing oneself would be better suited for an older audience. The plot of Northwind is essentially quite flat, and the resolution almost doesn't exist. It simply ends. While I generally appreciate Paulsen's focus on nature, Northwind isn't my favorite book from his body of work. Hatchet is a much better introduction to his writing.

*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

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This was a great epic voyage which was both exciting and exhausting. The author did a great job making you feel a part of the journey. I loved how he brought in all aspects of nature to give the story depth and understanding.
I have to admit, I found the author's notes at the end the most interesting part. I almost think if he had written a diary about his adventures it might have been a better story.
All in all a fun read.
Bon Voyage!

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Leif has lived all his life on or near the ocean. When a deadly sickness starts spreading in their cook camp, he leaves and travels north in his dugout cedar canoe. He has no destination in mind, only knowing he needs to keep north. Throughout his journey, he finds a satisfaction and freedom that he's never known before, even through the dangers of the wilderness and ocean around him.

I've read several of Gary Paulsen's books, and I've enjoyed them all. This story was a bit different from most of his others, not just because of the setting, but the overall "feel". A good portion of it seemed kind of repetitive, and I understand that it's kind of the point, but I'm not sure that it needed to fill so much of the plot. I didn't hate it, but I feel that he has much better books. I am afraid that it will be too monotonous for middle schoolers, especially if they're fans of Hatchet.

I received this ARC courtesy of NetGalley, in return for my honest and unbiased review.

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I really enjoyed this book.
It is the story of a boy surviving alone in the Norwegian wilderness after the members of his village die of a disease, probably cholera. He journeys north in his canoe to escape the contagion. It is ultimately a journey of self-discovery.
The book is a quick read and is beautifully written. The descriptions of the environment, animals, and experiences are vivid. I can smell the fish cooking and taste the stew. I can see the whales and feel the water. The author places the reader into the story with great detail; and never too much detail.
Although the book is intended for younger readers, it is absolutely appropriate for adults. It would make a great book club selection for middle grade students or even adults. There is plenty of interesting material here to spark a great discussion.
The author's note is also a great read.
I have never read this author before but would definitely read his work in the future.
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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From award-winning children's author Gary Paulsen comes his latest (and last?) book, Northwind.
Leif is a young boy who has survived a cholera outbreak in his village but is now facing a bigger challenge - finding a way to survive as he lives in a canoe with water giants (Orcas and Humpbacks and Blue Whales) all around him. Leif can't help but question whether or not he can go on, or even if it's worth the effort. Meanwhile, the natural world around him comes more and more into focus, putting his role in the world into perspective.

In an odd and sad bit of kismet, I was only a couple of chapters into reading this book (as an ARC) when Gary Paulsen passed away. While I felt a pervading sense of sadness throughout the book, I can't help but think I may have been projecting some of my own sadness at losing such an icon in the literary world.

While book does have a lot of the Paulsen hallmarks (boy against the wilderness), whereas books like Hatchet and Dogsong (two of my favorites) have similar themes, they are much more active stories. This is almost pastoral (except that this isn't an idealized form of country life since the country village died of a plague).

While I don't mind being asked to do some work, as a reader - I don't need everything spelled out - there a few questions that loom large and by their not being recognized or answered, take away from the reading experience. Questions like: Where are we? When are we?

I think we're along the coast of Norway maybe in the 1500's? Maybe 500's? But often Leif comes across as a very modern young man and the location feels very much like the Pacific Northwest. Is this a commentary on how little we've changed? If so, it's not quite strong enough. if not, there's too much suggesting just this.

I really appreciated the language, but I felt as lost as Leif and wasn't sure what the point of that was.

Looking for a good book? Northwind by Gary Paulsen continues the author's storytelling of a boy against and surviving in nature, but this time with a stronger water theme. It comes up just a bit short when compared to his more popular works.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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I requested this book because I am an admirer of Paulsen’s work. It feels like a very personal book. Even though it is nominally about survival, it seems like its true subject is death as though Paulsen was confronting, or trying to confront, his own mortality. The main character flees the terrifying encounter with the plague, heeding his mentor’s instructions to go north. And now it’s about survival and connection with nature. Except he continues paddling north into an increasingly white and frigid environment long after the logical choice would be to stop and seek shelter or turn around and return to the world of men. Was Paulsen projecting his own journey, the journey from which eventually there is no turning back from, onto this boy? I respect Paulsen’s courage, but at the same time it felt like an odd, suicidal choice for the young protagonist.

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Northwind is exactly the book you want when you are looking for a book for your children. It is poetry and beauty. Not completing safe but certainly within bounds. It is adventure and failure and perseverance and success. The perfect marriage of when fear becomes bravery. Gary Paulsen has written a gorgeous book that embodies all the good and beautiful traits or children deserve to learn.

Homeschoolers and educators will clamor to include Northwind in any unit involving Viking lore & religion, Scandinavia, and subarctic geography & animals (particularly fjords, bears, whales, and salmon).

One caveat, some readers may not appreciate the almost dreamy poetic narrative the story begins with. It will be anon-issue as a read aloud or in a class. However, if your reader seems put off by that part I would suggest reading it together or looking into the audio version because it really is a beautiful book.

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Fans of Hatchet and Gary Paulsen's works will really enjoy this latest work. Teachers in particular will benefit from the author's descriptions and action-packed narration, as they demonstrate how to "show, not tell". This book will appeal to reluctant readers who struggle to imagine themselves in a story. Paulsen's descriptions and evocative landscape will sweep adventurous readers right into his story.

As a middle grade reader, I was never interested in nature-based stories. Now, as a librarian, I can appreciate these survival stories and have quite a few patrons who love this style of writing. I highly recommend Gary Paulsen books for any classroom or library.

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Gary Paulsen is one of those rare writers whose work appeals to young people and adults, but for the life of me, I’m not sure who the target audience is for this book. The publisher’s info says ages 10-14 but I doubt very much whether an average Middle Schooler would sit through the first few confusing chapters of this journey. It is also described as Hatchet but on water, but as I recall, Hatchet was much more down-to-earth with details a reader could imagine. Northwind was much more mystical and the descriptions of coves and islands became so repetitive, I began to skim the sections between the few vivid action scenes.
Adding to the confusion was the uncertainty of the locale of this adventure. I doubt many American youth has knowledge of Norway, either the geography or cultural traditions, so the reader is left floundering. I am wondering if the author’s narrative at the end could be reworked as an introduction to help American readers to enter his world with more knowledge.
In general I found this narrative disappointing and the abrupt ending left little direction for what was to come. Somehow a life paddling through the fjords of Norway does not do it for me.

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