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Canyons by Gary Paulsen


by Gary Paulsen

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The Short and Sweet of It
Coyote Runs takes his place as a man among the Apache as he goes on his first raid. Over one hundred years later, Brennan Cole goes on a camping trip where he finds a skull which begins a journey connecting him to the past.

A Bit of a Ramble
I first read this book way back in the early 90s, and I fell in love. I may not have remembered the story, but I still remember the feeling I had after reading, that hard to explain sinking feeling. Not "sinking" like bad, but sinking like good. A depression that the story is over, a bittersweet acceptance of the ending and an appreciation of the journey the story took you on. Few books truly give me this feeling, few books truly touch the soul. Canyons did that for me when I was a young girl, and I devoured many of Paulsen's other works because of this. And I must say that many did truly speak to me.

Obviously, I am a much different person at 31 than I was at 11, and that difference is certainly felt upon re-reading a book which was so moving. While I enjoyed the story, I didn't love it the way I did back then. I do still appreciate the same things about the story though: the feeling of a connection to the past, a connection to a place, the strength of a young boy's resolve, the beauty of an adult's acceptance. This is a simple story which feels epic. All of these things - which are way more clear if you've read the book - are reason enough to read the book, and I highly urge you to pick up a Paulsen if you get the chance.

Like The Giver, I read Canyons while feeding Madison Paige during the night. I think I'm going to pick up another Paulsen tonight for my next book...probably Hatchet as that one also touched my soul back in my pre-teen years. ( )
  EclecticEccentric | Apr 4, 2012 |
It was very easy for me to get drawn into this book. The story was not spectacular or mind blowing but the author did a great job in the beginning by alternating between chapters and telling the story of two boys of similar age (14 years or so) 100 years apart. The story reminds me of an old-school approach, it did not have any fireworks, super hero strengths, or anything that would make it catchy/trend setting.
It is a very simple story to follow, which allowed me to get to know the main character Brennan. A typical 14 year old boy, lives with his mom only, money is tight, and not the best social life. I began to really like Brennan as a person, he worked hard for his money, he wanted his mom to be happy (finding a new man), kept to himself at school, not the smartest kid but with some guidance of a teacher you can see a wealth of knowledge waiting to be tapped.
The story takes a twist and turn when out camping with his mom and others finds a skull in the desert. He takes the skull home only to find it driving him crazy in the mind. Brennan begins to conduct some research and is able to make the connection of who this skull belongs to and how it got there.

Four star-
I enjoyed the history aspect of this book (Apache Indians, U.S. Army, the research to uncover the truths about the skull). I did not think the book was boring, it did a great job describing Brennan and his living situation and his newly skull predicament, It was also easy to want to like Brennan and watch him succeed. A nice overall message, put in some hard work and good things evolve.

High School and Middle School read, a simple book enough to follow, especially for boys who have an interest in history and American Indians. ( )
  fatlamb | Oct 30, 2010 |
Canyons is an interesting book that is unlike any of the previous books that I've read by Gary Paulsen -- The Brian and Tucket series, Nightjohn, Notes From the Dog and The Rifle. This book has a mystical theme with a merging of past and present.

There is one setting -- around Ft. Bliss in the American Southwest. There are 2 timeframes however. The 1860's when the Apaches were not yet defeated. And modern times.

I won't say more except that the paths of two teen boys --Brennan and Coyote Runs-- cross.

Talking Points:::
I enjoyed this book and was driven to finish it, but it's not a book that I would read again.

Like most of Paulsen's books, this one contains his usual mix of history and interesting survival information.

There's a little slowing in the middle, but keep reading... it's worth it.

a mini-review
(pam at Booksforkids-reviews.com) ( )
  PamFamilyLibrary | Feb 14, 2010 |
Brennan goes on a camping trip and finds the skull of an executed Apache boy. After, Brennan does everything in his power to find out about the boy and return the skull to its sacred place.

