Cover image for Alida's song
Alida's song
Paulsen, Gary.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Delacorte Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
88 pages ; 20 cm
A fourteen-year-old boy who has been neglected by irresponsible parents spends a wonderful summer on a farm where his grandmother cooks for two elderly brothers.
Reading Level:
NC 1460 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 5.3 2.0 31159.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.4 6 Quiz: 18828 Guided reading level: S.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

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A remarkable novel about one of the most important and loving relationships in Gary Paulsen's life. The wonderful grandmother seen through the eyes of a young boy inThe Cookcampreaches out to him at 14, offering him a haven from his harsh and painful family life. She arranges a summer job for him on the farm where she is a cook for Olaf and Gunnar, elderly brothers. Farm life offers the camaraderie and routine of hard work, good food, peaceful evenings spent making music together, even learning to dance. Life with Alida gives the boy strength and faith in himself, drawing him away from the edge and into the center of life.

Author Notes

Gary Paulsen was born on May 17, 1939 in Minnesota. He was working as a satellite technician for an aerospace firm in California when he realized he wanted to be a writer. He left his job and spent the next year in Hollywood as a magazine proofreader. His first book, Special War, was published in 1966. He has written more than 175 books for young adults including Brian's Winter, Winterkill, Harris and Me, Woodsong, Winterdance, The Transall Saga, Soldier's Heart, This Side of Wild, and Guts: The True Stories Behind Hatchet and the Brian Books. Hatchet, Dogsong, and The Winter Room are Newbery Honor Books. He was the recipient of the 1997 Margaret A. Edwards Award for his lifetime achievement in writing for young adults.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 6^-10. Once again, Paulsen adeptly addresses readers whose comprehension level may be far lower than their age and interest levels. Without writing down to them, this tribute to the grandmother introduced in The Cookcamp (1991) is an eloquent little novel whose simplicity is its greatest strength. An invitation from his grandmother frees a 14-year-old boy from an oppressive life with alcoholic parents and places him in the staid, wholesome environment of a northern Minnesota farm. Working with two elderly Norwegian brothers, the boy is quietly transformed by the genuine love and selflessness that helps him see life--and himself--in a more compassionate light. Leisurely paced and never melodramatic, the slender plot is as integral to the novel's appeal as the glowing character of the grandmother, whose goodness intensifies as the narrator matures and discovers the true extent of her sacrifices. --Roger Leslie

Publisher's Weekly Review

Paulsen revisits the terrain of various autobiographical writings (Father Water, Mother Woods; Eastern Sun, Winter Moon; and sections of My Life in Dog Years) for this affecting story of a pivotal summer. The 14-year-old protagonist, who is named only as "the boy," has been sliding slowly toward trouble√Ąnearly flunking school, working odd jobs early in the morning and late at night, and sleeping near the furnace to avoid his perpetually drunk parents. So when the boy receives a letter from his grandmother Alida, asking that he come work on the farm, owned by two Norwegian brothers where she is employed as a cook, he is quick to accept. Paulsen brings his great skills as a naturalist and his enthusiasm for the outdoor life to descriptions of the boy's adjustment to the orderly farm, from vivid descriptions of an encounter with hostile geese to the work of milking cows and tending fields. The characterizations are deeply affectionate if a little Waltons-ish: Alida and the two farmers are strong, self-contained and yet keenly attuned to the boy's unstated needs. Several narrative frames neatly set off the effect of the farm interlude: the book begins as the protagonist, grown and in the Army, pays a visit to Alida, and it ends when he, "old enough to have grandchildren of his own," discovers that there was more behind that special summer than he had known. It's Paulsen's classic blend of emotion and ruggedness, as satisfying as ever. Ages 10-up. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-Paulsen's autobiographical tale (Delacorte, 1999) follows the experiences of a 14-year-old protagonist referred to only as "the boy." Returning from the army as a young man, the boy visits his beloved grandmother Alida and recalls a summer from his youth when she changed his life. Living with his drunken parents, the boy survives doing odd jobs and hiding in the boiler room of his building. Struggling in school and within himself, one day he receives a letter from his grandmother inviting him to spend the summer with her. She has arranged work for him on the farm where she serves as the cook. He spends the summer working with the elderly farmers Gunnar and Olaf and learning to dance, to love music, and to appreciate the quiet steadiness that the farm provides. Luke Daniels's narration captures the affectionate nature of the story. He gives each character a unique voice, and his voicing of Gunnar is a standout. Listeners will fall in love with all the characters in the story as a result of Paulsen's vivid descriptions and Daniels's excellent reading.-Deanna Romriell, Salt Lake City Public Library, UT (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Saturday came fast, too fast for the boy, but not so fast that he did not have time to think of the problems he faced. He had never been to a party. He did not know any of the people who would be there. He had never been to a dance. He could not speak to girls. He could not be with crowds of strangers. He could not, he finally decided, go. The boy started in early in the day on Saturday. As they did morning chores he mentioned that he was not feeling well. His grandmother felt his head and Olaf and Gunnar both looked at him strangely. "You did not seem sick at breakfast," Olaf said. "You ate good." "He ate more than me," Gunnar said. "More than both of us." "I just feel kind of sick," the boy said, knowing it was a lost cause. "It only came over me now." "Well," his grandmother said, "I'll just have to stay home tonight and make sure you are all right." The looks Olaf and Gunnar sent him were withering and he knew it was over. "I think it will be all right. I think I just drank too much milk. I'm still not used to whole milk." Preparations began right after evening chores. Excerpted from Alida's Song by Gary Paulsen All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.