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4.5 2
by Roddy Doyle

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One part family drama, one part action-adventure; this is the children's novel we've been waiting for from Booker Prize winner Roddy Doyle!

A novel of mothers lost and found. Grainne's Mom disappeared years ago when her parents were divorced, and Mom moved to the U.S. Now, bafflingly, she's reappeared and wants to meet. What could she be up to?
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One part family drama, one part action-adventure; this is the children's novel we've been waiting for from Booker Prize winner Roddy Doyle!

A novel of mothers lost and found. Grainne's Mom disappeared years ago when her parents were divorced, and Mom moved to the U.S. Now, bafflingly, she's reappeared and wants to meet. What could she be up to?
To get out of the way of this mysterious reunion, Grainne's half-brothers, Johnny and Tom, go with their mother, Sandra, on an "adventure holiday" in Finland. But before they're more than a few days into the snowy north, the boys are separated from Sandra, taking impossible risks to save her life. WILDERNESS is part-adventure, part-family drama with a charm that's all Roddy.

Editorial Reviews

Jerry Griswold
Wilderness is that rare young adult novel that can speak to every member of the family: hardpressed moms, perceptive fathers, belligerent girls and risk-taking boys. Still, it seems primarily a boy's book, reminding me how I loved stories about survival that began with a small plane crashing in the middle of nowhere, and how I waited eagerly for the arrival of the magazine Boys' Life. Like the best-selling Dangerous Book for Boys, Wilderness could rekindle interest in this true-grit legacy.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Doyle (The Meanwhile Adventures) intertwines two story lines about children in search of missing mothers in an intriguing if hard to categorize novel. Gráinne's mother, Rosemary, left her marriage, her daughter, and Dublin for America 13 years earlier, when Gráinne was five, and hasn't contacted the girl until now. Reacting to Rosemary's announcement that she's coming back to Ireland to meet her daughter, Gráinne's stepmother, Sandra, decides to take her two sons-Gráinne's half-brothers-to Finland on a "wilderness safari," to escape the tense reunion. Chapters alternate between the two disparate settings, not always to good effect. Gráinne, perhaps understandably, is angry and unlikable, "a terrorist"; in an opening scene, Sandra and Frank, the children's father, clean up shards from the cup of coffee Gráinne has hurled at Sandra. The girl's tentative rapprochement with her long-lost mother comes too easily, at least in Doyle's restrained, shorthand-like exposition, and neither character seems fully developed. On the other hand, the boys' sojourn in the Finnish woods crackles with excitement as the two befriend the huskies that pull their sleds and learn enough to launch a daring rescue mission when their mother fails to turn up at a station one night. Fans of Gary Paulsen's survival stories will enjoy bouncing alongside Tom and Johnny as they head out into the frigid darkness in search of their beloved Mam, but these readers won't go for the Gráinne story line. Parents might find the revelations and narrative parallels more poignant than the target audience will. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Kathleen Foucart
After young Grainne's mother Rosemary walked out, her father Frank married Sandra. The new family eventually welcomed two sons, Johnny and Tom. All seemed to be well, until Grainne became a teenager and turned uncooperative and nasty to everyone. When Rosemary comes back to Dublin for a visit, Sandra decides she cannot handle it and takes the boys on holiday to Finland, leaving Frank and Grainne to their visit. But meeting Rosemary is not quite what Grainne expected. And Finland is not quite what the boys expected, especially after their mother fails to return from a dogsled outing one night. Though the book is well-written, the character of Grainne seems oddly flat when compared with the rest of her family. She is given good reason to be mad, having been abandoned by her mother, but it seems stereotypical that none of that anger comes out until she is a teenager and that she completely turns on her father, step-mother and half-brothers. The boys' adventure in Finland and their sense of connection with the beautiful husky dogs is much more engaging, as is their search through the snow for their mother. This book is worth reading for the story of Johnny and Tom, but it would have been more engaging had Grainne been given better motivation for her part of the tale.
School Library Journal

