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Synopsis

"We want you to do it again."



These words, spoken to Brian Robeson, will change his life. Two years earlier, Brian was stranded alone in the wilderness for 54 days with nothing but a small hatchet. Yet he survived.



Now the government wants him to go back into the wilderness so that astronauts and the military can learn the survival techniques that kept Brian alive. Soon the project backfires, though, leaving Brian with a wounded partner and a long river to navigate. His only hope is to build a raft and try to transport the injured man a hundred miles downstream to a trading post--if the map he has is accurate.


From the Paperback edition.

Excerpt

Brian opened the door and stood back. There were three men, all in dark suits, standing on the front porch. They were large but not fat, well built, with bodies in decent shape. One of them was slightly thinner than the other two.

"Brian Robeson?"

Brian nodded. "Yes."

The thin man smiled and stepped forward and held out his hand. "I'm Derek Holtzer. These other two are Bill Mannerly and Erik Ballard. Can we come in?"

Brian held the door open to let them come in. "Mother isn't home right now...."

"It's you we want to see." Derek stopped just in the entryway and the other two did the same. "Of course, we'll wish to speak to your mother and father as well, but we came to see you. Didn't you get a call about us?"

Brian shook his head. "I don't think so. I mean, I know I didn't, but I don't think Mother did either. She would have said something."

"How about your father?"

"He doesn't live here. My parents are divorced."

"Oh. Sorry." Derek truly looked embarrassed. "I didn't know."

"It happens." Brian shrugged, but it was still new enough, just over a year and a half, to feel painful. He mentally pushed it away and had a sudden thought of his own foolishness. Three men he did not know were in the house. They did not look threatening, but you never knew.

"What can I do for you?"

"Well, if you don't know anything about any of this, maybe we should wait for your mother to come home. We can come back."

Brian nodded. "Whatever you want . . . but you could tell me what it's about, if you wanted to."

"Maybe I'd better check on you first. Are you the Brian Robeson who survived alone in the Canadian woods for two months?"

"Fifty-four days," Brian said. "Not quite two months. Yes--that's me."

"Good."

"Are you from the press?" For months after his return home, Brian had been followed by the press. Even after the television special--a camera crew went back with him to the lake and he showed them how he'd lived--they stayed after him. Newspapers, television, book publishers--they called him at home, followed him to school. It was hard to get away from them. One man even offered him money to put his face on a T-shirt, and a jeans company wanted to come out with a line of Brian Robeson Survival Jeans.

His mother had handled them all, with the help--through the mail--of his father, and he had some money in an account for college. Actually, enough to complete college. But it had finally slowed down and he didn't miss it.

At first it had been exciting, but soon the thrill had worn off. He was famous, and that wasn't too bad, but when they started following him with cameras and wanting to make movies of him and his life it got a little crazy.

He met a girl in school, Deborah McKenzie. They hit it off and went on a few dates, and pretty soon the press was bugging her as well and that was too much. He started going out the back door, wearing sunglasses, meeting Deborah in out-of-the-way places, and sliding down the hallways in school. He was only too glad when people stopped noticing him.

And here they were again. "I mean, are you with television or anything?"

Derek shook his head. "Nope--not even close. We're with a government survival school."

"Instructors?"

Derek shook his head. "Not exactly. Bill and Erik are instructors, but I'm a psychologist. We work with people who may need to survive in bad situations--you know, like downed pilots, astronauts, soldiers. How to live off the land and get out safely."

"What do you want with me?"

Derek smiled. "You can probably guess. . . "

Brian shook his head.

"Well, to make it short, we want you to do it again."
Gary Paulsen|Author Q&A

About Gary Paulsen

Gary Paulsen - The River

Photo © Tim Keating

“We have been passive. We have been stupid. We have been lazy. We have done all the things we could do to destroy ourselves. If there is any hope at all for the human race, it has to come from young people. Not from adults.”—Gary Paulsen

A three-time Newbery Honor winner, Gary Paulsen is also winner of the 1997 Margaret A. Edwards Award, which honors an author’s lifetime contribution to writing books for teenagers.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Writing is so much a part of the way I live . . .

