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Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod
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Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod

4.24  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,033 Ratings  ·  644 Reviews
Paulsen and his team of dogs endured snowstorms, frostbite, dogfights, moose attacks, sleeplessness, and hallucinations in the relentless push to go on. Map and color photographs.
Paperback, 272 pages
Published February 17th 1995 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 1994)
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Jim No, this is an adult book. Has some strong language. Also, third graders may not be ready to deal with the controversy of using dogs in pack…moreNo, this is an adult book. Has some strong language. Also, third graders may not be ready to deal with the controversy of using dogs in pack situations where they can be killed.(less)
Charlotte's Web by E.B. WhiteWatership Down by Richard AdamsBlack Beauty by Anna SewellAnimal Farm by George OrwellWhere the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
Best Books About Animals
121st out of 1,027 books — 1,363 voters
The Cruelest Miles by Gay SalisburyWinterdance by Gary PaulsenRace Across Alaska by Libby RiddlesNo End in Sight by Rachael ScdorisCold Hands, Warm Heart by Jeff King
Iditarod/Dog Mushing Nonfiction
2nd out of 22 books — 12 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Award-winning children's author, Gary Paulsen, has another life besides just being a children's author. He draws on his experience as an avid outdoors man to write his amazing books, i.e., Hatchet, Brian's Winter.

Within the first couple pages of Winterdance, Paulsen is careening around in the Minnesota back woods on a sled that is being pulled by a pack of dogs. The book could end right then and there as he goes off the edge of a cliff, but he manages to survive and so do all his dogs. That som
Aug 20, 2007 Kyle rated it it was amazing
The funniest book I have ever read.

This stands among the rare books that will get you looks for laughing out loud in the middle of the airport. This is the true story of the author who, in "dangerous ignorance," just up and decides to run the Iditarod. Its a story of essentially self discovery, but really, its completely and totally insane. The adventures are hilarious, and the journey is amazing.

There is only one way for a story about a full team of Iditarod -class sled dogs raring to go with n
Sep 08, 2012 Mmars rated it it was amazing
I get really irritated by ego trip books written by people who go adventuring (think mountain climbing or sailing solo) and keep detailed journals just to publish a "look at what I did" book.

Gary Paulsen's Winterdance is definitely not that. He lives and breathes dog sledding, the American north woods, and writing. He'd have run the Iditarod even if he wasn't a writer. He'd have raiseed sled dogs even if he wasn't a writer. He'd have lived through bitter cold Minnesota winters even if he wasn't
Mar 18, 2011 Ambrosia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
In a slightly different world, I might have found this book completely incomprehensible.

Of those who know me, I doubt a single person would describe me as "outdoorsy". I certainly don't mind a walk down a well-worn scenic path now and then, but a general dislike of dirt and mess combined with a very specific fear of getting lost pretty much preclude camping, hiking, or breaking trail of any sort. My strengths lie far more in the "city" environment - urbane manners, snarky wit, discerning judgmen
Apr 19, 2012 Tracy rated it it was amazing
This is our favorite read-aloud ever. I've homeschooled my children now for about 15 years and in that time, I've read-aloud to them for approximately one hour per day. I probably read this to them for the first time 10 years ago but the "The Skunk Chapter" is still a frequent request on days when we are looking for something to lighten the mood. Every member of my family has this book in hardcover. I've got two copies so that I can lend one without fear.

If you like dogs, you will love this boo
Feb 03, 2016 Mark rated it it was amazing
"But the beauty of the woods, the incredible joy of it is too alluring to be ignored, and I could not stand to be away from it--indeed, still can't--and so I ran dogs simply to run dogs; to be in and part of the forest, the woods."

“How can it be to live without the dogs.”

Paulsen is a outdoorsy, kind of guy, living in the wilds of Minnesota, but one day, in his early 40s, he decides to run the Iditarod. A grueling 1,180 miles dog-race, from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska.
This is his memoir, of that e
Nov 09, 2008 Kerri rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Paulsen lovers
Recommended to Kerri by: Mike Stitt
I am not one for reading the nonfiction genre, but I really got into this book. Not only did I learn so much about the things involved in running and preparing for the Iditarod, but I also found myself laughing outloud at the most inappropriate times! Paulsen's style of writing made me smile in one chapter and want to cry in the next one.

I found my "teacher" side coming out quite often as I read. There was more than one chapter that caught my eye for various reasons, but the chapter called "Skw
Mike Smith
May 28, 2013 Mike Smith rated it really liked it
I remember strongly disliking the hero of the Hatchet series. Now I know why. Gary Paulsen is an idiot. But bless him, he's an idiot with a great memory and a flair for the self-deprecating humor, the kind that leaves you almost as incapacitated as Paulsen being dragged behind a team of Devil clones. Really? He thought buying a sled dog named Devil was a good idea? From then on, nothing shocked me, but it sure did make me laugh. I'm glad he at least kept his wits about him enough to remember wha ...more
May 29, 2015 Jacob added it

"Winterdance" by Gary Paulsen is a great book that I feel anybody could relate to. I loved the chapter when Paulsen is describing his new and improved summer dog sled. I found that it was a very ingenious way to include a car as the four wheels. I thought that it would be something that I would be able to make work. There is one thing that I found to be true about all of Paulsen's books. All the books are full of action and he never wrote a boring book by my standards.

