Thursday, August 06, 2009

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Title: Hatchet
Author: Gary Paulsen
ISBN: 0689826990, Simon Pulse, 1999
Genre: Young Adult fiction
Rating: A

First Line: Brian Robeson stared out the window of the small plane at the endless green northern wilderness below.

Thirteen-year-old Brian's parents have just gotten divorced. Brian lives with his mother in New York State, and is allowed to stay with his father, who works in the Canadian oil fields, during the summer. This will be his first summer with his father, and Brian's mother sees him off at the airport, giving him a gift that he feels is a bit silly: a hatchet.

Flying in the small plane takes some getting used to; it's very noisy, it's cramped, and at first the pilot doesn't talk very much. After a while, the pilot does begin to talk with Brian and even lets him take control of the plane for a bit. Then the absolute worst possible scenario occurs: the pilot has a massive heart attack and dies, leaving Brian at the controls of an aircraft that he really doesn't know how to fly.

Brian survives the crash, and then realizes that the plane has flown so far off course that he probably won't be found any time soon. He now has to survive the Canadian wilderness. He's a kid, and he does wallow in self-pity, but not for long. Brian isn't a typical soft city kid. Somehow he's able to put together bits and pieces of things he's learned in school, and he's able to carve out a place for himself on the shore of a remote lake. He takes pride in each accomplishment, as well he should. But the longer he lived in his lakeside home, the more nervous I got. Summers don't last all that long in Canada.

This was a captivating read, and I can understand why it was a Newbery Honor Book in 1988. Paulsen had me on the shore of that lake right at Brian's side. I was slapping mosquitoes and taking pride in Brian's level-headedness and ability to survive. If you're looking for a quick read that's well-written and puts you right in the middle of the action, Hatchet is an excellent choice.

Gary Paulsen's life is as interesting as the books he's written. In reading about the author, I learned that there are a whole series of books about Brian. I wouldn't be at all surprised if you see reviews for more of Paulsen's work here at Kittling: Books!


  1. I have never been disappointed by a Newbery book, unlike other awards. Thanks for the review!

  2. I loved Hatchet, too. My son and his friends loved it too when they read it at age 11-12. So that's something else I love about Paulsen's style. It's accessible to kids who like action, just as much as it is to adults who like to be living a character's life with him.

  3. Rhapsody--You're right. I don't think I have been either. Wonder how they can get it right and all the others can't??

    Susan--You're right, the wide age range that find his books appealing is something special.


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