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Richie's Picks: WOODS RUNNER by Gary Paulsen,  Wendy Lamb/Random House,
January 2010, 176p. ISBN: 978-0-385-73884-2

"It's the hammer of justice
It's the bell of freedom
It's the song about love between my brothers and my  sisters
All over this land"
--  Pete Seeger and Lee Hays  (1949)

1.

1965 - 1955 = 10 years
1965 - 1776 = 189 years
10/189 = .0529 = 5.3%

2.
2010 - 1955 = 55 years
2010 - 1776 = 234 years
55/234 = .235 = 23.5%

3.
1955 - 1776 = 179 years
x/(179 + x) = 1/3
3x = 179 + x
2x = 179
x = 89.5 years

In the past year, I've had the good fortune to  have located and begun a
running correspondence with Al Schryver.  (Thanks,  Google!)  Al, who is the
same age as my father, was my favorite teacher as  a child.  I was in an
extended school year program in Commack, Long Island,  when Al was my fifth
grade teacher during the 1965-1966 school year.  (For  those of you old enough
to remember back then, it was the school year  marked at the beginning by the
theater release of the movie Help! and, at the  end, by the release of the
Lovin' Spoonful single "Summer in the  City.")

I was a stellar math student back when Al was my  teacher.  I still
remember much of what I learned that year.  It was  also a year for learning about
United States history.

As depicted in problem 1 (above), I calculate that in 1965 I  was ten
(years old), the United States was 189 (using the Declaration of  Independence as
the starting date), and that I'd then lived through 5.3% of  United States
history.  When I was ten, the characters I studied from the  beginnings of
the nation seemed to have lived an unimaginably long time  ago, as if the
country had been around just short of forever.

As depicted in problem 2 (above), I calculate that today I am  55, the
United States is 234, and that I have now lived through nearly a  quarter of the
history of the United States.

By age fifty-five, I have a long track record.  I have  done some amazing
things.  I have done some amazingly stupid things.   Some love me and some
hate me; some like to hear what I say and others think I'm  full of crap.  I
keep working hard, keep trying to look  inward, and I keep thinking that this
is it -- I'm finally getting it  together.  (No doubt, I'll be saying the
same thing next year,  too.)

The United States is based upon ideas and ideals that go back  hundreds and
thousands of years, but the United States is made up of people like  you
and me.  The country has had many opportunities to screw up over its  234
years and counting, and has often taken full advantage of these  opportunities.
Of course, the functioning of the country logically can not  be much better
than the functioning of the people who constitute its population  and put
those ideas and ideals into practice on a daily basis.

When I was young, I was quick to criticize the amazingly  stupid things for
which this country has been responsible, both domestically and
internationally.  Now that I've had fifty-five years to screw up -- and  have,
myself,
regularly taken advantage of many opportunities to do so -- I  have learned
to be somewhat more forgiving, both of myself and of my  country.  I've
tried to make amends where possible.  And (looking at  who is now President), it
feels like the country occasionally tries to do  the same.

But all of this potential growth -- whether I am talking  about myself or
my country -- is very dependent upon a memory of and a  good understanding of
where one has come from and what one  has been through.

Gary Paulsen's WOODS RUNNER is a book that I would have  loved when I was
in Al Schryver's fifth grade class.  It is the  perilous story of thirteen
year-old Samuel who is out hunting on  the day that the American Revolution
comes to his part of the world (an  isolated homestead in colonial
Pennsylvania).  Samuel returns home to  find that his family's homestead (and those
of
all the neighbors) have been  burned to the ground, and deduces that his
parents have been taken away,  prisoners of the Redcoats.  (Fortunately, as we
later come to learn,  it was Redcoats rather than Hessians who were
responsible in this particular  instance.)  The story follows Samuel as he narrowly
escapes death and finds  himself using his rifle to take a human life as he
seeks to harness all of  his knowledge, wits, and resources, in order to
locate and liberate his parents  from their captors.

"War Orphans
"Children orphaned by war, as countless were during the  Revolutionary War,
suffer from nightmares and sleeping problems, headaches,  stomachaches,
anger, irritability and anxiety.  Severely traumatized  children may become
withdrawn, appearing numb and unresponsive and sometimes  becoming mute.  When
the danger and devastation end, children can show  remarkable resilience and
recovery if they are in a safe and stable environment  where they are cared
for and nurtured.
"After the Revolutionary War, however, many orphans, if they  were not
taken in by other family members, grew up in institutions.  Formal  adoptions
were very rare."

Earlier this year, I gushed about the pairing of poetry and  prose in Joyce
Sidman's sure-to-be-an-award winning picture  book, UBIQUITOUS.  I am
equally fond of the manner in which Gary  Paulsen intersperses bits of factual
background information between his  chapters.  The "interruptions" are but a
couple of hundred words each,  and each is focused on interesting topics that
you don't find in the  history textbooks.

Getting back to the math, problem 3 is the sort of algebra  equation that I
learned to set up and solve when I was Al's  student.  In this case, I was
curious to know how old I will need to be in  order to have lived through
one-third of the history of the United States.   I calculate that will be the
case when I am 89.5 in the year  2044.

"'I feel guilty, though,' Samuel's father whispered.  'So  many men in that
shed, in other sheds.  Starving.  And I get  food.'
"'It is the way of it,' Abner put in from the darkness,  'of war.  Some
get, some don't, some live, some...don't,  It's the way  of it.'"

While it may be focused on hostilities from hundreds of years  ago, today's
young readers will find WOODS RUNNER a powerful depiction of what  war is
like on an intensely personal level.  As Paulsen notes in his  Afterword,

"Some of the dreadful nuts and bolts of battle, the real and  horrible
truths, are frequently overlooked because other parts are more dramatic  and
appealing.  There is a tendency  to clean up the tales of war to  make them
more palatable, focusing on rousing stories of heroism and stirring  examples
of patriotism, all clean, pristine, antiseptic."

WOODS RUNNER, like the real story of my beloved country, is a  messy story.

It is one that I will be doing my best to bring to the  attention of the
next generation who will one day be making our collective  history --
hopefully, in a world without wars.

Richie  Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks _http://richiespicks.com_ (http://richiespicks.com/)
BudNotBuddy@aol.com
Moderator  _http://groups.yahoo.com/middle_school_lit/_
(http://groups.yahoo.com/middle_school_lit/)
Moderator  _http://groups.yahoo.com/group/EcolIt/_
(http://groups.yahoo.com/group/EcolIt/)
_http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/people/faculty/partingtonr/partingtonr.php_
(http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/people/faculty/partingtonr/partingtonr.php)

FTC  NOTICE: Richie receives free books from lots of publishers who hope he
will Pick their books.  You can figure that any review was written  after
copies for his rereading pleasure and for use in his  booktalks at schools
and  libraries.

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