Sharon has an Masters of Science in Mathematics and a Masters in Education
The Voyage of the Frog: Overview
Author Gary Paulsen is best known for writing books for teenagers about issues they deal with while growing up. Paulsen has written over 200 books, mostly focusing on themes of wilderness and the outdoors. In The Voyage of The Frog Paulsen explores issues such as death, coping, confidence, and independence.
We've all had that experience, either as a teenager or maybe even an adult, of getting into a situation that seems simple but goes off course quickly. For example, maybe as a new driver your friends and you got hopelessly lost on rural country roads, ran out of gas, and hiked for hours in the dark before finding a friendly farmer who guided you back to town. In that case, you were lucky. You were on dry land, you had nice weather, and you were in a group. Not so for Paulsen's main character David.
Fourteen-year-old David is given the sail boat, named The Frog, by his uncle Owen who recently died. He finds himself in a storm, gets lost at sea, and is utterly alone in the dark night off the Pacific coast. How does this young man find his way? We know there aren't any friendly farmers out and about, so let's see how David navigates his way through this storm.
The Voyage of the Frog: Plot
When we talk about the plot of a story we mean the things that happen - the basic storyline from beginning to end. The plot gives the main events of a story, filling you in on what happens without revealing every last detail. So what does happen to David? Looking at the back story will help you understand how the plot unfolds.
The Voyage Begins
The main character David Hatcher has just lost his favorite uncle, Owen, to cancer. Owen leaves David with two things: his boat, named The Frog, and the task of sailing off the coast of southern California to scatter his ashes. This is a big task for a boy that age; David is deeply saddened by the loss of Owen; he looks at the jar of ashes and thinks about the fact that all his uncle ever was fits into that jar.
Paulsen uses the jar as a symbol in the story. Symbolism is when an author uses the plot, events or specific objects (such as the jar) to represent something deeper and more meaningful. In this scene David is looking at a small object and feeling small and sad. He is currently unaware that his uncle's real gift, the experience of sailing alone and saying goodbye, is larger than anything he can imagine. Keep an eye out for other examples of symbolism as you read.
Things Go Wrong
David sails off as planned, says an emotional goodbye to Owen, then heads back to land. Suddenly, a storm comes out of nowhere (symbolism?) and throws The Frog off course. David is a cool and calm character, though, and knows how to handle the boat, or so he thinks. The barrage of things that happen to David, from a head wound to shark attacks to nearly losing the boat to flooding test David's strength both as a sailor and a young man.
Things Get Worse
Like we said David is a good sailor. He rations his supplies and enjoys the beauty of nature around him. One day he wakes up to whales by the boat and watches them play, admiring their blowholes and sense of mirth. But David is challenged by the vast openness of the Pacific, the fact that he is lost and has no way of communicating or navigating his way home. At his lowest point David begins making a list of everything he hates, a list that eventually ends up giving him exactly what he needs to live.
Finding a Way Home
After David's dark night of worries things begin to look up. A research ship shares supplies and points him in the right direction; David begins heading home. David has learned about how to survive at sea in The Frog, but most importantly he's learned about surviving unseen emotional storms in his life, like death, and has learned to trust himself to weather these storms and find a way back to safety.
Gary Paulsen is an author whose work focuses on coming-of-age stories for young adults. In the novel The Voyage of The Frog, Paulsen writes about David, a fourteen-year-old boy who is given a task symbolic of release, strength, and growth. As David encounters a storm and several days lost off the coast of California he learns about himself and begins to trust his own strength. The Voyage of The Frog is a must read for children and adults of all ages.
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