22 October 2010

Book Review: The Winter Room

Title: The Winter Room
Author: Gary Paulsen
Publisher: Dell Yearling
Release Date: 1 April 1991
Date Finished: 18 October 2010

Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid

Challenges: 100+ Reading, Hogwarts Reading Challenge, Young Adult Reading

The Short and Sweet of It
Eldon lives with his brother Wayne, Uncle David, mom, dad, Nels, and the farm. Each season brings its own personality, its own responsibilities, and its own hardships and pleasures.

A Bit of a Ramble
It is difficult to summarize the plot of this book as it is more like a series of paintings, a set designed for two purposes: to reveal the seasons and to highlight the importance of stories. The book is sectioned out: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter, which has its own sections as it is the time of stories from Uncle David, so each tale gets its own chapter heading. Life on the farm is described seasonally with the melty newness of Spring, the sweat and labor of Summer, the necessary but painful killing in Fall, and the stories in Winter.

The words that come to mind when thinking about this book are intense, mythological, and wonderfully male. In a mere 103 pages, Paulsen dramatically paints a portrait of life on a farm in the 1930s that is at once meandering and intense, with vivid descriptions of places and events. The story itself is mythological in nature with an emphasis on nature, a focus on storytelling, and mildly magical connotations. Finally, the male portion...oh, boy, how do I say this without stereotyping too dramatically.... The story is told simplistically but includes complex themes; the definition of simplistic I am going for here is writing and tone which are sparse, matter-of-fact, and to-the-point. The story revolves around horses, planting, logging, carving, wrestling, and other generally male interests and activities. It felt male in the same way smelling chopped wood does. In no way am I implying that women can't appreciate the book (obviously) - or appreciate horses, planting, logging.....

Gary Paulsen is a favorite author of mine; his ability to evoke emotion through snapshot-like descriptions of places and people is admirable and leaves me with a specific impression after reading his work. I highly recommend him for all ages.

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Question: Has anyone else ever read Paulsen?


  1. Oh, I really liked the way you described this book, and I totally understand the "maleness" you are talking about. I think that I would probably enjoy this book it's one that I would like to check out in the bookstore and dig around in. Thanks for the great review, I will have to check it out!

  2. I read Hatchet in middle school–whether it was for an assignment or for pleasure, I don't recall. It was very much a male book, I felt (meaning the connotations our society has for male, not the simple state of being male), complete with closed feelings and man versus wild.

  3. No need to worry...I know exactly what you are talking about when you refer to maleness. I feel that at times I am wading around knee-deep in it here at home. This book fascinates me that it can contain so much in such a few number of pages.

  4. I've never heard of Paulsen. (I'm sorry.)

    It does sound very male-oriented ... both in terms of tasks and writing style.

  5. Thanks for the great review, I never heard of Paulsen either.

  6. This sounds good! I've always heard great things about Paulsen, and my kids have read a few of his books. James seemed to really like Hatchet.

  7. I like the look and sound of this book. It seems to have a rhythm to it.

  8. I haven't heard of this author until your review, but it sounds like I should be reading his work!

  9. I've only read Hatchet too: I have a thing for survival stories, but I've glanced at some of his others, since, and you have piqued my interest.


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