Book depicts life in 1776



(Random House Children’s Books, 165 pages, $15.99) by Gary Paulsen

This isn’t your father’s Revolutionary War history book that attempts to paint the nation’s break from the British monarchy in an overly patriotic light.

It doesn’t glamorize war or the Founding Fathers or even the founding mothers.

What children’s author Gary Paulsen does in “Woods Runner,” however, is about anyone, everyone of that time.

In the case of Paulsen’s latest children’s novel — he’s penned about 175 of them — it’s about a 13-year-old boy who lived in the woods of Pennsylvania and got caught up in a war of which he knew nothing about.

It’s an at-times incredulous tale of how the boy’s parents are taken prisoner by Hessians, German mercenary soldiers who were brutal in their tactics, how he tracked down his parents over the course of several weeks, and how he miraculously found them in overpopulated New York City among hundreds of other people.

And, of course, the boy rescues his parents, escapes unharmed and flees to Philadelphia, which was held by the rebels at the time.

OK, so it’s unlikely a real boy his age would have the skills, luck, fortitude and knowledge to do all that. But that’s not the point.

For parents looking for suitable reading material for their kids, “Woods Runner” paints a picture of what life was like in 1776, and what people had to do to survive it.

Paulsen does it in a way that doesn’t regurgitate historical events, dates or figures your children already will have learned in history class.

It is a snapshot about how life was for the average person — or average kid — of that era.

As a result, it’s a good way to teach history because it does, in a way, bring history to life.

Would your children be able to rescue you under similar circumstances? Perhaps not, but let them dream about it anyway.


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