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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Voyage of the Frog

Paulsen, Gary. 1989. THE VOYAGE OF THE FROG. New York, NY: Dell Yearling. ISBN: 0440403642.

David's uncle, Owen, has died very suddenly from cancer. His last request is that his ashes be spread in the ocean, out of sight of land. To do this, 14 year old David must take Owen's sailboat, The Frog, out of the harbor, and into the Pacific Ocean off the California coastline-- alone. Although David's parents know where he is going and why, and David spent many happy days with Owen on the boat, nobody expected the violent storm that hit the next morning.

Away from land, low on food, and dependent on his boat and himself, David spends the next few weeks learning to appreciate what he has. Whales occasionally keep him company. A shark mistakes the moon on his boat for an injured fish, and his stomach shrinks as David rations out his food. In the end, he is forced to make a difficult decision-- will he rely on the skills and tools that have gotten him this far, or will he abandon his new found strength for the safety of a sure trip home to his folks? Although Uncle Owen will always be a part of the Frog for David, he comes to realize that the Frog is now a part of him, too.

Gary Paulson's awareness of the math and geographical knowledge that are required to survive this dangerous adventure, as well as his detailed descriptions of the arduous way his protagonist, David, must push the sail cloth out of the cabin with only one working arm all help to bring this believable story to life. Readers can envision David standing on the deck, waiving his candle at the disappearing oil tanker, or pulling his head back over the railing in fear of the shark that has randomly attacked.

The author always makes it clear how his protagonist comes to have the information he needs not only to survive, but to understand the world he now sees around him. Even with a good wind in his sails, David must stop and eat, drink, or put on protective warm clothing and a life jacket at times. The grief, and the experience of grief as described in this novel are also masterfully explored, from the gagging smell of the hospital room, to the anger of being hungry when food exists, but cannot be eaten.

Publishers Weekly: "Three-time Newbery Honor author Paulsen provides another action-filled survival story, as a storm strands 14-year-old David when he attempts to fulfill his late uncle's last wish by piloting his sailboat. Ages 10-14."
School Library Journal: "Paulsen's spare prose offers an affecting blend of the boy's inner thoughts and keen observations of the power of nature to destroy and to heal."

  • Discuss the different pieces of knowledge that David needed to survive his adventure. How did he learn them? (not just from a book-- observation, working on the boat with Owen, listening to stories...)
  • Use this book as a hook for exploring the life of mariners in the times before radio communication and radar navigational tools. Topics could include food, rations, service on ships, punishments and crimes, navigation, risk-taking, different types of vessels, etc.

1 comment:

anniem said...

I really enjoyed this book and read it a few years ago. I saw it as a boy who desperately wanted to be educated and to be independent for his survival depended on that fulfillment. I found it very well written and inspirational. I will read it again.