Erik is preparing for his first-ever hunting trip when he learns that his parents are being deployed to Iraq. A few days later, Erik is shipped off to North Dakota to live with Big Darrell and Oma, grandparents he barely knows. When Erik rescues a dog that’s been stuck by a porcupine, Big Darrell says Erik can’t keep him. But Erik has already named her Quill and can’t bear to give her up. He decides to run away, taking the dog and a shotgun, certain that they can make it on their own out on the prairie. In this story of adventure and survival, Erik learns about the challenges and satisfactions of living off the land, the power of family secrets, and the pain of losing what you love. (goodreads summary)
Twelve year old Erik arrives home with exciting news that he passed his hunter safety course and is looking forward to his first outing with his best friend and father. It is soon overshadowed when Erik learns that both parents are being deployed to Iraq at the end of the week. Arrangements have been made for him to move to a very small, underdeveloped town in North Dakota to live with grandparents he does not know. When Erik arrives, his grandmother is sweet but his grandfather "Big Darrell" is very cool and does nothing to welcome him into his home. Erik cannot believe he will be living in this remote area for 6 months or maybe even longer. When a stray dog in need of help shows up at the farm with porcupine quills in its nose, he befriends the dog and feels that his life may be bearable after all. But to his dismay, Erik's grandfather says "No dogs" and strictly forbids it into the home. Unfortunately, the owner of the dog has also been located a couple of days later and is ready to take her back. Not only does he have a hard time adjusting to his new surroundings but also does not want to return the dog. While Erik is alone one day, he decides to see what is behind the closed door that his grandparents do not want him to enter in. Inside, he finds a bedroom shrine from Erik's uncle who died at an early age from the Vietnam War. When he notices his uncle's old hunting gear, gun and a few other supplies in the closet, he decides to run away to survive living a pioneer life on the land away from any adults telling him what to do. Besides, what more does he need when he has supplies and a faithful dog by his side?
This story is a quick and fast paced survival/adventure read. It moves along in a matter of five days time and Erik is faced with a few challenges such as finding shelter, hunger, thirst, sickness and snowy weather. Naturally, things do not go as planned for him and eventually realizes this adventure could be harder than he thought. The writing was not only wonderfully descriptive but also gave me detailed feeling of the setting and characters. Because of the fast pace, it just may capture some reluctant readers in need of a bookshare book. I thought there were some great vocabulary words that kids may find new and noteworthy as well. Hunting and cleaning pheasants and a rabbit is mentioned in detail but I guess that is part of the true survival experience Erik faces. Both Big Darrell and Erik had to come to terms with loss and change that made for some character development for each person. I also thought the cover art was eye-catching and beautiful. I think this is a "just right book" for grades 5-8.~
Title: Wild Life
Author: Cynthia DeFelice
Pub. Date: April 2011, RR Donnelly & Sons
Hardcover, 177 pgs.