Find adventure in Northwind, a new novel by Gary Paulsen

Scouts love wilderness adventure. They’ll find it in Gary Paulsen’s Northwind, a new novel from Macmillan Publishing Group.

Paulsen, who passed in October, was a longtime contributor to Boys’ Life (now Scout Life) magazine. He wrote more than 200 books for children and adults, selling more than 35 million copies worldwide. Three of his novels — Dogsong (1986), Hatchet (1988) and The Winter Room (1990) — received The Newbery Medal, an award presented to the best books of the year as determined by the Association for Library Service to Children. Hatchet was also named to Scout Life magazine’s list of 100 Books That Every Kid Should Read.

In Northwind, the late survival story master chronicles an orphan named Leif, who takes to the water in a cedar canoe after a deadly plague decimates his fishing village. As he travels northward, he encounters one danger after another, connecting to his truest self along the way.

Sense of survival

Scouts should love the adjective-laden details in Northwind. The 256-page novel captures the sense of adventure with hints of Nordic mythology and details that transport you right alongside Leif.

They should also appreciate the decision-making and resourcefulness that Leif uses during his journey, which mirrors the same lessons Scouts learn as they discover wilderness survival.

Some elements that Scouts would recognize are starting a fire with flint and steel. Leif unearths an old ground squirrel nest, made of dry fur and grass, to use as tinder. He showers the tinder with sparks to ignite a fire. You can look up other tips for building a fire here.

There’s also a part where he catches, cleans and eats a salmon, while saving the liver, skin and skeleton to later create a soup. You can find many fishing tips in Scout Life’s fishing guide.

And there are many excerpts of Leif encountering bears. Read these tips to learn what to do with your food in bear country.

Northwind, available for $17.99, is for young readers ages 10-14.

The reviews are in

Here’s what reviewers are saying about Northwind:

Northwind — a tale of survival as masterfully understated as the man himself — brings the author’s career, and his life, full circle. … A grand and worthy journey.” — The New York Times

“Paulsen once again demonstrates his extraordinary knowledge of nature and the outdoors. … Beautifully written, it’s classic Paulsen at his best.” — Booklist

“Spare, survival-oriented prose keeps the reader immersed in scenes difficult and wondrous, offering a glimpse of the sheer awesomeness of nature, showcasing the beauty of the sea and its inhabitants, and regaling readers with a timeless and irresistible adventure that has resilience at its heart.” — Publishers Weekly

“Though the metaphorical layer lies barely beneath the surface in this short novel, Paulsen’s spare prose and legendary knowledge of the challenges and techniques of wilderness survival make the journey through a landscape that evokes historical Scandinavia compelling reading. … A voyage both singular and universal, marked by sharply felt risks and rewards and deep waters beneath.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Precise in episodic details but contemplative in tone, Paulsen’s narration keeps Leif at emotional arm’s length, developing him as a sort of boy hero in a time-honored saga but one who triumphs by joining nature rather than conquering it.” — BCCB

About Michael Freeman 326 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is an associate editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines.