Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Young Adult Book Review: 'Road Trip' by Gary Paulsen and Jim Paulsen

Road Trip by Gary Paulsen
and Jim Paulsen
Wendy Lamb Books, 2013

Gary Paulsen's latest book was written with the help of his son Jim, a sculptor. The Paulsen family shares a love of dogs, and after Jim told Gary about his latest dog rescue, Gary wrote the first chapter of a story about a father and a son rescuing a homeless dog. He emailed it to Jim, and received another chapter in response. The father-son writing team continued in this fashion until the manuscript was complete, then handed it over to their editor to "tie together".

If I interpreted the Author's Note correctly, Gary Paulsen, well-known for his children's and young adult books about animals and wilderness, wrote the bulk of the story, while Jim wrote alternating short chapters from the family dog's perspective. The narrator of the main story is Ben, a fourteen-year-old who sets off on a road trip with his father to rescue a Border Collie that Ben hopes to call his own.

Ben's Dad hopes that the trip will provide an opportunity for him to bond with his son after he has quit his corporate job to start a risky business flipping houses. In a panic, Ben calls a friend to come along, and they pick up several other travelers along the way. The trip turns into an adventure with a little bit of danger and a whole lot of healing taking place en route.

The chances of several strangers being willing to tag along without notice on a two-day trip are about the same as the likelihood that a police officer would agree to drag race the motley crew after stopping them for speeding (which also happens in the book). Nonetheless, the characters are likeable, and the story moves along at a clip pace.

This isn't one of Paulsen's best works (my eight-year old daughter wasn't engaged enough by the first few chapters to continue reading to the end), but it will likely find a following with pre-teen boys who will appreciate it for being a fun and easy read.

Gary Paulsen is the distinguished author of many critically acclaimed books for young people, including three Newbery Honor Books. He won the Margaret A. Edwards Award for his lifetime achievement in young adult literature. He divides his time between his home in Alaska, his ranch in New Mexico, and his sailboat on the Pacific Ocean. You can visit him on the web at GaryPaulsen.com

Jim Paulsen is a sculptor and former elementary school teacher. He lives with his wife and two children in Minnesota. Road Trip is his first book.

Renée Vaillancourt McGrath has worked at Montana Public Radio as a program host since 2002. Her background is in librarianship and she currently works as a freelance editor, blogger, and website developer. Check out more of her book reviews at reneesreads.com.

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