Center for Children's Literature Blog

Children’s Book Committee – June 2021 Pick

Gone to the Woods: Surviving a Lost Childhood
Written by Gary Paulsen

Gary’s first experience with a stable family at his aunt’s farm comes to an abrupt end when his alcoholic mother comes to take him to the Philippines.

Our Young Reviewer Says:

“As someone who has read Gary Paulsen’s books since I was a kid, Gone To The Woods: Surviving a Lost Childhood is a striking departure from his usual wilderness adventures.

In this book, Paulsen relates his childhood experiences memoir-style while recounting various events that shaped him. While a part of the book is still set on a farm with his aunt and uncle, the rest is dedicated to multiple traumatic events that he endured throughout his tumultuous adolescence, from running away to shark attacks.

This book gives a painful insight into Paulsen’s early life and so much so that he recounts it in third-person. As he is carted from place to place by his alcoholic mother, the skills that he learned during his brief time on his aunt and uncle’s farm help him persevere through extreme hardship. Gone to The Woods is written with beautiful but also sometimes graphic detail. It is a startling example of the human ability to overcome adversity and still achieve enormous success.”

–Michael, 16, Empora, KS.

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See our Monthly Picks Archive 2012–2018, and our Monthly Picks 2019–present.