Gr 6-9 Doyle's new novel is told in chapters that alternate between a young woman's reunion with the mother who left years ago and a family's adventure holiday in Finland. After Rosemary leaves Frank and their daughter, Gráinne, Frank marries Sandra and they have two sons, Johnny and Tom. All goes well until Gráinne becomes a moody, surly, noncompliant teenager who feels that she does not belong anywhere. Her mother decides to return to Dublin to see her. Gráinne has been waiting most of her life for this to happen-but will it heal or hurt? Sandra uses this opportunity to take the boys, who are 12 and 10, on a husky safari in Lapland. The short chapters about the mother and daughter reunion perfectly capture Gráinne's angst and her slow willingness to include her mother in her life. The Christmas vacation becomes a story of survival when Sandra's dogsled, with a rogue dog in charge, gets lost in the vast frozen north. The brothers take off after her, using some skills they have learned in their short time in the wilderness and finding themselves forced to cooperate with one another. Doyle is spot-on in his depiction of a blended family, with sibling rivalry, a rebellious teenager, and parents trying their best. The drama and adventure are leavened by generous helpings of Doyle's characteristic charm, laugh-out-loud humor, and wonderful way with words. Sure to appeal to kids who like adventure tales and to those who enjoy family stories.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME

Kirkus Reviews
Doyle neatly splits his narrative in two with this dual look at huskies and raw adolescent angst. When sullen teen Grainne's real mother returns to Ireland from America, step-mom Sandra and her sons decide to give the newly reunited pair some room. They hightail it to Finland where 12-year-old Johnny and ten-year-old Tom will accompany their mother on a wild dogsled trek. The two have a fabulous time until the night their mother's sled doesn't join with the other adventurers at the end of a run. Immediately they decide that finding Sandra is up to them and so head out into the frozen night. In the story lines of both Grainne and the boys, finding your mother is a simultaneously painful and deeply rewarding process. The rough-and-tumble nature of siblings, with all its love and casual cruelty, comes through loud and clear in Doyle's crisp prose. Though the variegated ages of the characters may give this title difficulty finding its audience, the story is a pleasure to discover. (Fiction. 11-14)

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)
HL380L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 Years

Meet the Author

Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1958, Roddy Doyle has become one of the most renown and celebrated Irish authors of the late twentieth century. Doyl received his Bachelor of Arts from St. Finian’s Christian Brothers School in Sutton and went on to University College, Dublin. Upon the completion of his education, Roddy Doyle worked as a Geography and English teacher in Kilbarrack, North Dublin.

Roddy Doyle’s adult novel, Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha, a story about a ten-year old boy living Ireland, won Doyle the Booker Prize, the United Kingdom’s greatest literary honor.

Roddy Doyle lives in Ireland with his wife, Belinda and their two children.

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Wilderness 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
LibraryTraveler More than 1 year ago
This is a quick paced adventure story. It's easy to read, although American students may need some background information on Irish terms. Teachers can use this book as a lesson opportunity about Finland. I think the author in his desire to explain why the older sister can't go on the trip, takes away from the boys' story by the sub-plot involving her estranged mother. It would have been simpler to explain she had school exams and had to stay behind, and then give the entire focus of the book to the boys' adventure. While the boys' portion of the story was fulfilling, I felt the sister's story was rushed--as though he had to tie up what was happening with her back home just because the boys were done. If the author had omitted the sister's story, he may have been able to put a bit more background or cultural information in about Finland and Lapland to enrich the story. But, I think most middle schoolers will enjoy this book and will be able to get through it with ease.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Ten-year-old Tom Griffin and his older brother, twelve-year-old Johnny, live in Dublin, Ireland, with their parents and a teenaged half-sister, Grainne. Grainne has not seen or heard from her mother since she was a baby, and now her mother is coming from America for a visit. Grainne is nervous about the visit. Will seeing her mother heal the hurt of being abandoned by this woman?

The boys' mother, Sandra, decides to take the boys somewhere else during the visit by Grainne's mother, and arranges a holiday in Finland for herself and the boys. They are going to have a grand adventure. This story is told in alternating chapters as Tom and Johnny become acquainted with sled dogs and their handler and then go off into the wilderness on an exciting dog sled ride to a remote lodge. And as Grainne nervously waits for the arrival of her birth mother.

The boys are excited about the chance to help feed and water the sled dogs, and to help with camp chores. They are having a grand time, until their mother disappears. Her lead dog is a rogue who decides to go his own way, and she becomes lost in the cold, snowy uninhabited forest. It is dark, and the sled tips over and injures Sandra. She can't get back on the sled, or get the dogs under control.

The boys decide to take a team of dogs and sled and search for their mother on their own, and they sneak out of the lodge and harness the dogs. It's dark and cold, with deep snow, and the trail is not clear, but their lead dog seems to know where he is going...or does he?

Tween readers can relate to the realistic characters and their emotions as Roddy Doyle tells this dramatic story in sparse, simple language, while keeping the tension high. With the rowdy rambunctious boys and their adventure in Finland, the frantic search for their mother, and the angst of a teenaged girl meeting the mother who abandoned her, there is something for everyone in this exciting story.