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Fishbone's Song

3.26  ·  Rating details ·  147 ratings  ·  41 reviews
An orphan reflects on the lessons he was taught by the wise old man who raised him in this lyrical novel that reads like poetry from three-time Newbery Honor–winning author Gary Paulsen.

Deep in the woods, in a rustic cabin, lives an old man and the boy he’s raised as his own. This sage old man has taught the boy the power of nature and how to live in it, and more important
Hardcover, 149 pages
Published September 27th 2016 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
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Average rating 3.26  · 
Rating details
 ·  147 ratings  ·  41 reviews

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Sam Quixote
Sep 27, 2016 rated it did not like it
An orphan remembers the hillbilly geezer who raised him, Fishbone, down South where they lived in a country shack, drank ‘shine, hunted, and drawled Southern blather that most people would find too obvious to say out loud but these simpletons consider wisdom. Plot? What’re you, a communiss?! We don’t need no stinkin’ plot! (Gets out banjo, plucks Deliverance ditty) Mmm, I declare that thar pig sure looks mighty purty today…

I remember really enjoying Hatchet when I was a kid so I thought checkin
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
After hundreds of books in a career spanning fifty years by the time Fishbone's Song came out in 2016, it was apparent that storytelling about life in nature is what Gary Paulsen does best. Stories about people living outdoors among animals, learning the cadence of the natural world's wisdom. Gary Paulsen's predominant theme is humility before the natural order, blending in as just another part of the sacred system of life on earth. Some of his wisdom had begun to repeat at this stage of his car ...more
Ms. Yingling
Mar 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

I've been a HUGE fan of recent Gary Paulsen books that are hysterically funny. His Liar, Liar series and Mudshark were laugh-out loud, thigh-slapping riots, and even his memoir, This Side of Wild, was filled with lots of humorous moments. These books have all been very popular with my students, but Paulsen's older titles like The Monument, The Cook Camp and Mr. Tucket have fallen out of favor. I was hoping that Fishbone's Song would be a funny dog book, but
Shauna Yusko
Apr 24, 2016 rated it liked it
I don't know who the actual audience is. Beautiful writing though. ...more
Feb 09, 2020 added it
for the inter-generational friendship

Ok, this is a bit weird, imo. I found it difficult to decode, more difficult than poetry, for the first two thirds. And then the boy started to actually explain what was going on. I think that Paulsen was trying to show how a young child doesn't understand much but just goes along absorbing stuff to bring up later to ponder and work out.

But for a book marketed to age 9-12, a book likely to be rec'd to male 'reluctant readers.' it doesn't seem to me the best
Jan 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: j-fiction
More existential musings than a plot driven children's book - what is real, what is memory, how time impacts both - teens, young adults and really old adults will enjoy this more than kids, with no life experience of the woods, fishing, hunting, etc.

I loved the part where the boy spent time watching the spider on his web, hunting in his spider way, and how the boy went on to see what other spiders did, and how they hunted. Who today would stop, step back and make these personal discoveries that
Oct 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a stand-alone book for three-time Newbery Honor–winning author Gary Paulsen. Here Paulsen wanes poetic as an elderly guardian, Fishbone, tells "story-songs" to an unnamed narrator. While this eloquent novel seems to address the child in each of us, this work might best be read as a readaloud. ...more
Susan Cackler
Oct 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
This Paulsen book is more of a poem, really. The language is much of the appeal. An elegant look at how a child learns to be in the woods with some intriguing historical details as well.
Fred Kohn
Dec 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm not surprised that this book has a relatively low rating. I found it daunting on a first reading but I realized that in order to write a fair review I would have to read it again. I have to say that I think that a large majority of young readers would find it impenetrable. The book is highly philosophical, and everything except the last brief chapter is written in the past tense. Dialogue is written without quote punctuation, and there are many paragraphs that are only one brief sentence, or ...more
Jay Wright
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
First, this is not a children's book. I doubt a child would understand the book. It delves into issues that still arise. A child is left with family and raised by them. This happened with my great grandfather and I know of a child of a drug addict mother that is being raised by a family member. This old Korean War veteran has some excellent advice on life. This boy learns from his own experience and that of Fishbone. I loved the book better than Hatchet, another book by the same author. ...more
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrens
If this was an adult book, I would have not finished it. But I felt I had to finish listening for work. There were parts of this book I truly enjoyed, but I don't know if a kid would. And the part about the spider sucking the guts out of the moth is something I could have lived without ever hearing. Sorry about this because I do generally like this author. The narrator was amazing. ...more
Sep 10, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I usually love Gary Paulsen's book... I gave it three stars just because it was written by him... otherwise.. what a strange book.. kind of like Tarzan being raised by the wolves.. as Fishbone raises this boy... kind of difficult to read due to style of writing and a lot of questions left about the characters.. ...more
James Foster
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really liked Fishbone's Song by Gary Paulsen, I have read Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and I liked that book too. I plan to read more of his books later on. The reason I liked Fishbone's Song is because it was very well written, they completely explained what went on after stating it. Some parts of the book gave me a little trouble of comprehending but for the most past I liked it. ...more
Mar 16, 2020 rated it it was ok
I feel bad because I've loved every single one of Gary Paulsen's books, but this one was a hard one to get through. It is not his typical adventure, survival, goofy, and fun loving story. A lot of the time I just felt like he was dragging on and on like an old man remembering his past, I kept waiting for the story to start. ...more
Jeanne H. Wetzler
Confusing at Times

