cover image Father Water, Mother Woods

Father Water, Mother Woods

Gary Paulsen. Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, $16.95 (159pp) ISBN 978-0-385-32053-5

Gary Paulsen, in a foreword to this collection of autobiographical essays, identifies his youthful experiences in the woods and rivers of northern Minnesota as the source for his Newbery Honor novel Hatchet (about which he receives 30,000-40,000 letters a year), and its sequel, The River . ``In the normal course of things,'' he writes of himself and his companions, ``our lives hurt. When we were in the woods or fishing . . . our lives didn't hurt.'' A few scattered references to his parents' alcoholism suffice to indicate the ``normal course of things''; the emphasis here is squarely on the intensity of Paulsen and his friends' sometimes earnest, sometimes comic adventures. The boys fish and hunt, for survival as well as for excitement. The seriousness of their endeavors is evident from their carefully cultivated expertise (they invent ways to make flies and plugs; they create frog pits to get bait for walleyes; etc.) and from the sober matter of finances (``a dollar a fish . . . sounds good, but to get a fish . . . is a day at the ditch, another fish for the old man, nights working at the smoke-shed for the old man''). Throughout it all, descriptions of light and water, of fish and wildlife, kindle in the reader a measure of the author's own complex respect for nature. Illustrations not seen by PW. All ages. (Sept.)