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Hatchet Paperback – December 26, 2006
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"This is a spellbinding account...a winner."
-- Kirkus Reviews, starred review
-- Booklist, starred review
About the Author
Gary Paulsen is one of the most honored writers of contemporary literature for young readers, author of three Newbery Honor titles, Dogsong, Hatchet, and The Winter Room. He has written over 100 books for adults and young readers. He divides his time among Alaska, New Mexico, Minnesota, and the Pacific.
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Furthermore, a sub-plot involves the child in the story finding out that his mother is having an affair while still married to his father. His father does not know. Therefore, the boy struggles with having to keep this secret from his father. These issues involve violations of trust in marriage and child-parent relationships. There is never any resolution to this story line or questioning of the moral dilemna this boy is thrust into.
The story issues may be more appropriate for older high school students, but the issues of depression among our students and infidelity of parents should have parents and teachers consider any literary value the text might have to be limited. Parents and teachers should strongly consider their trying to meet objectives with more appropriate alternatives for students.
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!