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By Gary Paulsen: Hatchet Paperback – 1987
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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.
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"Dear Gary Paulsen,
Thank you for writing the adventure book Hatchet. I just finished it and I think it is one of the best books I've ever read. I like that it started out with Brian in the bush plane with just the pilot for company. I could tell that something scary was going to happen when the pilot started feeling sick but I never expected that Brian would be able to land the plane on his own and survive the crash. I know i would have had a really hard time knowing what to do in that situation.
At first, when I realized that Brian would have to survive in the wilderness all on his own, I thought it wouldn't be that hard. I didn't think about him not having fire or warm clothes or medicine if he got sick. Even what seems unneeded for survival like bug spray or something to cook with were a big deal if you are trying to survive in the wilderness. Another thing I was thinking about is that Brian was alone. If he needed help, there was no one to help him and if he was seriously hurt no one could help him or care for him. One thin I didn't like was the parts about the divorce and how angry Brian was and the Secret. When I got to those parts I wanted to skip over them so I could continue reading about how Brian survived on his own.
When I reached the end of the book, I was happy that Brian got rescued, but I really wanted to see what would happen if he had to survive in the winter. I am very happy that you thought the same thing and wrote the book called Brian's Winter. As you can imagine, that book is next on my reading list. I am very glad that I read this book. Partly because it was so good and also because it isn't about explosions or superheroes, but it is something that could have actually happened."
Feeling nostalgic, I decided to go ahead and pick this up to re-read it after all these years. It holds up decently as an adult but you really notice it's flaws.
My main complaint is that it ends so abruptly. I don't remember that, but the end of the books feels really rushed, like the author said, "Whoops, I'm going on too long here," and decided to wrap it up quickly. Not so noticeable as a young kid with a short attention span but pretty jarring when an adult. Still, this book was made for kids so it's excusable.
The point is: What new thing can I say about such a book? The answer is probably nothing with the point being that Amazon allows each of its customers an individual voice, despite how many there might be.
As a children's librarian (including those middle school children), I know that "Hatchet" is a great recommended read for reluctant readers for whatever reasons. Why haven't I read this book, I continued to ask myself. So--this summer I asked my great-niece and -nephew, 12 and 10, if we could all read and discuss this book? All agreed, no one finished. Here's how the first couple of chapters go: Brian, aged 13, is flying to a remote area in Northern Canada to stay with his dad. Because the area is so remote, a private plane must be hired. That means one pilot, one passenger in a tiny two-seater. Then, as it so happens from time to time in the real world--out of nowhere, the pilot has a heart attack and dies. In a rush of panic, Brian takes over and flies the plane until fuel runs out. Then he must land. Therein lies the difficulty. With so many lakes and rivers in the Canadian wilderness, where he is, at that point and moment in space and time, reveals an unsatisfactory water bed, but he must land anyway. Water is like concrete to a flying object on impact. Brian hits his head and wrenches his whole body in the crash, but he makes it out and swims to shore in icy water.
Now that's an exciting beginning. Who wouldn't want to read further, but I didn't. Finally, when I discovered that none of us had finished the book, I picked it up again and continued reading. At exactly that point begins one incredible episode after the other in Brian's personal and up close experience with a life threatening adventure. A city boy, Brian knows nothing about survival skills or even simple camping. What resources he calls on are two: television programs and a teacher's mantra that each of us is the person to most rely on.
As an aside, Paulsen spent a few nights camping in his backyard, using stones and sticks to start a fire. Finally, his wife asked what in the world was he doing? (I think this is just a neat story to relate about the background for his book and not really true.) He replied, "Trying to start a fire." "Well, why don't you just use matches?" she asked. "I don't have any," he responded.
And neither did Brian, so the description of his efforts to start a fire ring true--because they are. In his two month sojourn (not intentional, mind you), Brian meets a bear, fool birds, chokeberries, a crazed elk, rabbits, a tornado, and a continuing incredible (but believable) array of obstacles and milestones and little victories.
Brian fully expected to be rescued within 24 hours until he remembered how off-course he probably flew the plane himself. Hours turned into days, days into weeks, and .... I wish I could comment on the ending because I have some things to say, but in whatever subtle way I said it, I would reveal spoilers. Allow me this: I had been right there with Brian the whole way. The ending stunned me. I mean it--I was stunned!
Because of the ending I began researching what else Paulsen had written, and discovered more Brian books. I cannot say anything about them either, but I've ordered them for my school library.
Now I know why I can recommend this book to reluctant readers--and of course, anyone who loves a good story!! Hatchet? Didn't I mention it? It's really not the hatchet that saves Brian for so long--it is Brian himself wielding the hatchet. This book is definitely a great read!
on the comment side one commented and mention the story of Brian in the 'hatchet', i got intrigue and look for the book in amazon. i found it and when i start reading it i can not put down the book, though i know it's fiction but the comment is true, a 13yo boy survive alone without anything except his hatchet. very nice story.
Most recent customer reviews
Followed along well with it and it was gripping to see how this little boy deals with his circumstances.