The Trap

( 6 )


Seventeen-year-old Johnny Least-Weasel knows that his grandfather Albert is a stubborn old man and won't stop checking his own traplines even though other men his age stopped doing so years ago. But Albert Least-Weasel has been running traplines in the Alaskan wilderness alone for the past sixty years. Nothing has ever gone wrong on the trail he knows so well. When Albert doesn't come back from checking his traps, with the temperature steadily plummeting, Johnny must decide quickly whether to trust his ...

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The Trap

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Seventeen-year-old Johnny Least-Weasel knows that his grandfather Albert is a stubborn old man and won't stop checking his own traplines even though other men his age stopped doing so years ago. But Albert Least-Weasel has been running traplines in the Alaskan wilderness alone for the past sixty years. Nothing has ever gone wrong on the trail he knows so well. When Albert doesn't come back from checking his traps, with the temperature steadily plummeting, Johnny must decide quickly whether to trust his grandfather or his own instincts. Written in alternating chapters that relate the parallel stories of Johnny and his grandfather, this novel poignantly addresses the hardships of life in the far north, suggesting that the most dangerous traps need not be made of steel.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Sharon Oliver
This simple yet haunting novel portrays the best and the worst of the lives of the modern day Alaskan Native Americans. The story focuses on men of two different generations: seventeen-year-old Johnny Least-Weasel and his elderly grandfather Albert. Albert has been checking his own trap lines for sixty years and sees no reason to stop, until a freak accident traps him. Trapped and chained to a tree mere feet from his snowmobile and survival equipment, Albert has plenty of time to ponder his fate and contemplate his life. Johnny is worried about his grandfather's prolonged absence, but other community members convince him that his concern is unnecessary. Johnny waits as long as he can before anxiety overcomes him and he sets out to look for his overdue grandfather. Written in chapters alternating between Johnny and Albert, the similarities and the differences of the two men's lives stand out in icy relief. Johnny wants to improve his life and moves toward that end by taking high school correspondence courses, necessary because the village has not been able to keep a teacher. Johnny points out the high suicide rate amongst teens, caught between a world of plenty they can see on cable TV and the frozen tundra they are ill equipped to leave. Albert is holding on to the old ways in a world where they are no longer enough for survival. The journeys of both men are compelling and dramatic in addition to the no-holds-barred portrayal of the Alaskan wilderness. A fantastic read that transcends genres to appeal to many different YA readers.
VOYA - Matthew Weaver
Beauty abounds in this tiny epic, similar to the sad song that Johnny Least-Weasel's grandfather has sung to his wife throughout their many years of marriage. In this story, Smelcer, of Ahtna Athabaskan Indian descent and the only surviving speaker, reader, and writer of the Ahtna language, seems to straddle the line flawlessly between an ancient legend and contemporary fiction. When Albert Least-Weasel gets his leg caught in a trap in the dead of winter in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness, readers hear the story from both his perspective and that of his grandson left worried back home, even though his grandfather has long been the strongest man that he has ever known. Smelcer never hits a wrong note, particularly when he strikes the more somber ones. His characters act with quiet dignity, either as Johnny frets or as Albert works to survive against the wolves and the looming frost. There is grace to their motions, even when they are sitting still or as they race the clock. The suspense is played on an everyday level, which is why it works; Smelcer never goes for thriller status, electing instead to tell a tale of contemplative melancholy. How long the story lingers in readers' minds really depends on them; one gets the sense that for the author, this is a modern-day Indian story that simply had to be told.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-Johnny Least-Weasel worries that his grandfather hasn't returned home from checking his trapline. The elderly Indian packed ample supplies onto his snowmobile, but has been out far too long in the plummeting temperatures of the Alaskan winter. Cultural pride and reluctance to disrespect an elder get in the way of search plans until Johnny's grandmother can wait no longer, and she sends him out to find her husband. Only readers know that Albert Least-Weasel has caught his leg in a trap, several feet away from his supplies, and is unable to free himself. Chapters alternate between Albert's dilemma and Johnny's failed attempts to raise concern among his uncles, creating a suspenseful page-turner in which the old man's survival becomes a race against time. Albert's wilderness skills are sharp and described in detail, such as fending off wolves with a spear made from a cedar branch and creating a rabbit snare from a shoelace. Excerpts from a folktale about a warrior named Blackskin appear at the beginning of each chapter, illustrating how present-day life for the Least-Weasel family is still the same, in many ways, as it was for their ancestors. A great addition to survival/adventure collections or Native American fiction.-Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Readers will be clinging to the pages of this graceful, haunting story about a 17-year-old Alaskan Indian searching for his lost grandfather, and about the grandfather trying to survive in the freezing wilderness. Old Albert Least-Weasel still maintains his trap lines, still going out alone, when he finds himself caught in one of his traps. Johnny, his grandson, helps his grandmother and works at his job while worrying about the old man. Smelcer tells their stories in alternating chapters, building suspense as time runs out for Albert. Meanwhile, Johnny reflects on the tiny, dying town in which he finds himself trapped. How rare to find lyrical writing combined with real suspense. Smelcer accentuates the humanity of his characters as he reveals how the strengths of their ancestors survive in these modern people. Equally memorable and enjoyable for children, teens and adults. A small masterpiece. (Fiction. 10+)
From the Publisher
"An unforgettable story. Brilliant!"—Ray Bradbury

"In The Trap John Smelcer takes his readers into a frozen world, and keeps us there with a gripping example of talented storytelling. Unforgettable."—Tony Hillerman

"The Trap is a lovely story, beautifully told, the kind that makes you wade in and sink warmly into the cold, cold north of Alaska."—Winston Groom, author of Forrest Gump

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312377557
  • Publisher: Square Fish
  • Publication date: 12/26/2007
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 196,895
  • Age range: 11 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 1100L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.21 (w) x 8.19 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Meet the Author

John Smelcer's work has appeared in more than 300 magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly, and he has written over 20 books. His novel The Great Death was published by Henry Holt in 2009.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2009

    Can't read it.