The whole book is jam-pack
Erin Martinelli
Sep 03, 2014 Erin Martinelli rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: non-fiction fans, Iditarod fans, adventure fans, people who enjoy laughing while reading :)
Recommended to Erin by: found during Iditarod search at the library
I love true stories of people, against all odds and common sense, doing the seemingly impossible and definitely improbable with a sense of humor. Winterdance is laugh out loud funny. I don't recommend reading this anywhere you will get sidelong glances for chuckling to yourself. Gary Paulsen's writing is gritty, witty and wonderfully real. I highly recommend Winterdance to anyone who has ever dreamed of chucking it all and heading out on a fine adventure.
Dana Stabenow
Mar 20, 2016 Dana Stabenow rated it really liked it
Shelves: hpl-s-15-in-16
This was a Book Talk Alaska selection, and I laughed so hard while I read it that I was afraid I wasn't going to be able to talk intelligently on the air. Hilarious. Although guest Libby Riddles had her doubts about what parts were really Paulsen's story, she said they were at least some musher's story.
Mar 07, 2016 LeAnne rated it really liked it
Since this year's Iditarod started yesterday, I felt compelled to brag on this little book! It was written by a guy who did in fact use a dog sled to get from Point A to Point B in deep snow, but was clueless about how one would control a big team of seasoned dogs let alone get himself across almost 1000 miles of wilderness.

But yeah, like a chubster (who is quite adept walking from his recliner to the fridge) suddenly deciding to compete in an Iron Man competition, this poor guy decided to run
Tracy Lee
Aug 24, 2009 Tracy Lee rated it it was ok
non-fiction - not enough background information on the race, the man, the dogs - when finished reading I spent time online researching all of these in order to understand the book better. Which I shouldn't need to do. Also - this was a required summer reading book for highschool freshman,
Mar 28, 2009 Lisa rated it did not like it
Slow to go....I just kept thinking what an idiot this guy must be, and how much abuse is he going to cause himself.
Mar 23, 2015 Michael2134 rated it it was amazing
I read the book "Winterdance by Gary Paulsen". It was a really good book. I liked it quite a bit because it deals with the outdoors. To me the book also shows great motivation and that if you train and want something bad enough anything is possible. I liked the story line of this book because it truly showed the hardship and the friendship that a dog musher and his team share.

