Topics for Discussion
1. Is the simple title effective at stimulating interest and identifying the central theme?
2. Brian's invents names for things that are unfamiliar to him: "gut cherries," "spearwood," "foolbirds." How does he form these names? Do people generally name things in this way?
3. How do Brian's dreams help him survive? What other sources of inspiration does he have?
4. Why is fire referred to as "a friend and a guard"?
5. Does Brian's attitude or feelings about his parents change during his ordeal?
6. Consider Brian's interaction with animals like the bear, porcupine, wolves, and moose. Is the law of Nature the grim reality of kill or be killed, eat or be eaten?
7. The fatal flight is Brian's first trip in an airplane. How does Paulsen make credible Brian's ability to control the aircraft?
8. The climax of the novel builds upon three ordeals: the moose attack, the tornado, and the dive to the sunken airplane. Which is most difficult for Brian?
9. Which phrase best describes the "new Brian" who emerges from the ordeal: a Brian with greater self-respect, or Brian with greater self-esteem? A Brian with greater self-reliance?
10. Brian is never able to tell his father of the Secret. Why? Does this failure hint that once back in his familiar world, the "old Brian" will replace the "new Brian"?