NOTE TO TEACHERS
My initial inspiration for creating Mr. Tucket was to cover the West with a single person. I hate to use the word saga, but it's kind of that. I thought of a boy going through the various aspects of the West when it was forming, starting with the mountain men, to what we view as the West--you know, the West of the cowboys.
One of the reasons I think that Francis has become popular is that I think there are similarities between Francis Tucket and Brian in Hatchet. Both boys must deal with a survival situation. I think that the theme of having to face real problems that have happened to real people at one time or another--especially to face them as a young person--is very intriguing to readers, especially young readers. When I was young and I was hunting, I would get into trouble--get caught in storms, blizzards, and that sort of thing. I found those experiences very challenging and intense and I think that feeling comes across in the books.
One of the reasons I put Francis in the Mexican War in Tucket's Ride was because the Mexican War has historically been ignored in writing. Historians jump right from mountain men to cowboys and longhorns and topics like that. I wanted to discuss, or at least have something move through, the Mexican War, which was a silly time--an absolutely crazy time--for America because it was an outright war of aggression by America.
The reaction I've had from teachers and librarians is that they want more. Some specifically ask to have Francis go to a certain spot and deal with specific historical events. I get quite a bit of mail like that. It would be impossible to have him do everything that teachers want me to have him do. Mr. Tucket couldn't ride enough to cover the territory that needs to be covered, but he will definitely get around. I'm going to do many more of these books.
ABOUT THIS BOOK
Gary Paulsen's popular Western saga continues in the fourth novel about Francis Tucket.
Things look grim for Francis and his adopted family, Lottie and Billy. Without horses, water, or food, they're alone in a prairie wasteland, with the dreaded Comanchero outlaws in pursuit. Death can strike at any moment -- but so can good fortune. When they stumble upon an ancient treasure, it takes teamwork, courage, and wit to hold on to it. By sticking together, Francis and his family wind up rich beyond their wildest dreams, and ready to head west to find Francis's parents on the Oregon Trail.
The following books are also discussed in this guide:
It is 1848 and 14-year-old Francis Tucket is heading west on the Oregon Trail. When he lags behind to practice shooting his new rifle, he is captured by Pawnees. It will take wild horses, hostile tribes, and a mysterious one-armed man named Mr. Grimes to help Francis come of age and survive the gritty frontier.
Call Me Francis Tucket
After a year with Mr. Grimes, Francis has learned to live by the harsh code of the wilderness. He can cause a stampede, survive his own mistakes and face up to desperadoes. But when he rescues a little girl and her younger brother, Francis takes on more than he bargained for.
In the third book in Gary Paulsen's Tucket Adventures, Francis and his adopted family are heading west, continuing their search for Francis' parents. But when winter comes early, Francis turns south to avoid the cold and leads them right into the middle of the Mexican-American War.
ABOUT THIS AUTHOR
Gary Paulsen is the author of more than 100 books and the winner of numerous honors, including the Golden Spur Award for Best Young Adult Western.
In the Classroom
The Tucket Adventures offer opportunities for making connections with the subjects areas of geography, history, language arts, the arts, literature, and science. The books also offer opportunities for exploration of themes or topics such as Westward Movement, Caring for the Environment, Survival, and Heroes. You can successfully use any one, two or all three books in your classroom. Sample the suggested classroom connections that follow and offer your students appropriate choices to deepen their understanding and enjoyment of the books.
Have students examine the United States in 1848. Give students a blank map and have them color in only those states and territories that were part of the Union--be sure to include the year and circumstances surrounding each state's admission. (You can break the class into small groups and each group can work on a particular state.) Afterwards, add states that were admitted after 1848 so that students can visually see the Western expansion of the country.
Assign students short research projects on the following topics: Western Explorers, the Plains Indians, Wagon Trains, the Oregon Trail, mountain men, California, and the Pony Express. When the students have gathered the information, guide them in creating a mural that features significant episodes in the opening of the West, arranging the events in the form of a time line.
Westward Movement -- In Mr. Tucket, Francis Tucket was part of a wagon train heading west to Oregon. Discuss the idea of "manifest destiny" with your class and why so many families braved harsh and dangerous conditions to travel west. Have students imagine what the trip might be like--ask them to write journal entries describing the trip and what their thoughts might be.
Francis meets up with another wagon train in Call Me Francis Tucket. Life on a wagon train was like living in a small, moving town. In what ways was this true? Discuss the living conditions in a wagon train and how settlers managed to carry enough food and water to sustain them on their journey. Also examine the other travel options available in 1848.
Tucket's Ride leads Francis into the middle of the Mexican-American War. Discuss the war in detail with your class. How did it begin? Why was it so important to the United States? Which territories were won?
