Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Dogsong ~ by Gary Paulsen, 1985

Title, author, copyright date, and genre?
Dogsong ~ by Gary Paulsen, 1985, YA fiction (YA designates young adults, but I frequently read this genre)

Summarize the book without giving away the ending.
From the back cover:
"Inspired by the Eskimo shaman Oogruk, Russel Suskitt takes a dog team and sled to escape the modern ways of his village and to find his own 'song' of himself. He travels across ice floes, tundra, and mountains, haunted along the way by a dream of a long-ago self whose adventures parallel his own."
What was the book's central question, and how was it answered?
Yesterday I told you about The Fiction Class by Susan Breen (and did you notice the author came by and commented on that post?), a novel with writing assignments that my friend Donna and I chose to do along with the fictional students. One of the assignments was to find the theme of the book:
"Choose a novel or short story that you like and try to discover its theme. How does the author get the theme across? Title? Plot? Names of characters?" (page 231 in The Fiction Class).
The theme is the book's central question, its dominant idea. Even though I have this question in my book review outline, I don't think I've ever used it here on my blog. Now that I know the importance of themes, I'll try to do this more often.

Okay, so what's the theme of Dogsong?
How to live an authentic life. Russel, the main character, is a 14-year-old who hates noisy snowmobiles and yearns for the life Eskimos used to live. His father understands his need and refers Russel to Oogruk, the only person in their village with dogs and a sled. Oogruk is blind, but has ways of "seeing" that Russel only slowly recognizes. Russel comes to trust that Oogruk will be able to teach him what he needs to know. At no point does the author use the word "authentic" that I wrote above; instead, the story is all about finding his song. Modern people no longer have their own songs, but it's what Russel needs for his life.

What did you think of the main character? How did the main character change during the novel?
Russel knows nothing about dogs or sledding at the beginning of the book, but he learns what he needs to know.

Was location important to the story?
The whole story is set in the far north, in weather colder than I have ever experienced. Yet I could feel the weather and the tiredness of Russel and the sled dogs. I got a feel for a place I can only imagine, and the author placed me there so that I felt the biting wind and ached from the bitter cold along with the characters.

Did you like the way the book ended?
I expected Russel to succeed in his quest, but I did not expect what happened to the people and animals he encountered.

How would you rate this book?
It held my attention throughout, and I highly recommend it. Rated 9 of 10.

1 comment:

Ellen D. said...

I have not read Dogsong, but I've read the Hatchet books by Paulsen as well as his autobiography "Guts" and "My Life in Dog Years" both of which had some parts that really stuck with me. I'm glad there are people like him that are also writers so I can virtually experience things I'll never physically experience.