In the National Book Award longlist book This Side of Wild, Newbery Honor–winning author Gary Paulsen shares surprising true stories about his relationship with animals, highlighting their compassion, intellect, intuition, and sense of adventure.
Gary Paulsen is an adventurer who competed in two Iditarods, survived the Minnesota wilderness, and climbed the Bighorns. None of this would have been possible without his truest companions: his animals. Sled dogs rescued him in Alaska, a sickened poodle guarded his well-being, and a horse led him across a desert. Through his interactions with dogs, horses, birds, and more, Gary has been struck with the belief that animals know more than we may fathom.
His understanding and admiration of animals is well known, and in This Side of Wild, which has taken a lifetime to write, he proves the ways in which they have taught him to be a better person.
Paulsen ventures into nonfiction in this anecdotal account of animals pets and others that have influenced him. The stories' diverse settings reflect Paulsen's peripatetic and adventurous life, beginning in Wyoming, where he acquired his first horses, on which both he and his border collie, Josh, rode ("I had never seen it before and never since, with other dogs and horses"). During an episode in the Alaskan wilderness, Paulsen recounts how a toy poodle he rescued from a shelter proved an effective, if unlikely, kind of "early-warning radar" when grizzlies were nearby. Some of the most engrossing entries portray animals' imitation of human behavior: while stationed at Fort Bliss, Tex., Paulsen met Betty, a mynah that could mimic President Kennedy, and Gretchen, a dog that lapped coffee from a mug and demonstrated a startling ability to communicate with people. Despite the astounding animal behavior, intelligence, and intuitiveness Paulsen describes, he avoids a sensational "believe it or not" tone, instead offering down-to-earth reflections on human-animal interdependence. An absorbing read for animal lovers of any age. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 10 up.