Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"


Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Book Review

This adventure survival story by Gary Paulsen is published by Aladdin Paperbacks, an imprint of the Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing Division, and is written for kids ages 10 to 14 years. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Fourteen-year-old Russel Susskit feels something is wrong, but he can't put his finger on it. The Eskimo boy lives with his father in a box-like house built by the government. He hates hearing the loud roar of snow machines and his father's coughing. He detests that everything smells like diesel fuel and cigarette smoke. Russel's father notices his son's anxiety. His father says that when he needs help with something he doesn't understand, he gets that help from Jesus. Since he knows Russel doesn't follow Jesus, he sends his son to the town shaman, an old blind man named Oogruk.

Oogruk tells Russel that before the missionaries came and started talking about Jesus, people had their own life songs, some which even triggered natural phenomena. He instructs Russel to return to the old ways of his people in order to discover his song. Russel goes into a trance at Oogruk's and discovers that he needs to learn to drive Oogruk's dogsled. He stays with the old man and works with the dogs. One day, Oogruk rides with Russel on the sled. He says it is his time to go. Oogruk makes Russel leave him sitting on the ice, where the old man dies.

Russel begins a long journey of self-discovery as he drives the dogs through harrowing weather conditions. He has an ongoing dream about a man he realizes is him. He says the dream continues to fold over on itself, mirroring some of the situations he faces on his trip. In the dream, the man leaves his family in search of food, kills a wooly mammoth with a spear and returns to find that his family has starved to death. On his real journey, Russel finds a pregnant, nearly frozen girl named Nancy, who has come out to the tundra to kill herself. He revives her, but they are almost out of food. So he leaves her to hunt, and he goes many days without finding anything.

At his most hopeless moment, he and the dogs sense a polar bear and follow its tracks. Russel battles the polar bear, killing it with a spear. He rushes back to Nancy, who is barely alive. She delivers a stillborn child soon after. Despite the pain and sadness they both experience, Russel feels victorious that he's been able to keep Nancy alive. She has physical complications after losing the baby, so Russel drives the dogs hard to get her to a village where she can be treated. They reach the far north and see villages ahead. The book ends with a poem, Russel's song, about his life before and after running with the dogs.

Christian Beliefs

Russel's father has pictures on the walls of Jesus dying and carrying the Cross. They're all cut out of religious magazines people have sent his father from outside their town. He's tried to explain Jesus to Russel, but the boy doesn't understand. His father says Jesus was the Son of God and was meant to suffer for our sins. Russel can't think of anything bad enough that's happened to make a man stick thorns in his head. He does like the fact that his father doesn't drink anymore because of Jesus. When his father sees Russel is distressed, he explains that he seeks help from Jesus when he lacks understanding.

Other Belief Systems

Russel goes into a trance at the shaman's house, and the old man teaches him how to live as his people did in the past. Russel learns rituals, including thanking animals he kills for their meat. As Russel watches the colors of the sky, he says he knows that often the wind dies and goes back to its mother. Then the cold comes down from the father of ice. He says many of his people believe the northern lights are the souls of deadborn children dancing in heaven. He later feels that the cold and darkness are like a ghost from the underworld that will take him down where demons will tear strips off of him.

Oogruk says their people used to have songs and dances that could control nature and animals. He blames the missionaries for taking the songs away. When the missionaries came, he says, the Eskimo people began believing they would go to hell for their singing and dancing. They hadn't known about hell before, but suddenly they were informed of the pain, fire and demons, which would tear strips of meat off of them. Oogruk says that when the people gave up their songs for fear of hell, they gave up their insides as well. He tells Russel that maybe if people lived like they used to live, the songs would come back. A passage written by an old Eskimo woman at the start of a chapter also talks about the great power the shamans had before the church came. She says they could make stones and snow and beads talk.

Authority Roles

Russel's father has taken care of him since his mother left with a white trapper. He tries to tell his son about Jesus and help the boy learn what is missing in his life. Oogruk the shaman teaches Russel the ways of his people, allowing the boy to live with him. He trains Russel using a dogsled team and urges the boy to go on a long journey of self-discovery.


Russel's father talks about a time in his childhood when a boat full of men died walrus fishing. He says the women cut themselves deeply and bled in grief. A number of scenes depict people and animals in survival situations. Dogs dig their teeth into animal carcasses. They eat, puke and eat their vomit. A polar bear takes a violent bite out of the back of a dog, killing it and spraying gore everywhere.

Russel sometimes whips the dogs harshly to drive them on. In his dream, Russel thrusts a spear in the back of a nearly frozen dog's head to kill it. In his dream, Russel also spears a mammoth, mirroring the real Russel spearing a polar bear. When the woman and children in Russel's dream are starving to death and have eaten everything possible, the mother "sits and fingers the strangulation cord."


In one of the chapter beginnings, an old Eskimo talks about being born from cold white cliffs that were his mother's thighs. Nancy says she became pregnant without meaning to. When told by the missionaries this was a sin, she went out into the tundra to die. Her baby is born early and stillborn. Nancy writhes and experiences great pain during the slow expulsion of the fetus. She asks Russel to take the baby away so she doesn't have to look at it.

Discussion Topics

If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:

  • What is Oogruk saying when he tells Russel he can't just get a song because he is the song?
  • What did he mean by this?

  • How does Oogruk think running with the dogs will help Russel find himself and his song?

  • On whom does Russel rely when he finds himself in difficult situations on his journey?
  • When you feel lost and need direction, to whom do you turn for help? Explain.

  • Why does Oogruk suggest that living in the old ways will help people find their songs again?

  • Do you agree with him?
  • What are some aspects of modern living that keep people from noticing or appreciating all God has made and done in the world?
  • How does this book dismiss Christianity in favor of the Inuit religion?
  • How does the inclusion of fear-based missionaries make another religion seem better?
  • How does this story imply that fear-based missionaries have forced their beliefs on the Eskimos?
  • How does God want people to tell others about Him?

Additional Comments/Notes

Smoking: Russel's father smokes a lot of cigarettes. Russel hates the harsh coughing sounds his father makes in the morning as a result of his smoking.

Cannibalism: An old Eskimo tells a story of a time when there was no meat and they had eaten all the dogs. They ask their old mother if they can eat her if the deer don't come back. He says they would have, but fortunately for them and her, the deer came back.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

10 to 14


Gary Paulsen






Record Label



Aladdin Paperbacks, an imprint of the Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing Division


On Video

Year Published



Newbery Honor Book, 1986


We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!