Cover image for The island
The island
Paulsen, Gary.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Dell, 1990.

Physical Description:
202 pages : illustrations ; 18 cm.
Fifteen-year-old Wil discovers himself and the wonders of nature when he leaves home to live on an island in northern Wisconsin.
General Note:
"Laurel-leaf books."

"Reprinted by arrangement with Franklin Watts, Inc., on behalf of Orchard Books"--T.p. verso.
Reading Level:
1050 Lexile.
Program Information:
Reading Counts RC 6-8 7.2 13 Quiz: 05929 Guided reading level: R.
Geographic Term:
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
Y FICTION Young Adult Mass Market Paperback Paperback

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Every morning fifteen-year-old Wil Neuton gets up, brushes his teeth, leaves the house, and rows away from shore. He's discovered the island--a place where he can go to be alone and learn to know nature--and himself. On the island he watches the loons and the fish in the lake, and writes and paints. It feels good to get away from the tension rising between his parents, tension brought on by yet another move to a new town. But Wil can't stay away from the outside world forever. He must face Ray Bunner, the bully determined to challenge him, and his parents, who worry when Wil decides to stay on the island indefinitely. Can Wil bridge the growing gap between himself and the rest of the world?

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

An appreciation of the raw beauty of wilderness, so much a part of Paulsen's writing, is particularly evident in his latest novel, a gentle, ruminative book in which 15-year-old Wil Neuton finds a ``private island,'' where he looks deeply into reality and begins to unlock the essence of himself. On that first day, after the chaos of moving, the island provides a quiet refuge. Soon it becomes more-a place where observation, thought, and memory coalesce with a sharpness that makes life off the island somehow less real and less important. Lyrical passages intermingle with precise descriptions of the natural world as Paulsen evokes Wil's attempts to understand how he fits into the scheme of things-painting, writing about, and acting out what he feels and sees-and to explain what he is doing to his puzzled, loving parents, to his friend Susan, and to those who would label him crazy or turn his self-imposed stay on the island into a media event. At times Paulsen's prose mimics the cadence of nature; and wonderfully wry humor, more prevalent early in the novel, provides a fine counterpoint to Wil's contemplations: an encounter with a local plumber who spits tobacco (``You could have told me . . . we'd have to boil the whole house''), a talk with an idiotic psychiatrist sent to the island to evaluate Wil (``I've never had this situation before . . . you're reacting to there being nothing wrong with your life''), and snatches of Wil's own introspective wit in ``Neutonian'' ruminations that head each chapter. It's an unusual mix, far more dependent on description than on plot. Teenagers in search of the adventure of Dogsong (Booklist 81:1114 Ap 1 85) or tension of Tracker (80:1400 Je 1 84) won't find it here. Instead what they will glean from Wil's meandering experiences are a sense of peace and order and a keen understanding of what it means to look beyond oneself to ``learn all we can about all we are.'' Gr. 7-10. SZ. Identity-Fiction / Nature-Fiction / Islands-Fiction / Wisconsin-Fiction [CIP] 87-24761

Publisher's Weekly Review

The island is in the middle of a small lake in northern Wisconsin. It is uninhabited until the summer Wilstet, who is 15, arrives. Wil is at first drawn by the simplicity of the place, but as his concentration sharpens the island unfolds its matrix of life and death, mirroring the unfolding layers of Wil's self-consciousness. He fills notebooks with watercolors and writes essays about what he sees, feels, remembers and observes within. He decides to stay, Thoreau-like, supported by his new friend Susan, even though the worldanxious parents, town bullies, and a curious pressoccasionally intrudes. His serenity finally becomes fascinating. This could have been another back-to-nature story, but Newbery Honor writer Paulsen tells Wil's inner journey with a confident lyricism that duplicates Wil's emotional qualities. The somewhat forced plot elements are secondary to the author's purposehis spareness, repetition and use of rhythm gives his language intensity while holding out to readers the promise of all-too-elusive clarity. Ages 11-14. (April) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9-12 Fifteen-year-old Wil Neuton is forced to leave Madison for the upper reaches of Wisconsin when his ne'er-do-well father takes a position with the state highway department. Wil leaves behind the security of old friends and old crushes. In the course of adjusting to his new environment, he discovers an uninhabited island sitting in the middle of Sucker Lake. It is on this island that Wil chooses to emulate ``The Thinker'' by Rodin and learn more about himself. In this strangely different coming-of-age novel, Paulsen is not clear enough in leading readers down the path of humor. And a joke is not a successful joke if it is on the reader rather than a shared adventure. Therefore, what might have been a funny take-off on adolescent angst does not quite work. There are hints along the wayfor example, the lake's name and Emil Aucht, the tobacco-spitting handy man. But the plausible does not become implausible enough until late in the novel. By then readers have something in common with the name of the lake ``on which the island lay.'' Therese Bigelow, Hampton Public Library, Va. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.