Thursday, May 5, 2011

Hatchet (Book)

Author: Gary Paulsen. Release date: 1987. Publisher:  Bradbury Press. ISBN: 9781416925088.
First edition coverPlot summary: Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson is travelling on a two-person plane to visit his father when the pilot suffers a fatal heart attack in mid-air. Brian is forced to land the plane, which crashes into a remote lake. Brian narrowly escapes the sinking plane with only his clothes and a hatchet his mother gave him as a gift. Brian must now survive in the wilderness using his wits and the now precious hatchet. Will he be able to last long enough to be rescued?
Review:  Paulsen’s classic survival tale has itself survived the passing decades since it was first published because it is simply a well-written and interesting story. Brian’s struggles to survive, told in detail, have an appeal that is hard to describe other than the reader wanting Brian to make it. The inner struggle Brian must also cope with, his realization of his mother’s extra-marital affairs, adds greater depth to the story beyond the man vs. nature concept that drives the plot. The ending is very satisfying as well, which makes the novel even more enjoyable. Overall, Hatchet is an excellent book for tweens, especially for boys who are reluctant readers or don’t feel that there is literature that will appeal to their interests.
Genre: Fiction
Reading level: Grades 5-9
Similar titles: My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell.
Personal thoughts:  I have always enjoyed survival stories and Hatchet, in a way, is the “godfather” of this genre for young adults. Paulsen’s descriptions of the elements and Brian’s struggle to overcome them are superb, and the novel is a very easy read. I would recommend this title to boys especially, but also to girls as it has universal appeal.
Themes:  Survival, nature, hunting/fishing.
Awards/Reviews: Newbery Medal Honor Winner. Positive reviews from Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal.
Series Information: First novel in Brian’s Saga by Gary Paulsen. Other titles, Brian’s Return, Brian’s Winter, The River and Brian’s Hunt.
Character information:
Brian Robeson – Thirteen-year-old boy who must survive in the wilderness after his plane crash lands due to the pilot’s death.
Annotation:  Brian Robeson has just crash landed in the Canadian wilderness with only one tool to help him survive in the harsh elements: his hatchet.

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