cover image Fishbone's Song

Fishbone's Song

Gary Paulsen. Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (160p) ISBN 978-1-4814-5226-7

Paulsen (This Side of Wild) again mines themes of resourcefulness and respect for nature in this introspective story of a boy raised in the woods by an elderly hermit. The unnamed young narrator's life is built on uncertainty: he doesn't know when or where he was born, or how he came to live with Fishbone. What he does know is the power of the man's "story-songs," which include poignant flashbacks to serving in the Korean War, his baby sister's death from cholera, and two lost chances at "for sure and true love." Fishbone's stories also serve as character-building lessons, emphasizing the need to live off the land yet leave "No tracks, not a wrinkle to show you were there. No waste. No want. No bother to nobody or no thing." Gradually, the boy learns to search beyond the surface of both nature and Fishbone's anecdotes to find at the center "a seed" that "meant more than the story." His observation that Fishbone "never seemed to waste a word or a thought" aptly describes Paulsen's feat with this compact and eloquent novel. Ages 10%E2%80%93up. (Sept.)