Writing is so much a part of the way I live that I would be lost without the discipline and routine. I write every day—every day—and it gives me balance and focus. Every day I wake up, usually at 4:30 a.m., with the sole purpose of sitting down to write with a cup of hot tea and a computer or a laptop or a pad of paper—it doesn’t matter. I’ve written whole books in my office, in a dog kennel with a headlamp, on more airplanes than I can remember, on the trampoline of my catamaran off the shores of Fiji—it never matters where I write, just where the writing takes me.

Everything else I do is just a path to get me to that moment when I start to work. Sometimes I’m lucky and the living part of life gets folded into the writing part, like with Dogsong and the Brian books and Caught by the Sea and How Angel Peterson Got His Name. Those books were based on personal inspection at zero altitude, I took experiences that I had and turned them into books. I’ve spent a great deal of time in the outdoors, but not with the specific goal of writing about it later. I’ll be honest, though, and tell you that I enjoyed writing about those times as much as, if not more than, I enjoyed living through those times in the first place. I didn’t start writing until I was 26 years old. I look back now and wonder what I thought I was supposed to be doing with my time before that.

I’ve experimented with different voices and styles . . .
Sometimes the way to tell a story is even more important than the story itself. I’ve experimented with different voices and styles and genres over the years. The Glass Café and Harris and Me were born of the voices of people I could not get out of my head. Tony was a boy I knew back when I lived in Hollywood and Harris was a cousin from my childhood. To honor their voices, I wrote the books in very different styles. Tony had a fast-paced, breathless speaking style and I had fun trying to capture that on paper. And the best way to paint a picture of Harris was to detail all those crazy stunts of his.

Nightjohn and Soldier’s Heart were the result of studying history. Sarny came from the research I did in the National Archives when I stumbled across the Slave Narratives. And I discovered Charley Goddard when reading a book about the Minnesota First Volunteers. I hadn’t expected to find characters for books of my own when I started reading, but I could not shake them until I tried to figure out on paper what their lives must have been like.

I am still amazed by the gifts that writing gives to me . . .
Even after all these years, I am still amazed by the gifts that writing gives to me. There is not only the satisfaction from the hard work—and even after all this time and all these books, it is still very hard work for me to make a book—and the way the hair rises on the back of my neck when a story works for me, but also the relationships I have made with the people who read my books.

The one true measure of success for me has always been the readers . . .
People ask me about the kind of money I make and how many awards I’ve received, but the one true measure of success for me
has always been the readers. I give the checks to my wife and my agent keeps the awards for me. The only thing I have in my office, other than junk and work and research, is a framed letter from one of my readers. That means more to me than just about anything else, the letters
I get from the people who read my books.

Thank you for reading my books and for writing to me. Read like a wolf eats. Read.

******************************

Born May 17, 1939, Gary Paulsen is one of America’s most popular writers for young people. Although he was never a dedicated student, Paulsen developed a passion for reading at an early age. After a librarian gave him a book to read—along with his own library card—he was hooked. He began spending hours alone in the basement of his apartment building, reading one book after another.

Running away from home at the age of 14 and traveling with a carnival, Paulsen acquired a taste for adventure. A youthful summer of rigorous chores on a farm; jobs as an engineer, construction worker, ranch hand, truck driver, and sailor; and two rounds of the 1,180-mile Alaskan dogsled race, the Iditarod; have provided ample material from which he creates his powerful stories.

Paulsen’s realization that he would become a writer came suddenly when he was working as a satellite technician for an aerospace firm in California. One night he walked off the job, never to return. He spent the next year in Hollywood as a magazine proofreader, working on his own writing every night. Then he left California and drove to northern Minnesota where he rented a cabin on a lake; by the end of the winter, he had completed his first novel.

