The Winter Room Critical Context - Essay

Gary Paulsen

Critical Context

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Although The Winter Room earned Gary Paulsen the third selection of one of his works as a Newbery Honor Book, the novel bears little resemblance to either of its predecessors, Dogsong (1985) and Hatchet (1987). In fact, The Winter Room is a prime indication of Paulsen’s versatility as a writer, a quality that has enabled him to join the front ranks of juvenile and young adult writers. Whereas the two earlier Newbery Honor Books are memorable survival stories told by older narrators, The Winter Room is an almost actionless story told by a younger narrator, one who sometimes does not fully understand what is going on around him. If Dogsong and Hatchet are testimonials to what young adults can do if they are challenged by nature, The Winter Room provides a vivid picture of an almost-perfect world in which love and concern for one another are primary values.

A constant in all three of these books and in many of his other works is Paulsen’s poetic use of the English language, a quality that has earned him critical acclaim in addition to a large audience of young adult readers. Reading Paulsen’s books not only introduces young people to someone who tells a good story but also exposes them to someone who obviously values the written word. In a time when fewer young people read for pleasure, that becomes an important reason for introducing them to Paulsen’s books.