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For Readers Age 10-14
Grades 6th - 10th

North Woods Poacher - Review
< Back to reviews for ages 10-14>

Publisher's Summary:

Anderson, Max Elliott. (2004) North Woods Poachers. Grand Haven, MI: Tweener Press. ISBN 0972925686. Age recommendation: 10-14 

Comment: Currently available for purchase in used condition only, new editions of this book will be available soon via Comfort Publishing, the new publisher. ISBN and publisher information for new editions will be provided once available. 

Publisher description:  The Washburn families have been coming to the same cabins, on the same lake, catching the same fish, for about as long as Andy can remember. And he's sick of it. This summer would be different he decided. Only he never imagined how different. The story is filled with excitement, danger, humor, and drama. In the end, Andy learns the concepts of family tradition, that God loves justice while He hates injustice, and it is important to follow the rules. Readers will enjoy the gigantic, jet-powered floatplane, computers, home made radio transmitter, and naturally, no one will ever forget Big Wally. He's a fish of course.


Respect for self and others: This includes integrity (adherence to a code of conduct or value system), honesty vs. manipulation or lying, compassion, caring for others (characters not focused on getting their way no matter what) self respect--main character does not let others denigrate him or her; use of self control and self-discipline ; taking charge of own behaviour; fairness to others (such as taking turns and avoiding the blame game). Reader should ask themselves “How does the protagonist depict their peers?” “Would you want others to treat you this way? Should everyone act this way?” This includes true friendships that do not involve regular lying, deceit or manipulation; considering consequences of actions prior to acting; owning up to responsibility once an action has been taken.

The two cousins are best friends. What an ideal situation! And of course they have two younger sisters. Rather than constantly be battling with one another, as in the Spiderwick chronicles and other tales, or being too perfect as in some stories from 50 years past, the siblings have typical antagonism while still keeping strong the family bonds. Characters consider the possible outcome of their actions; parents set a good example by considering their own contribution to, and responsibility for, situations that occur (such as when they are almost hit by a plane on the lake).  Older boys care for younger girls’ safety and well being; younger girls are willing to be obedient to their caretakers.  All characters treat the other as they would like to be treated (demonstrating the Golden Rule principle of ethics that has withstood time across the world’s cultures).  We really see the joy of a healthy best-friend relationship between the two boys. The personalities are quite different but, rather than denegrating one another as popular in children’s books and movies today, these characters appreciate their friend’s strengths.   Thus the book presents great examples of all types of relationships within the family, between friends, with neighbors and authorities.  

Also interesting is how the two families collaborate on many details leading to this long vacation being fun for all.

Portrayal of Authority figures: The positive portrayal of parents, teachers, police officers and other “good” authority figures common in a child’s life is a positive influence upon the child’s own moral development. This includes actively-parenting mother and father figures. Minimization of parental involvement in the character’s activities or the portrayal of authority figures as inferior present poor role models. Also to be avoided are main characters that deceive parents and teachers to accomplish goals, and overuse sarcasm towards authority figures. Ask yourself “Are parents seen as positive or negative influence in the character's life?”

Excellent portrayal of authority figures! From the beginning when the author gives us a border patrol inspection and realistic explanation of poaching, a clear distinction carries through the book with respect for authorities and disdain for the bad guys. This is contrary to that very often found in kid’s lit today where bad behaviour is glamorized, and criminals portrayed with awe.  

Additionally, in spite of disagreement with their parents at times, they are respected and listened to by the child characters. A very typical, uninterested attitude presented by Andy early on makes his character realistic, yet he never manipulates or disrespects his parents. Parents remind the kids of that which is important but allow them the freedom to have fun (not dominating).   In the end, the fathers present a strong role in discussing the chain of events that had taken place, what the boys did right and mistakes they made, and punishment. Without being preachy, wisdom and logic are presented to the reader which helps us emotionally bond with the characters too. This helps us bring closure to the adventure part of the story. The manner in which it is represented to us reminds us of the order of existence in the world and natural consequences that result from our actions.

Citizenship and Patriotism: Loyalty to family, team or group, school, community and world; caring for and being considerate of these groups. Pride to be part of that group or nationality.

In addition to automatic respect for the authorities and no enchantment with the bad guys, this story has a theme of citizenship and responsibility to society presented throughout. From the onset, the boys keep in mind what the authorities told them about poaching and when it would be time for them to bring in authorities to arrest the bad guys.   

This story also presents two strong families with clear roles for each member, trust and respect. The sibling behaviours are typical and appropriate for the characters’ ages, making them very realistic. But also realistic is that older children really can and do care for their younger siblings in many families. Thus it is refreshing to have this portrayed here.  The boys have great concern for the safety of their sisters and parents alike, and put that concern first rather than just focusing on their own needs.

 Also important is how the boys understand and react to their fathers’ interests and strengths, passively demonstrating family pride even while they openly might complain about their boredom with fishing :)  CJ’s dad, the electronics expert, has taught this to his son and included his son in his passion, clearly creating a strong bond between the two. Andy’s dad has a passion for this annual fishing trip, and by the end of the story, Andy’s hatred of the annual event has morphed into an understanding and respect for it. Thus growth in maturity in the individuals coincides with growth in maturity in their relationships.

Justice and Balance: A just distribution between good and evil (with good outweighing evil in the presence of the storyline); demonstration of right and wrong; making decisions to enact the above values rather than simply choosing from two bad possibilities; Ask yourself “Is the emphasis on the positive elements or negative?”

Bad guys are dangerous but get caught. Good guys always prevail, even if just barely. Characters learn from their wrong decisions and also are openly willing to admit to them. This story definitely emphasises positive elements but provides sufficient negative elements to allow us a clear distinction between the two.

Aesthetic aspects Of life ExperienceLook for a storyline portrayal of beauty, health, and selfless love vs. hedonistic behaviours (sexuality, selfishness, obsessiveness, materialism), profanity, gore and violence. Are nature and environment respected or exploited? Look for dark elements; watch out for humor that is negative, denigrates others excessively, uses metaphors to denigrate the sacred.

Having gone on these fishing trips myself as a child, the description is completely accurate so that it invoked my emotional memories as well as the static ones.  We can feel the thunder of the planes and jets, the air surrounding us on the morning lake water, the bright sun and depth of darkness. Well done!

Other things to Consider:Other aspects of this book of interest or importance. For example, does it portray Wiccan practices and accurate use of tools of which some parents might object, does it contain hidden meanings in metaphors that may prove offensive to some families; does it address personal issues such as puberty or pregnancy.

The boys’ adventures are carried out covertly in dangerous situations, and parents are not involved until the very end. This presents great opportunities for learning life lessons for this age group of child.  If your child is a younger advanced reader, you may want to guide their reading with occasional discussions to reinforce your own family values.

So what do YOU think? Read our thoughts on the book and join in the discussion: Litland's Blog   

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