Northwind - book cover
Growing Up & Facts of Life
  • Publisher : Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
  • Published : 11 Jan 2022
  • Pages : 256
  • ISBN-10 : 0374314209
  • ISBN-13 : 9780374314200
  • Language : English


This stunning novel from the survival story master, set along a rugged coastline centuries ago, does for the ocean what Hatchet does for the woods, as it relates the story of a young person's battle to stay alive against the odds, where the high seas meet a coastal wilderness.

When a deadly plague reaches the small fish camp where he lives, an orphan named Leif is forced to take to the water in a cedar canoe. He flees northward, following a wild, fjord-riven shore, navigating from one danger to the next, unsure of his destination. Yet the deeper into his journey he paddles, the closer he comes to his truest self as he connects to "the heartbeat of the ocean . . . the pulse of the sea." With hints of Nordic mythology and an irresistible narrative pull, Northwind is Gary Paulsen at his captivating, adventuresome best.

Editorial Reviews

"Paulsen . . . was not only a a master storyteller, but also a master world-builder . . . Wondrous . . . A grand and worthy journey." ―Neal Shusterman/The New York Times Book Review

"A voyage both singular and universal, marked by sharply felt risks and rewards and deep waters beneath." ―Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"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." ―Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Call this posthumously published novel The Young Man and the Sea . . . [A] splendid story . . . Beautifully written, it's classic Paulsen at his best." ―Booklist, starred review

Readers Top Reviews

Book Lover
Gary Paulsen is one of those rare writers whose work appeals to young people and adults, but for the life of me, I’m not sure who the target audience is for this book. The publisher’s info says ages 10-14 but I doubt very much whether an average Middle Schooler would sit through the first few confusing chapters of this journey. It is also described as Hatchet but on water, but as I recall, Hatchet was much more down-to-earth with details a reader could imagine. Northwind was much more mystical and the descriptions of coves and islands became so repetitive, I began to skim the sections between the few vivid action scenes. Adding to the confusion was the uncertainty of the locale of this adventure. I doubt many American youth has knowledge of Norway, either the geography or cultural traditions, so the reader is left floundering. I am wondering if the author’s narrative at the end could be reworked as an introduction to help American readers to enter his world with more knowledge. In general I found this narrative disappointing and the abrupt ending left little direction for what was to come. Somehow a life paddling through the fjords of Norway does not do it for me.
Wendy Scott
Thank you NetGalley and Macmillan (Farrah Straus Giroux) for this free copy in exchange for my honest review. This middle grade novel may be the audience the author was targeting for this story but it is an adventure that will reach all the way up to an adult age group level. As a reader of Hatchet in my younger years I found this story to be similar in adventure and the writing style is one akin to anything a reader has come to expect from Gary Paulsen. The story takes place on the ocean in the Northern Pacific when a young orphan boy’s village is taken over by a life threatening disease. The boy sets out in a canoe to head North away from the sickness that is killing off his people. The descriptions of the fjord-riven shorelines are so vivid that I could clearly see these places in my mind. His interactions with the life around him were playful as you would expect of any young boy. “Young whales, above all, love to play and the young ones did not see danger in the perfect toy…” referring to Leif as he interacted with the whales he encountered. The game the whales played with the canoe as if it were a “wooden feather… pushing the canoe back and forth across the surface.” was delightful. It was very touching as Leif sought to know his mother through his journey as we watch him grow into a survivor. Keeping track of events on his story boards became vital as he too saw the growth that he was experiencing. I was not ready for the story to end and I felt that the author may have had thoughts of a sequel never to be realized with his unexpected death. His legacy will live on as readers will cherish his writing for ages to come. God bless you, Gary Paulsen, for sharing your stories with us for all these years.
June Price
Intense. The images just keep on coming. Gary Paulsen is a master at painting the scene for his readers and he outdoes himself in "Northwind". On the surface, the plot sounds simple. A boy left alone in the wilderness through no fault of his own and forced to rely on his own wits and ability to learn from events and his own mistakes. Hey, I think I've heard that story before! Yes, the wilderness and self-reliance are a common theme in many Paulsen books but this time he's taken us to sea, to sea in a small canoe. Paulsen, an avid sailor, combines his wilderness lore and knowledge of the sea to create a memorable picture of a boy becoming a man against the backdrop of the sea, a sea that includes swirling tides, whales, and even icebergs. While I can see this being a bit too intense for some young readers.... the target is middle grades .... he has another winner in "Northwind". I live in Alaska and not only met Paulsen but have observed whales from a small boat, one that appeared relatively large at the dock but suddenly seemed dwarfed when surrounded by leaping, playing whales. I remember the awe of thinking I could almost reach out and touch a mother whale that came up alongside where I stood, then dived and swam directly under our boat. Thus, I could experience some of the awe and unease Leif, the main character, must have felt when encountering these massive, majestic creatures. Bears are common, too, in Alaska, often in our own yards, so I shuddered when Leif came practically face to face with one. Ravens? Everywhere and I chuckled at the descriptions of their calls. It should come as no surprise to any but new readers that Gary Paulsen once lived in Alaska. He knows the north. Blending that knowledge with Nordic mythology, he makes the experience, both the wondrous and frightening ones, real. Like Leif, I have to wonder if Paulsen is also always looking north, even when at the helm of a sailboat, as he keeps on learning and sharing the oneness of nature with us. How sad that he's left this world but perhaps he has found nirvana. Thank you NetGalley and Macmillan Children's Publishing Group for the ARC.
Finished this in two days. This is another great survival story so there is obviously survival content in the book. This has a very Norse feel to it and focuses on our main character going on an adventure (won't say why because of possible spoilers) and shows the freedoms that sailing the sea can bring. Also loved the note from Gary Paulsen in the book.

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