Living in the remote Minnesota woods, Paulsen eventually turned to the sport of dogsled racing, and entered the 1983 Iditarod. In 1985, after running the Iditarod for the second time, he suffered an attack of angina and was forced to give up his dogs. “I started to focus on writing with the same energies and efforts that I was using with dogs. So we’re talking 18-, 19-, 20-hour days completely committed to work. Totally, viciously, obsessively committed to work, the way I’d run dogs. . . . I still work that way, completely, all the time. I just work. I don’t drink, I don’t fool around, I’m just this way. . . . The end result is there’s a lot of books out there.”

It is Paulsen’s overwhelming belief in young people that drives him to write. His intense desire to tap deeply into the human spirit and to encourage readers to observe and care about the world around them has brought him both enormous popularity with young people and critical acclaim from the children’s book community. Paulsen is a master storyteller who has written more than 175 books and some 200 articles and short stories for children and adults. He is one of the most important writers of young adult literature today, and three of his novels—Hatchet, Dogsong, and The Winter Room—are Newbery Honor Books. His books frequently appear on the best books lists of the American Library Association.

Paulsen has received many letters from readers (as many as 200 a day) telling him they felt Brian Robeson’s story in Hatchet was left unfinished by his early rescue, before the winter came and made things really tough. They wanted to know what would happen if Brian were not rescued, if he had to survive in the winter. Paulsen says, “I researched and wrote Brian’s Winter, showing what could and perhaps would have happened had Brian not been rescued.”

In Paulsen’s book, Guts: The True Stories Behind Hatchet and the Brian Books, Paulsen shares his own adventures in the wild, which are often hilarious and always amazing: moose attacks, heart attacks, near-misses in planes, and looking death in the eye.

Paulsen has written a time-travel novel, The Transall Saga, which was named an ALA Quick Pick. And in the heartwrenching story Soldier’s Heart, Paulsen brings the Civil War to life battle by battle, as readers see the horror of combat and its devastating results through the eyes of 15-year-old Charley Goddard.

Paulsen and his wife Ruth Wright Paulsen, an artist who has illustrated several of his books, divide their time between a home in New Mexico and a boat in the Pacific. For more information about Gary Paulsen, visit www.garypaulsen.com


PRAISE


ALIDA’S SONG
“Readers will want to savor this stirring book.”—Starred, Kirkus Reviews

THE BEET FIELDS
“The ultimate coming-of-age story. . . . Exceptional and so heartbreakingly real.”—Starred, Booklist

BRIAN’S WINTER
“Paulsen crafts a companion/sequel to Hatchet containing many of its same pleasures. . . . Read together, the two books make his finest tale of survival yet.”—Starred, Kirkus Reviews

HOW ANGEL PETERSON GOT HIS NAME
“These episodes will not only keep young readers, of both sexes, in stitches, they’re made to order for reading aloud.”—Starred, Kirkus Reviews

MR. TUCKET
“Superb characterizations, splendidly evoked setting, and thrill-a-minute plot make this book a joy to gallop through.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

MY LIFE IN DOG YEARS
“A treat to make Paulsen fans sit up and beg for more. . . . His writing percolates with energetic love.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

SARNY
A Life Remembered
“A satisfying sequel. . . . It is a great read, with characters both to hate and to cherish, and a rich sense of what it really was like then.”—Starred, Booklist

SOLDIER’S HEART
“The novel’s spare, simple language and vivid visual images of brutality and death on the battlefield make it accessible and memorable to young people.”—Starred, Booklist

THE TRANSALL SAGA
“A riveting science fiction adventure. . . . Captivating.”—Starred, Booklist

Author Q&A

author fun facts

Born:
May 17 in Minneapolis, Minnesota


Previous jobs: Farm hand, ranch hand, truck driver, sailor, dogsled racer, teacher, field engineer, editor, soldier, actor, director, trapper, professional archer, migrant farm worker, singer


Hobbies: Sailing, collecting and riding Harley Davidsons; twice ran the Iditarod, the challenging 1,000 mile dogsled race across Alaska


Inspiration for writing: After a librarian gave him a book to read--along with his own library card--Gary was hooked. He began spending hours alone in the basement of his apartment building, reading one book after another.

