Friday, April 5, 2013


1987, 1996 Aladdin edition
Gary Paulsen
Bought new for $4.50
Slightly worn paperback

There's an odd very 1980s-backlash subtext to this book-- "Adulterous wives are getting divorces and leaving children to fend for themselves"-- but 13-year-old Brian's knowledge of "The Secret," after he witnesses his mother kissing a strange man and his dilemma of whether to tell his father are just the background to the story.  Narratively, his parents have to get divorced so that he can be traveling to visit his father in Canada and get in a plane crash and have to survive on his own in the woods, with nothing but the title object and his wits.  It's like the set-up for Island of the Blue Dolphins, although Brian doesn't bond with animals at all to the extent that Karana does.  (He's also stranded for weeks rather than years.)  With both books, the coping, the inventions, and the awe about nature are what matter.  When Brian is, towards the end, able to retrieve the survival pack, he feels like the sleeping bag, cooking pots, and so on are amazing luxuries.  He's been finding food, shelter, and fire on his own for so long.  He's rescued soon after, so we don't know how he'd deal with, for instance, his mixed feelings, about the gun he now has.

Well, I guess people who've read Brian's Winter (1996) know.  It's an alternate novel, showing what would've happened if Brian hadn't been found at that point.  I've never read it, or the three other Brian's Saga books.  The two or three times I've read this book, I've enjoyed it-- much more than I do most preteen boys' fiction-- but somehow it's not a book that stays with me.  That said, I've never read O'Dell's Zia (1976), about Karana's niece, either.

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