    Well, I basically hate it. :/ Sorry to ruin it for y'all, but I'm 13, I've had the book for two weeks, and I'm only on pg 75. I usually can read A LOT. I'm a reader, I love reading. I can read 200 pg books in a few hours, if they're good!
    It's boring. I see no plot. Albert is stuck in the cold, and I'm just thinking "oh. wow. sucks for him. yawn."
    It's just so boring. I can't get through it! Everyone says they were immediately captured.
    Well, I'm most definitely NOT trapped in this book.

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  • Posted March 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer


    Put on a long-sleeve shirt, a vest, a puffy jacket and depending on your fashion, a scarf or a hoody because we're going to one of the coldest places on earth, the Alaskan Tundra.
    I was a chap that didn't like reading at all. I picked a book from my school's library shelf, read 2 pages, and threw it across the room. Until one day I was in the library (again trying to pick ANOTHER book) when I saw "The Trap" in the floor, lying, dead. I picked the book up and I actually liked the cover, so I read the summary in the back, and in the panels and I felt an attraction for the book. So, I checked it out and I just couldn't stop reading. Actually, the book caused me some problems with my teachers, for I was always reading the book in the middle of classes. After reading half of the book I knew that this was one of the best books that I have ever read and I have made a new literary friend, Johnny Least Weasel.
    Johnny takes us through a fantastic journey of trust, respect and will. The Weasel family has been hunting all of their lives, especially Albert Least Weasel, an old man whose age has given him experience in hunting. Normally he'll go and check on his trap lines daily and return when the sun sets. But when Johnny's grandparent doesn't come back for 4 days Johnny will put on his Superhero suit and try and save his grandpa.
    2 thoughts came to Johnny's mind before he leaves on his journey. Either 1, trust his grandparent's experience or two (and wait patiently until he gets back) or leave and try save him. This is where the reader begins shaking and biting his lips and nails.
    There are factors that may act as barriers for Johnny. The weather, in which the cold can get to 60 degrees below cero, may destroy Johnny's fragile body. The wild life can eat Johnny entirely, for he doesn't have the necessary experience to go in the wild alone, as his grandma says. Lastly, he doesn't know where in the tundra his grandpop is. Either Johnny comes back with his grandparent and becomes the hero of the Alaskan Tundra or he dies along with his grandparent in the wild and get eaten by wolfs or bears.
    The emotion I felt all through the book is how Johnny, as the book advances, gets tougher and tougher each time. This makes the reader stick to the book as if the book was the paper, and Johnny was the glue stick. If I could lift all my thumbs up (feet thumbs and hand thumbs) I would say 4 thumbs up for this book, unfortunately I can only lift 2, which makes me say this expression: 2 thumbs up for "The Trap" and John Smelcer.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2008


    The Trap, written by John Smelcer is an adventurous and action-packed story. Albert Least-Weasel is an old character who has been checking his own trap lines for nearly seventy years now. He¿s an Indian man who¿s in his mid-eighty¿s. Most men stopped checking their own trap lines by the time they were sixty years old. Albert has a grandson named Johnny Least-Weasel. Albert has taught Johnny everything he knows. When Albert hadn¿t returned after four days of being out on his trap line, Johnny and his grandma began to worry. Where they lived, the winters were very harsh. At times, the average temperature would reach thirty degrees below zero. Johnny decides to go out on his snowmobile to look for Albert. To find out what Johnny finds on his long and frigid journey into the wild, you¿ll have to read the book yourself. I enjoyed this book. I could connect well to the stories that Johnny told about hunting and fishing through my own experiences. The Trap was easy to follow and understand. I liked this story¿s setting out in the snowy wild or in a cabin warmed by a wood burner. The Trap kind of reminds me of the wilderness and survival books written by well known author Gary Paulsen.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2007

    The Trap

    Old aged Albert Least-Weasel had the perfect life. He had a hard-working and achieved grandson, his sons, and a warm, comfy cabin where his wife prepared his meals and spent time sewing gifts for her family. However, one day, things started to go wrong for this Indian and his family so that their lives would never be the same. In fact, things started to go very wrong. Because he lived in the cold, lonesome land of Antarctica, Albert needed a trap line to trap animals for food. On one trip on his trap line, though, Albert makes one little mistake that would change lives. Although very skilled in trapping animals, at one of the traps he accidentally lowers his foot into the dark metal teeth that were waiting and pleading impatiently to clomp shut. With a chuckle, Albert attempts to remove his foot, now trapped between the teeth of the metal. This book is good for those that enjoy suspense. Throughout the book, I found myself wondering, ¿Is he going to get his foot out of the trap?¿ In fact, the suspense was so strong that the book was hard to put down! Also, this book can be good for boys and girls, men and women of any age, because it was touching, while gripping at the same time. So don¿t let me hold you up, go out there and get this book! It¿s worth all of your time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2007

    Definitly worth your time

    The Trap by John Smelcer is a thrilling and suspensful story of survival that all should read if given the chance. When Albert Least-Weasel finds himself trapped (Literally)in the heart of the Artic wild, the reader finds themself anticipating if he can dodge the next potentially fatal obsticle Mother Nature throws at him. I also find the concern one specific character feels for another extreamly relatable therefore the reader becomes emotionally attached to the story and its characters. Although short and seemingly simple this book will leave you contemplating the meaning of life and death long after you have read the last page.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2007

    The Trap, an Awesome Book

    The Trap was an excellent book. It was always exciting and fun to read. I would recommend this for boys who like an adventure and exciting journey.

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