81 pages 2 hours read

Woods Runner

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2010

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Summary and Study Guide

Overview

Woods Runner, by Gary Paulsen, is a young adult, historical fiction novel. It takes place during the American War for Independence (1776) from the point of view of a 13-year-old frontier boy. The novel was published by Random House in 2010 and is a favorite in schools because of its educational passages that provide valuable historical information to the reader. Paulsen’s Author’s Note and Afterword explain his desire to show war for the grotesque and horrible experience that it was, rather than through the rose-colored glasses of patriotism and glory. Though it has not won any awards, it is valued among educators and readers of historical books.

Plot Summary

Woods Runner follows Samuel Lehi Smith, a 13-year-old boy living on the Pennsylvania frontier in 1776. Only a few days after hearing news of the War for Independence, Samuel’s small settlement is attacked by British soldiers. Many of the settlement are killed; Samuel’s parents, Olin and Abigail Smith, are taken prisoner. At the time of the attack, Samuel is in the woods, where he feels most comfortable. When he discovers the attack, Samuel sets out to follow his family and their captors to rescue his parents from imprisonment. Along the way he sees more death and destruction, adopts an orphaned girl named Annie Clark as his sister, and finds help from a covert network of civilian intelligence spies. Finally reaching New York, where the British have been holding their prisoners, Samuel and Abner McDougal, his new friend and rebel spy, find and rescue Samuel’s parents. After a dangerous journey to Philadelphia, the family settles and opens a school for orphaned children. Samuel, who still feels a powerful obligation to return the help he was so freely given, returns to the war to help with hunting, moving supplies, and treating the sick. After a close friend named John “Coop” Cooper dies in battle, Samuel leaves the war and returns to the woods of his childhood, where he finds peace. 

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