cover image Northwind


Gary Paulsen. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $17.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-374-31420-0

Inspired by the late Paulsen’s lifelong love of the sea and his own journey up the Pacific coast, this captivating saga of survival and self-discovery, his final novel, centers a steadfast and levelheaded child in an apparently Nordic archipelago landscape. After growing up on fishing boats, orphan Leif is abandoned at a fish camp; when the camp’s men become infected with cholera, its leader instructs the 12-year-old to head north to safety in a canoe. Finding himself alone with few supplies in early summer, Leif struggles to survive along shorelines and inlets that teem with bears and whales, all described with Paulsen’s characteristic attention to detail. As the solitary child travels via canoe, carving his experiences into a piece of wood and dreaming of a mother he never met, he realizes that though “all his life... had not been a safe place,” the vast world is his to explore. 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. Ages 10–14. (Jan.)