Awards

Awards

WINNER 1995 North Dakota Flicker Tale Children's Book Award
NOMINEE 1994 Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award
NOMINEE 1996 Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award
Teachers Guide

Teacher's Guide



NOTE TO TEACHERS

The River was a direct response to readers who sent letters telling me that Brian's story wasn't done at the end of Hatchet. So many wanted to know what happened to Brian after the rescue that I started wondering about him myself. What if Brian went back to the woods with the knowledge he'd gained, but this time were also responsible for the life of another person?
When I finished The River I thought I'd taken his story as far as it could go. And then the next batch of letters started showing up. Again readers wrote that there had to be more to the story, but this time, they told me Brian had been rescued in Hatchet too soon--before --it became really hard going." What would he have done, they wanted to know, if he had to survive on his own through the winter? Since my life has been one of survival in winter--running two Iditarods, hunting and trapping as a boy and young man--the challenge became interesting, and so I researched and wrote Brian's Winter, showing what could and perhaps would have happened had Brian not been rescued.
And in answer to still more thousands of letters I wrote this final fictional account of Brian, Brian's Return. Much of what Brian encounters in these stories--in fact nearly all of it--has happened to me. This last book perhaps shows Brian most completely, most truly: how he is changed mentally, how he deals with home life and finally, how he must return to the woods that make him whole. There will be one more book, a nonfiction book, about those areas of my life (being attacked by moose, bear and--shudder--skunks; hunting, fishing and living on game; making and using weapons and tools, etc.) that parallel Brian's life, to show how truly close Brian is to reality.
Thank you for reading my books and I hope you enjoy this continuing story of Brian.

ABOUT THIS BOOK

In The River, Brian is asked to return to the woods to teach Derek, a government psychologist, survival techniques. But when Derek is struck by lightning, Brian's survival skills are further tested as he must find a way to get the seriously injured Derek out of the woods.
The following books are also discussed in this guide:
Brian's Return
Brian's Winter
Hatchet


ABOUT THIS AUTHOR

Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Gary Paulsen is one of America's most popular writers for young people. Although he was never a dedicated student, Paulsen developed a passion for reading at an early age. After a librarian gave him a book to read--along with his own library card--he was hooked. He began spending hours alone in the basement of his apartment building, reading one book after another.
Running away from home at the age of fourteen and traveling with a carnival, Gary Paulsen acquired a taste for adventure. A youthful summer of rigorous chores on a farm; jobs as an engineer, construction worker, ranch hand, truck driver, and sailor; and two rounds of the 1,180-mile Alaskan dogsled race, the Iditarod, have provided ample material from which he creates powerful stories.
Paulsen's realization that he would ultimately be a writer happened suddenly when he was working as a satellite technician for an aerospace firm in California. One night he walked off the job, never to return. He spent the next year in Hollywood as a magazine proofreader, working on his own writing every night. Then he left California and drove to northern Minnesota where he rented a cabin by the lake; by the end of the winter, he had completed his first novel.
It is Gary Paulsen's overwhelming belief in young people that drives him to write. His intense desire to tap deeply into the human spirit and to encourage readers to observe and care about the world around them has brought him both enormous popularity with young people and critical acclaim from the children's book community. Paulsen has written nearly one hundred books and some two hundred articles and short stories for children and adults. He is one of the most respected writers of young adult literature today. Three of his novels--Hatchet, Dogsong, and The Winter Room--were named Newbery Honor Books.
In Soldier's Heart, 15-year-old Charley Goddard enlists in the First Minnesota Volunteers in 1861. This gripping, heartwrenching story of war is seen through the young boy's eyes, as he fights in almost every major battle of the Civil War.
Brian's Return, the final companion novel to the Newbery Honor-winning Hatchet, and Paulsen's most recent novel, takes young readers on another exciting adventure to the north woods with Brian Robeson. As in Hatchet, The River, and Brian's Winter, Paulsen creates in Brian's Return a story that is ideal for integrating into the curriculum as well as for classroom read-aloud.
Gary Paulsen and his wife, Ruth Wright Paulsen, an artist who has illustrated several of his books, divide their time between a ranch in southern New Mexico and a home on a sailboat in the Pacific.