Survival -- In Mr. Tucket, Francis learns his lessons of survival from Mr. Grimes, the one-armed mountain man. What were the greatest challenges to survival in 1848? What were the most useful things Francis learned from Mr. Grimes? Discuss traits Francis possessed that enabled him to survive as well as those that threatened his survival.
In Call Me Francis Tucket, when Courtweiler and Dubs take his things, Francis thinks, "I'm watching my life leave." Ask the students to discuss the meaning of this statement and what tools and knowledge Francis needed to survive in this situation.
In Tucket's Ride, Francis is not only responsible for himself, but his adopted family as well. Discuss how his new responsibility effects his behavior and the decisions he makes. Would he have reacted differently to situations if he were alone?
Caring for the Environment -- Jason Grimes counted the beaver in Mr. Tucket. Read aloud that passage on page 107. Discuss the consequences of Mr. Grimes' actions. What would have been the consequences if he had not counted the beavers? Encourage students to find out more about the beaver trade and what happened to the beavers. Also invite them to find out what role the beaver plays in the environment.
In Call Me Francis Tucket, Francis causes a buffalo stampede while he is hunting. Buffalo herds as wide as four and five miles were common sights in 1848. Have your class research the history of the American buffalo and the role they played in the Native American way of life. Examine other species that are currently in danger of extinction, the reasons why and the effect that might have on the environment.
In Tucket's Ride, Francis and company traveled from the plains to the desert. Discuss with your students the different climates, landscapes and scenery one would encounter on a trip from Missouri to Oregon, with a detour to Texas?
Heroes -- In Mr. Tucket, Francis learns the code of behavior for survival in the west. Ask the class to list the heroic qualities Francis portrayed in the books. Discuss what defines a hero. Ask the students to ponder the code of behavior Francis uses to make his decisions. In what ways was the code of behavior in the old west different than how we live today.
In Call Me Francis Tucket, Francis is robbed by two bushwackers and left with nothing but his trousers. Are his actions "heroic" when he gains revenge? Also discuss what made him return when he had left Lottie and Billy at the "trading post"?
What makes Francis feel obligated to take the body of the soldier he shot to the army in Tucket's Ride? Do you feel Francis was justified in shooting the soldier? Ask your students what they might have done in a similar situation.
History -- Is historical fiction more fact than fiction? Ask students to read a biography of a real-life western hero and compare their life to Francis Tucket's.
Refer back to the mural created for Pre-Reading activity. What other significant historical events should be included in the mural? To provide background information, invite students to find out more about events mentioned in the books.
Language Arts -- In Call Me Francis Tucket, on page 91, Gary Paulsen writes "Francis had changed almost daily." Ask your class to review the books and note the changes Francis went through. Ask them to write a short reflection on how Francis changed during the adventures. Then give them time to share and discuss their writings.
Creative Writing -- Francis Tucket's adventures are ongoing. Encourage your class to create a new adventure for Francis. Where would he go next? What historical event would he get involved in?
Geography -- Keep a map of the far west on display. Invite students to mark the places where Francis has traveled. Discuss the different topographies as you make your way west and how the land has developed and/or changed since 1848.
Science -- The weather and seasons influenced activities like the trapping of the beavers in Mr. Tucket. Ask students to review the books to discover other adventures that involved the weather and/or the seasons. Invite them to list the ways Francis copes with difficult weather conditions and the signs he notices that indicate the seasons and weather are changing.
Use of Language -- Read aloud the last two sentences in several chapters (i.e. Tucket's Ride, chapters 1,5,9). Discuss why Gary Paulsen ends his chapters on such cliff-hangers. Consider how the writer keeps the reader reading. Ask students to find other examples of cliff-hanger endings.
Teaching Ideas prepared by Marilyn Carpenter, education consultant, Tucson, Arizona.
"The invigorating story is just right for readers who like their action at a gallop."
-- Kirkus Reviews
And praise for The Tucket Adventures:
"A real knock'em, sock'em ripsnorter guaranteed to keep any boy and any girl. . . enthralled from first page through last. . . . Superb characterizations, splendidly evoked setting and thrill-a-minute plot make this book a joy to gallop through."
-- Starred, Publishers Weekly
"[Francis Tucket is] a cool-headed survivor in the mold of Hatchet's protagonist. . . a heart-stopping good read."
-- Starred, Publishers Weekly
"Thank You!! Thank You!! Thank You!! It is so wonderful to turn kids on to reading with incredible novels like yours. The children truly loved your books and learned a lot about survival and life."
-- J.W., Sanford School
"Many students have enjoyed your novels and learned valuable lessons from them. I enjoy teaching them for the same reason."
-- B.B., Franklin Elementary School
"I really enjoyed reading your book, Mr. Tucket. The whole book had an outstanding way of making a picture in my mind. Your characters seemed to come to life. Though I've read a lot of books, Mr. Tucket is one of the best so far."