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The Book Club Discussion

When he's not working on his next adventure novel, author Will Hobbs might be river-running or kayaking _ just like a character in one of his books. On his Web site ( Hobbs describes how his real-life experiences find their way into books such as Wild Man Island.

"Several years before I ever thought of writing a sea kayaking story, my wife, Jean, and I went on two kayak trips to southeast Alaska, in the vicinity of Juneau," Hobbs writes. "Several times we were joined suddenly by rowdy groups of snorting Steller's sea lions, who behaved as described in Wild Man Island. Our group leader told us that another adventure company the summer before had one of its kayaks tipped over by a Steller's sea lion."

Does that mean that Andy Galloway is a teen version of Will Hobbs? "Andy's memories of backpacking in the Colorado Rockies and river-running on the Colorado River downstream of Grand Junction are mine, of course, even though Andy isn't me."

And what about the wild man himself? Hobbs explains this character came "from my imagination. I've often wondered if it would be possible to live by prehistoric means. I explored that fantasy through the wild man. I'll never try it in real life. I'd miss people too much."

Good choice, Will. As you can tell from the book club discussion, we'd sure miss your great books.

Mrs. Atkins: I like the maps in the beginnings of Will Hobbs' books.

Evan: Me, too. It reminds you that these are real places, and shows you where the main character was. In Wild Man Island, Andy starts off in Baranof Island and ends up in Admiralty Island (off the coast of Alaska). I used the map mostly at the beginning and end of the book to see where Andy was.

Steven: At first when I started reading the book I thought that the wild man would turn out to be Andy's dad.

Mrs. Atkins: I can see that. Even though he knows his dad died, Andy still feels very close to him. Sometimes he dreams about him, and even "talks" to him in his mind, right?

Evan: "Talking" to his dad, I think, helped him. It was like having him right there.

Steven: When I was near the end of the book, I thought that wild man _ David Atkins _ would turn out to be someone who was with Andy's dad.

Shamarri: Me, too. Andy really missed having a father around, even though he didn't know him for that long. It would have been really awesome if he went to the island to see where his dad died and found someone that had been with his father.

Mrs. Atkins: Why was it so important for Andy to get to this island?

Jordan: He wants to put the paddle that he carved with the boat that his mom carved and left at the falls where his dad died.

Shamarri: Andy was trying to finish off what his mom started. His mom made the boat, and he's adding the next part.

Mrs. Atkins: So the family is complete once again.

Steven: With the carvings, it was kind of like Andy and his mom left a part of themselves there to be with the dad.

Deanna: What bothered me was that Andy says he didn't know his father at all because he was so little when he died. But he keeps talking about all these memories.

Evan: I think it's like with my grandfather. He died when I was really little, but I can remember things about him; pictures especially help bring back memories. I can honestly say I didn't know my grandfather, but when I think about it I really do have a lot of memories about him.

Steven: I liked this book because Andy's a lot like me. I really like going out on the water and stuff.

Evan: I really liked this book, too. It was adventurous. I didn't think Andy was going to survive, but then he works his way back up to the top . . . health-wise. He got really sick from the poisoned mussels.

Deanna: He also built himself back up inside. Andy made friends with the wild man who taught him about courage.

Mrs. Atkins: I agree. Let's talk more about what happens after Andy eats the poisoned mussels. How does he survive? Does he have any helpers?

Shamarri: When the big dog came up and nudged Andy, and licked his face _ he was sort of helping him by waking him up. He stayed with him and kept the wild animals away, too.

Evan: Yeah, and the dog kept the sea gulls away. I was really scared for Andy. The birds sat on his face and started pecking at his eyes!

Shamarri: I didn't realize the wild man had sent the dog to Andy. I didn't even know that the wild man was there. I just thought he was a smart dog. Then he took Andy to the cave, and the wild man just appeared.

Deanna: The wild man definitely was a helper.

Steven: He gave Andy the spear, and then at the end they became friends and the wild man got Andy into the boat with him to leave the island. In the end, they both got rescued.

Jordan: Julia was a helper, too. In the beginning of the trip, Julia was always telling Andy different survival skills like how the bark can be used to start a fire. Lots of the things Andy remembered Julia telling him saved his life.

Mrs. Atkins: So Julia was one of Andy's helpers even though she wasn't right there with him on Wild Man Island. Of course, Andy wouldn't have been in the mess he was in if he had listened to Julia and Monica in the first place, right? He broke the rule about staying with the group to see the place where his dad died. Do you think this was a good decision on Andy's part?

Shamarri: Well, not really, because the wild man could have ended up being dangerous.

Jordan: I think it was a good idea because the people who rescued him in the helicopter told him the wild man was an archaeologist. He wasn't dangerous.

Deanna: Yeah, but Andy didn't know that when he first got on the island.

Steven: He was just lucky.

Mrs. Atkins: We were talking earlier about how Andy "built himself back up." Do you think Andy's the same person when he leaves the island as he was when he arrived?

Shamarri: I think Andy needed to go to the island like that so that he could experience for himself what it was like for his dad. He can now use all those things that he learned to survive _ to have a better life _ when he's back home.

Jordan: He learned to be a lot more patient.

Evan: He learned how never to give up hope.

Shamarri: I think Andy kind of changed the wild man, David Atkins, too. Andy helped him get back to living with people and (to feel) it was okay to come out of the wilderness.

Steven: Kind of like when you help someone and then they end up helping you, too.

Mrs. Atkins: If Will Hobbs were sitting right here, what do you think he'd say was the point of this story? What did he want readers to take away from reading Wild Man Island?

Shamarri: I think he wanted to tell people who lost someone close to them that you never really lose these people. You can always find them in your own way.

Evan: I think the whole point of the book was just how to survive. The book gave you basic ideas about this. It was kind of nonfiction in a way. You learned about archaeology, and geography and history, too.

Ready to set off on another Will Hobbs adventure? Check out his latest book, Jackie's Wild Seattle.

We're Talkin' Books Here!

The grades 3-5 book club includes Evan Billington, Deanna Bousalis, Shamarri Hartzog, Jordan Murray and Steven Quintero. Holly Atkins teaches seventh-grade language arts at Southside Fundamental Middle School in St. Petersburg.