Gary Paulsen is the ultimate storyteller. Many of his books, including the wildly popular Hatchet, are on almost every school reading list. Now Paulsen’s latest work, This Side of Wild: Mutts, Mares, and Laughing Dinosaurs illustrated by Tim Jessell, has already quietly made the longlist in Young People’s Literature for the 2015 National Book Awards, as well as is a nominee for a 2015 Cybils award in the Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction category.
In a series of essays, Paulsen reveals some unusual encounters he has had with animals, particularly dogs, but birds, horses and honey bees as well. His thesis is that animals may have more going for them in the way of intelligence, and even compassion for other animals, than we may have previously thought.
As with some of his other works, Paulsen reveals that his parents were alcoholics and suggests at some of the neglect and abuse he suffered as a child. He also writes about some serious topics, such as the distress he felt while serving in the military as an 18 year old, as well as the horrors he saw in the aftermath of World War II while visiting his father. Although the publisher suggests the book is appropriate for 10 and up, it is probably for more mature readers unless the students are given extra preparation and guidance.
This Side of Wild is chock full of compelling and powerful stories that are sure to stay with the reader long after the book is finished. It would make an excellent gift for anyone interested in nature, animals and adventure, plus readers who are already fans of Gary Paulsen. Be sure to pick up a copy for yourself as well!
Age Range: 10 and up
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (September 29, 2015)
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Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.