Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Set in northern Minnesota in the period prior to mechanized farming, this short novel is narrated by eleven-year-old Eldon, who lives on an eighty-acre farm with his parents, older brother Wayne, his father’s Uncle David, and David’s friend Nels. Eldon, a third-generation Norwegian American, presents a picture of a simpler way of life as he describes what he likes and dislikes about life during each of the four seasons. Gary Paulsen provides crisp and sometimes graphic descriptions of the softness of spring when the land thaws, the back-breaking work of summer thrashing, the autumn slaughter of pigs and chickens, and the camouflaging snows of winter. Work, particularly repetitive, physical labor, is the major component of the lifestyle that Eldon depicts. The love and bonds among Eldon’s extended family compensates for the lack of material comforts and the isolation of the family from the rest of society. Paulsen also includes some vignettes about the pranks of Eldon and his brother, as well as vivid profiles of Eldon’s father and his Uncle David. Eldon’s mother, for the most part, remains a shadowy figure in the book.

Although Eldon finds some attractive elements in each of the seasons, he loves winter best without question because it is the time when Uncle David enlivens the evenings with his stories, four of which conclude the book: the story of the death of Uncle David’s young wife, Alida; a Norse legend; a tall tale about a practical...

(The entire section is 477 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Both time and place are vividly realized. For these characters, time is not determined by chronology or calendar; time is known through the...

(The entire section is 210 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The Winter Room is richly descriptive. Paulsen creates an evocative, sensory language to communicate the mood and rhythm of rural life...

(The entire section is 342 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Without being sentimental in the least, The Winter Room communicates the richness, the beauty, and the poignancy of rural life in an...

(The entire section is 194 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. The chapter titles about the seasons are printed in italics; the others are in plain text. What does the difference imply?


(The entire section is 169 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. In a literary encyclopedia or dictionary look up the definition of a "Georgic." Apply the concept to The Winter Room.


(The entire section is 160 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Paulsen has written extensively about growing up in the Midwest. Small towns and farms in Minnesota and Wisconsin are frequent settings for...

(The entire section is 162 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Brown, Muriel W. and Rita Schoch Foudray. "Gary Paulsen." In Newbery and Caldecott Medalists and Honor Book Winners. New York:...

(The entire section is 512 words.)


(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Jones, J. Sydney. “Paulsen, Gary.” In Something About the Author, edited by Alan Hedblad. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2000.

Moore, John Noell. “Archetypes: The Monomyth in Dogsong.” In Interpreting Young Adult Literature. Portsmouth, N.H.: Boynton/Cook, 1997.

Paulsen, Gary. Father Water, Mother Woods: Essays on Fishing and Hunting in the North Woods. New York: Delacorte Press, 1994.

Paulsen, Gary. Guts: The True Stories Behind “Hatchet” and the Brian Books. New York: Delacorte Press, 2001.

Salvner, Gary. Presenting Gary Paulsen. Boston: Twayne, 1996.

Wood, Susan. “Bringing Us the Way to Know: The Novels of Gary Paulsen.” English Journal 90, no. 3 (January, 2001): 67-72.