Gary Paulsen has long been beckoned by nature, and throughout This Side of Wild, he recounts numerous tales from his decades of outdoor adventures. The one constant throughout this collection of short, true-life stories is Paulsen's ever-evolving and maturing relationship with the animals he both raises at home and encounters out in the wild, all of whom seem to know far more than humans assume.
In select snippets from his lifetime of interacting with animals, Paulsen describes preparing to dogsled the Iditarod through the Alaskan wilderness and facing off with a murder of smart, mischievous ravens. He writes reverently about a dog named Gretchen that figured out her own special means of communication and then trained her human companions how to speak it. And he affectionately honors the sickly, nine-pound toy poodle that once saved his life from an overly curious grizzly bear lurking near his own backyard.
Famously known for his YA novel Hatchet, the three-time Newbery Honor Award winner Paulsen reflects on his 70-plus years of living with, among and through animals in This Side of Wild. And all the while, his keen observations encourage readers to reflect on the “humanity” and wisdom of the animal kingdom’s creatures, both the domesticated and the wild. The writing perhaps ventures into the land of the slightly mystical, but for anyone who’s ever grown close with an animal, the connection is undeniably real.