This story is told from two different points of view, but only for the first half of the book, after that point, it explores solely Brennan’s perspective. The plot and conflict may have been better served if the book was told entirely in Brennan’s point of view or if the duel perspectives remained consistent and continued for the rest of the book. The book also could have included more resolution about what occurred after Brennan’s ordeal. Canyons contains some violence.
  SJKessel | Dec 28, 2008 |
Andrea Tuttle
EDCI 4120/5120

Paulsen, G., (1990). Canyons. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Books.

Grade Levels: 7th - 9th grades
Category: Mystery
Read-Alouds: pages 3-6 (Coyote Runs becoming a man), pages 9-13 (introduction of Brennan Cole), pages 29-31 (Nightride), pages 33-41 (camping with Bill), pages 79-84 (Brennan’s dream of Coyote Runs), pages 135-139 (Brennan finding the clue to Coyote Runs’ disappearance), pages 153-156 (Brennan running away), pages 169-end of book (Brennan getting lost and connecting with Coyote Runs’ spirit)

This story is about two different boys from two different times, Brennan Cole and Coyote Runs. Coyote Runs is an Apache that gets to take part in his first raid with the other men of the tribe. Brennan Cole loves to run; he runs everywhere and all the time. While on a camping trip with his mom’s latest boyfriend, Brennan discovers a skull under where he is sleeping. Brennan becomes obsessed with the skull and is determined to find out what happened to this person. There is a mystical link between these two boys because Brennan continues to dream of an Apache boy. Brennan and his teacher contact a friend that has access to historical documents; he stays up all night reading through them and discovers what truly happened to Coyote Runs. Upon learning this news, Brennan runs away from home and into the desert. There is a search party for him, but he doesn’t give up until he reaches the place where Coyote Runs’ body is.

The main theme of this book is about two boys that enter into the stages of becoming a man. More than one hundred years spans between these two boys’ lifetimes, but there is a mystical connection between the two that leads to the discovery of Coyote Runs’ death. Another theme with this book is having the lack of a father figure in life. Brennan lives with his mom and deals with her dating again. His mom wants him to really like Bill and accept him because she thinks he is “the one.”

Discussion Questions:
What would you do in Brennan’s situation?
What would you do if you found a human skull in the desert?
Do you think people would take you seriously if you had this type of connection to a skull that you found? Would people think you were just crazy?

Reader Response:
I really liked this book because I didn’t get bored at all with the storyline. For the first 10 chapters, there is a switch between each of the boys’ lives. After Brennan finds the skull, he has visions that help him to take the skull to the sacred resting place of the Apache. Nobody understands his desire to accomplish this task, so he risks a lot by running away through the desert to take Coyote Runs back.
  AndreaTuttle | Jul 28, 2008 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
In this coming-of-age novel, fifteen-year-old Brennan Cole finds the skull of an Apache boy, Coyote Runs, who was executed by soldiers in the 1860s. A "mystical link" joins the two boys and compels Brennan to defy his mother and the authorities to return the skull to an ancient "place of medicine." This book is an example of stereotypically presenting American Indians as the source of mystical events experienced by a non-Indian character.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0440210232, Mass Market Paperback)

Two boys, separated by the canyons of time and two vastly different cultures, face the challenges by which they will become men.
Coyote Runs, an Apache boy, takes part in his first raid. But he is to be a man for only a short time.
More than a hundred years later, while camping near Dog Canyon, 15-year-old Brennan Cole becomes obsessed with a skull that he finds, pierced by a bullet. He learns that it is the skull of an Apache boy executed by soldiers in 1864. A mystical link joins Brennan and Coyote Runs, and Brennan knows that neither boy will find peace until Coyote Runs' skull is carried back to an ancient sacred place.
In a grueling journey through the canyon to return the skull, Brennan confronts the challenge of his life.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:11 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Finding a skull on a camping trip in the canyons outside El Paso, Texas, Brennan becomes involved with the fate of a young Apache Indian who lived in the late 1800s.

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