TEACHING IDEAS

In the Classroom

Brian's Return, the final companion novel to the Newbery Honor-winning Hatchet, takes young readers on another exciting adventure to the north woods with Brian Robeson. As in Hatchet, The River, and Brian's Winter, Paulsen creates in Brian's Return a story that is ideal for integrating into the curriculum as well as for classroom read-aloud.
This guide includes a variety of activities for The River, Brian's Winter, and Brian's Return. The themes of survival, nature, making choices, and self-discovery can be explored in the classroom. Teachers may want to divide the class into smaller groups, each reading one of the books, to allow for more complete discussion of the activities included here.

We hope you find this guide useful in introducing your class to Gary Paulsen's two award-winning adventure tales.

Pre-Reading Activity

In Brian's Winter, The River, and Hatchet, Brian Robeson must survive in the northern woods. His most important resource is his own ingenuity. Divide the class into small groups and have them list items they think are necessary to include in a survival pack. Then challenge each group to decide which five items on their list are the most important. Ask each group to share and support their decision.

Ask students to discuss how surviving in the wilderness for a long period of time might change a person's life. Tell the class that in Brian's Return, Brian Robeson cannot adjust to ordinary life and feels that the only way he can be happy is to return to the wilderness. Divide the class into small groups and ask them to brainstorm the many reasons why it might be difficult for Brian to live the life of a typical high-school student.

Thematic Connections

Survival -- In The River, when lightning strikes Derek, Brian must find a way to get out of the woods and find medical help for the unconscious man. Ask students to discuss the difficult task of dealing with Derek after the accident. How does the accident further challenge Brian's survival skills?

Ask students to compare and contrast the skills Brian used to survive the summer months in Hatchet with those he uses to survive in Brian's Winter. How does his knowledge of summer survival contribute to his ability to make it through the brutal winter?

Brian takes some camping gear when he returns to the woods in Brian's Return. Ask students to refer to the list of equipment (Ch. 9) that he chooses to take with him. Then, have them select the items that they feel are absolutely necessary for his survival. How is his return trip different from his other long adventures in the wilderness?

Appreciation of Nature -- While Brian must depend on nature for food and clothing, he also develops a keen appreciation for the wilderness and has great respect for the animals that inhabit the woods. Find evidence throughout the novels that Brian is a careful hunter and understands the concept of wildlife conservation.

Though Brian suffers greatly from loneliness and works hard to survive, he has mixed feelings about leaving the northern woods when he is finally rescued. He feels that the woods have become part of him. Ask students to write a feature article for a wildlife magazine that Brian might have written, describing his relationship with nature.

How does Brian's understanding and appreciation of nature contribute to his need to leave home and return to the wilderness in Brian's Return?

Making Choices -- In The River, one of the most difficult decisions that Brian must make is what to do with Derek after the accident. Should he leave him there and go for help? Should he put him on a raft and take him downriver?

Encourage students to discuss the pros and cons of Brian's choices. What are the many factors that Brian considers before making his decision? Ask students to find incidents in Brian's Winter where Brian is faced with making important decisions. How do his decisions impact his health and safety?

In Brian's Return, Brian tells his mother that he wants to return to the woods to visit the Smallhorns. At what point does Brian realize that he isn't going to the Smallhorns? Ask students to discuss what Brian means by "he would find them when it was time to find them" (p. 110). Encourage students to discuss whether Brian ever goes to them.

Self-Discovery -- After Brian's 54 days in the wilderness in Hatchet, his parents insist that he see a counselor. The counselor thinks that Brian is "mentally injured." Brian, however, feels that his time in the woods changed him in a more positive way. Ask students to discuss what Brian discovers about himself.

In The River, Brian says that he was "reborn in the woods" (p. 9). What does Brian mean?

How does his "rebirth" affect his relationships with his peers in Brian's Return? Why does Caleb, Brian's counselor, feel that Brian must return to the woods?

