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Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

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

In this memoir, author Gary Paulsen shares insights he gains by observing animals and nature in rugged areas of Alaska and northern Minnesota.

The book begins with anecdotes about Paulsen’s life as a Minnesota outdoorsman. His encounters with animals, both wild and tame, change his views about trapping and killing for sport. When friends give Paulsen several sled dogs, he begins to bond with them and to view animals, in general, with a keener eye.

Watching his dogs, as well as wolves, deer, squirrels and other creatures in his area, he realizes animals are more aware and demonstrate more emotions than he’d previously realized. He also observes several animals hunting and killing one another. He notes the strength of their primal behaviors and cringes as he witnesses the bloody, horrific animal deaths in the wild.

Paulsen also shares a day-by-day account of his 17 days in the Iditarod. He talks about the behaviors and running patterns of his dogs at various points in the journey. He notes how the cold, wind and sheer exhaustion affect him physically and cause him to hallucinate. Despite the toll the race takes on his mind and body, he delights in the natural beauty that surrounds him and the feelings of exhilaration he experiences on the trip.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles



The Lord’s name is used in vain once, as are the words h--- and butt.

Paulsen describes wolves ripping a deer apart while the doe experiences a slow, painful death. On several occasions, he mentions the blood that soaks into animals’ fur while they’re consuming other animals. On a long sled run, one of Paulsen’s dogs begins to spray blood from his rear end. In the later stages of the Iditarod, Paulsen hacks up blood, mucus and vomit, which his dogs eat.



Discussion Topics

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Additional Comments/Notes

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Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

10 to 14


Gary Paulsen






Record Label



Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, a trademark of Simon & Schuster


On Video

Year Published



Midland Authors’ Book Award, 1991; Western Writers of America Spur Award, 1991 and others


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