I understand that the story was told from the boy's point of view of how he pictured the world and what he had learned from it, but sometimes it was confusing about where exactly he was or how old. The story dragged. Of all the Paulsen books I have read, this was not my favorite.
Jan 12, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: riley-james
This was my very first time to read one of Paulsen's books and I didn't enjoy the story much. His way of writing is very odd.
I was enjoying the story up until chapter 4 then I became annoyed about him talking about Judith Eve. I read it to my 10 year old son and he wasn't that much interested in the story either.
Dec 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: young-adult
Don't think I could have even finished it except it was only 149 pages. Kept hoping to find the plot. The saving grace of the book is five short beautiful poems set as First Song, Second Song, etc. Not in the same league as Hachet. ...more
A boy's lyrical tribute to an old man's wisdom is unique and contains pieces of wisdom, though its broken speech style may work better as a spoken word performance. ...more
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
Did not care for this book.
Mary Ann
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
Debated rating this book a “1”. Of all the books I’ve read by Paulsen, this falls short. Not a book I will recommend to students but will be interested in their ratings once they read it.
Ethan Rose
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Lyrical blend of poetry and prose.
May 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wisdom, youth
Full of wisdom.
Carol Bakker
Jul 16, 2019 marked it as sampled-but-no
Shelves: 2019
No. Story didn't go anywhere. And the 'shine was omnipresent. What child would understand 'shine? Two chapters in, I jumped ship. ...more
Oct 14, 2019 rated it did not like it
I loved Hatchet so I figured this would be a great read. Boy was I wrong. Extremely boring. I don’t think any child would enjoy this book.
Oct 17, 2016 rated it liked it
One of Paulsen's stand-alone books, this is a story of an orphaned boy who was raised by an old man who lived in the woods. He was taught to become one with the woods, to live in harmony with nature and grow into your own thoughts. ...more
Cindy Hudson
Oct 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Fishbone tells three stories about how the boy came to live with him in the woods, but the boy doesn’t know which is true. Maybe they’re all true. He only knows Fishbone is old, and he’s got a way of explaining things that makes you listen up and think long about what he’s saying. The boy tried living away from Fishbone for a while so he could go to school, but it didn’t last. Now he knows he’s learning skills that will help him prepare for the day that his old guardian passes on.

Fishbone’s Song
Kelly Snyder
Jan 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Had to read. Very folksy dialog. Simple sentences. This is how I would describe this book by Gary Paulsen. It is a book set in the hills somewhere in Appalachia (I think) and it is told from the point of view of a teenage boy who is growing up with an old man named Fishbone. He learns about the land and life from this man who has seen death, war and even prison, but never tells the boy what to think. He simply tells him to think. While I found the dialog very simple and reminiscent of my teen ye ...more
Carol  V
Oct 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Moonshinin’ and fast car racing – a part of history that has has held devastating results, for sure, but Paulsen writes about these topics matter of factly and with a regional flavor – certainly not romanticizing drinking or wreckless driving behavior.

This book is worthy of a Book Club read, community group read, or young adult class read. There are so many beautiful themes coming from this story – so much about nature, life, growing up, and love, both self-love and family love.

Fishbone’s Song
Laura Phelps
Jul 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: possiblemsba2016
What an interesting diversion for Paulsen. Beautiful, free-flow stream of conscious writing which tackles some huge themes (I find myself ruminating on the very temporary nature of every life after reading it). That said, this is not a "children's book," per se, but I can see it being read and enjoyed by teens (especially those who love the outdoors). ...more
Missy Genneken
Sep 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Interesting book. Not really my cup of tea but it was differant. I'm a huge fan of Gary Paulsen books but this left me a bit dissatisfied. Its more poetry/ free flow stream of writing. Missing some of the humor I've come to expect. Great premise so I'm sure it will find its fans.

***I received a copy from Netgalley for an honest review***
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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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