The story starts off in a small town in Minnesota where a man ran his trapline by foot. He didn't catch much and he need
Jonathan Malone
May 12, 2014 Jonathan Malone rated it it was ok
Gary Paulsen is crazy. I’m not making this up or being pejorative. He describes himself as a crazy s.o.b. His craziness comes out in his telling of his journey to and through the Iditarod in his book Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod. The book details his beginning love of dogs and sledding, his mad desire to run the Iditarod, and the surreal experiences he encountered in his first running of that iconic race. Paulsen’s book is well written, clear, and often self-effacing. He ...more
James Korsmo
In Winterdance, author Gary Paulsen (known especially for his juvenile fiction, with stories like Hatchet), chronicles his experience of running a team in the Iditarod dogsled race across Alaska. Paulsen begins the tale with his discovery of the joys (and trials) of running a sled team. He is captured by the idea of running dogs in the famous Alaska race, even though he has little experience, and none in a race of that type with a team of that size. So he sets off to make it work, pushing ahead ...more
Perrin Pring
Overall I greatly enjoyed Winterdance. I knew next to nothing about dogsledding when I began the book and now I realize, I still know almost nothing. That is not to say that I didn't learn a lot from Winterdance. What I mean is, there is clearly a lot to learn about dogsledding. Winterdance is not a dogsledding instruction manuel, rather, it is a memoir of how Gary Paulsen fell into the sport and subsequently ran the Iditarad. Paulsen takes his readers through some of his more death defying dogs ...more
 Charley Rose
Jan 11, 2012 Charley Rose rated it it was amazing
If I am asked which is my favourite funny book of all time I immediately answer ‘Three Men in a Boat’. After numerous readings I still laugh out loud at the hilarious situations that arise during the intrepid trio’s (TSNOTD) boating expedition. ‘Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod’, takes second place in my very short list of hold-your-sides, laugh-out-loud humour. Gary Paulsen has the ability, with his writing style, to enable his readers to ‘see’– in the same manner as Jerome ...more
Kate Dutton
Oct 17, 2012 Kate Dutton rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 03, 2007 Kathy rated it it was amazing
Nonfiction account of training for and running the Iditarod race across Alaska. I absolutely loved this book and would highly recommend it to anyone, but especially Doug, David and Mom.
After reading Into Thin Air about the Everest climb, I thought someone would have to be crazy to do that. After reading this, it probably is almost as bad
Favorite parts:
I was sitting in the orthodontist office while BJ was getting his braces on (and glad no one was in there except me) laughing out loud. The auth
Charlotte Analise
Nov 06, 2011 Charlotte Analise rated it liked it
I started to read this book when I saw it on my boyfriend’s bedside table; I got another one out of the library because I found it so amazing. This book is about Paulsen he had a small team of five dogs that he used to work his trap lines. Over time he became more and more entranced with mushing (running dogs on a sled), until he eventually realized that wanted to, run the Iditarod - the 1,100+ mile dogsled race stretching across the state of Alaska. The first half of the book deals with his pre ...more
Nov 16, 2011 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pets, favorites, borrowed
A really easy read but there is so much packed into his words that any more would just be superfluous. At risk of sounding cliche, this book is about so much more than just a dog sled team. It is about finding something within yourself that has been hidden beneath, becoming something more than what you were. The bond with the dogs is more than a man and his dogs, and more than just a race. The dogs help bring out what is within all of us but our modern lives squash and bury. The race was the ult ...more
Mar 29, 2010 Chris rated it really liked it
Shelves: animals
I was motivated to read this after a colleague suggested it when I was telling her about my new puppy, a Siberian Husky, who is unlike any dog I've ever owned-we've nicknamed her "The Beast" and "The Destroyer." After reading about the dogs in this book I consider myself lucky. My dog is a model of good behavior in comparison to Gary's brood. The actual race though arduous really takes a back seat to the story of the preparation and training for the race. I haven't laughed so hard in ages while ...more
Ali M.
Mar 11, 2014 Ali M. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even someone with zero interest in the subject matter of this book would have to work hard not to be captivated by Gary Paulsen's writing. I was wholly involved in each scene, conversation, and event. The journey this book documents is not just insane, it is often unbelievable. I don't understand how human beings can live through some of the conditions and catastrophic events that are commonplace on the Iditarod trail. It is a world unto itself - one that only a few souls are born to contend wit ...more
Apr 02, 2013 Donna rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading Winterdance- I knew Gary Paulsen was a famous children's author, but had no idea he was such "wild" man at heart. He definitely has a way with words- weaving descriptions and events seamlessly into vivid images. I particularly liked the way he never took himself too seriously (until the VERY end), and the way he realized that he and the dogs had to become unified completely to become a team. One difference between this and many other "armchair traveller" books I've read: ...more
Anne Egbert
Mar 28, 2016 Anne Egbert rated it really liked it
This is the story of a man from Wisconsin who has had a dog team he used for hauling wood, tending traplines, etc., who decides to run the Iditarod. The story is amazing on many levels. The situations he and his dogs get in to are laugh out loud funny, or clench your teeth scary. His insight in to the actual occurrences on the race trail are informative. And his analysis of his own transformation and entering the dog world are fascinating. And the ending is heartbreaking.
Stephanie A.
Nov 17, 2014 Stephanie A. rated it really liked it
It surprised me how much I liked this. Not only did it transport me to a rustic way of life up north and provide a virtual ride-along of the Iditarod experience, the engaging writing style brought the passion for this hobby to life. His love for dogs constantly rings clear, even though sled dogs often seem more like half pet and half wild running machine. He's funny, too, when the situation calls for it. I flat-out guffawed when he got sprayed in the face by two different skunks in one training ...more
Sep 22, 2011 Jeannette rated it it was amazing
I picked this up because a friend recently described it as the funniest book ever written. I'm not sure it's THE funniest ever. The first chapter and the entire description of Paulsen's first Iditerod run are more thrilling, incredible, amazing than comedic. But the chapters describing his early attempts to prepare for the race do rank on my short list of ultimate hilarity. I wouldn't want to try reading them on an airplane; I'd embarrass myself.

Overall, it provided me with deep and enormously e
Dec 23, 2012 Jan rated it liked it
Again, what was Gary Paulsen thinking? Alaska is no place for finding out you're not prepared properly for the elements, let alone a thousand mile trek into unknown territory with a bunch of wild dogs. But, the book was entertaining and I knew he survived because he's written many books since 'Winterdance.' Entertaining in the sense, that he merely skirted certain death by shear luck of the draw, not by common sense or calculated risk taking. Paulsen was just plain lucky. High adventure lovers, ...more
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Although he was never a dedicated student, Paulsen developed a passion for reading at an early age. After a librarian gave him a book to read--along with his own library card--he was hooked. He began spending hours alone in the basement of his apartment building, reading one book after another.

Running away from home at the age of 14 and traveling with a carnival, Paulsen acquired a taste for adve
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“She was beautiful in a way that only wild things can be beautiful.” 10 likes
“But the beauty of the woods, the incredible joy of it is too alluring to be ignored, and I could not stand to be away from it--indeed, still can't--and so I ran dogs simply to run dogs; to be in and part of the forest, the woods” 1 likes
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