Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Hatchet - Gary Paulsen

The Hatchet
Gary Paulsen
Aladdin Books
Copyright Date: 1987

According to the cover of The Hatchet:

Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson is on his way to visit his father when the single-engine plane in which he is flying crashes. Suddenly, Brian finds himself alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but a tattered Windbreaker and the hatchet his mother gave him as a present -- and the dreadful secret that has been tearing him apart since his parent's divorce. But now Brian has no time for anger, self pity, or despair -- it will take all his know-how and determination, and more courage than he knew he possessed, to survive.

For twenty years Gary Paulsen's award-winning contemporary classic has been the survival story with which all others are compared. This new edition, with a reading group guide, will introduce a new generation of readers to this page-turning, heart-stopping adventure.

Gary Paulsen's Hatchet is a Newberry Honor award winner, among other honors, and it's also turning into quite the lasting book, being reprinted again and again. Enjoyable for all ages, the text is suitable for older children on up, although there are a few scenes that are more suited to slightly older children, such as early teens, as there is a death in the first chapters.

Essentially, the book seems to be a 'coming of age' story, as Brian has to learn (quickly) what he is made of, and what he is capable of doing in order to survive alone in the wilderness, with a hatchet as his only tool. Somehow he's got to find shelter and food. With a lot of luck, he manages it, even though he doesn't have much in the way of wilderness knowledge.

At just under two hundred pages, The Hatchet is quite the quick read I found, finishing it in only a couple of hours, but I also found that I couldn't put the book down until it was finished (when I picked up the next book, The River). This was all true even given the knowledge that Brian had to survive because there are more books about his experiences after the adventures of The Hatchet.

I'm almost certain I hadn't read the book or any of its sequels before, although some of the early scenes are familiar. It's not just Brian's actions that are of interest, but also his thought processes and the self-knowledge he gains through his experiences as he grows up mentally in order to survive.

From what I can see, this should make the next books just as interesting.

Although it's been a few years since I read it, I'd bet that if you liked The Hatchet that you'd also like My Side Of The Mountain and it's sequel The Far Side Of The Mountain by Jean George.

The other books in this series:
Brian's Winter
The River
Brian's Return
Brian's Hunt


J.T. Oldfield said...

I loved Hatchet when I was a kid. I always remembered the part about going back into the airplane ::shudders:: I never knew that there were more books!

Unknown said...

There are, and they're just as good. I ended up reading past midnight last night to finish them all.

What's really neat is that the author was basing the stories on his own experience some of the time.


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