Interdisciplinary Connections

Science -- Brian learns a lot about animals and how they communicate. Encourage students to select one animal that Brian encounters in Brian's Return, The River, or Brian's Winter and research that animal's method of communication, how it marks its territory, and how it protects itself from predators.

Math -- During his time in the wilderness, Brian draws on various math skills to help himself survive. He has to calculate how many days his food will last, and he must estimate distances when he is hunting. Ask students to create a math problem based on a specific incident or situation in either The River or Brian's Winter.

Art -- In Brian's Winter, Brian takes charcoal from the fire to make sketches of the events of the day on his shelter wall. Invite students to select a favorite scene from either novel and sketch it on poster board. Display the drawings around the room and ask the students to place the scenes in sequential order. Then ask them to brainstorm an appropriate title for each sketch.

Social Studies -- Brian hunts with tools similar to those used by early hunters. How does Brian know which tools to use in specific hunting situations? Ask students to use the library to research ancient hunting methods. Have them construct a pictorial time line that traces the development of various hunting tools.

Language Arts -- Gary Paulsen uses imagery to appeal to all of the senses--sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Allow students to browse the books and find examples of such imagery. Ask them to use Paulsen's images to create similes.

Bring an assortment of hunting and fishing magazines to class for students to peruse. Ask them to write a short article for one of the magazines that Brian might write discussing his dislike of "professional fishermen" and "professional hunters."

Ask students to read The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare. Divide the class into groups and ask each to list the survival skills that Matt learns from the Native American boy who befriends him. Then, have them discuss the survival skills that Brian has learned alone. Which boy has the toughest time surviving in the wilderness? Brian writes his thoughts and feelings to Caleb, his counselor. Ask students to write a letter that Matt might write to his parents about his experiences in the wilderness. Encourage the students to share their letters.

Music -- In the Author's Note at the end of Brian's Return, Gary Paulsen writes that he is waiting out winter storms before he can set sail on his boat Felicity. During the rain, he listens to the music of Mozart. Ask students to find recordings that they think reflect Brian's connection with nature.

Exploring Beyond Brian's World

Conservation -- Numerous organizations in America are involved in game management. Have students find out the purpose of each of the following organizations: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, and Ducks Unlimited. Ask them to create a poster advertising one of these organizations.

Each state in the United States has game laws. Many states require a hunting and fishing license. Ask students to find out the laws regarding hunting and fishing in their state. Why is it important to have such laws?

Survival -- There are wilderness camps located throughout the nation to teach people survival skills. Encourage students to use the Internet to locate a wilderness camp in their state or region. What is the age range of the campers? What type of activities does the camp offer? How long is the camp in session? How much does it cost?

Students may also enjoy locating a camp in another part of the country. How does the locale of the camp affect the type of survival skills taught?

Teaching ideas prepared by Pat Scales, Library Media Specialist, Greenville Middle School, Greenville, South Carolina.

VOCABULARY

The vocabulary in Brian's Winter is simple, but Paulsen does extraordinary things with language. Encourage students to notice his use of strong verbs to convey difficult tasks--"hefted the lance" (page 62). Ask them to locate other examples of strong verbs in the book and to use a thesaurus to identify appropriate word substitutions.

Words in Brian's Return may include portages (p. 108), feinted (p. 104), and castigating (p. 81).

AWARDS

An IRA-CBC Children's Choice
A Parents Magazine Best Book of the Year

REVIEWS

"Young people will find the survival detail as gripping as ever. . .a great story of rebirth and connection."-- Booklist
"The new adventure is as riveting as the predecessor. . . .Paulsen , as always, pulls no punches."-- Publishers Weekly
"Vividly written, a book that will, as intended, please the readers who hoped that Paulsen, like Brian, would do it again."-- Kirkus Reviews

FURTHER READING

The Haymeadow by Gary Paulsen[0-440-40923-3]
The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford[0-440-41324-9]
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare[0-440-47900-2]
The Voyage of the Frog by Gary Paulsen[0-440-40364-2]

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

http://www.bwca.org/default.asp
http://www.castlepoint.com/wilderness/
http://www.io.com/~gibbonsb/brochure.html



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