Plot Summary: Hatchet is a Newbery Award-winning survival novel by Gary Paulsen. The book tells 13-year old Brian’s story of survival in the Canadian woods after the pilot of the plane he’s in has a heart attack and dies at the controls; Brian alone must figure out how to get the plane down and how to survive until help comes – if it comes.
He spends the summer learning how to survive and adapting to his new environment, starting out with only the hatchet his mother gave him when he left. He learns how to identify edible plants, how to hunt and trap animals, and how to cook them; he can make simple tools and fashion a shelter for himself. When he finds hiself with time to think he is consumed with thoughts of his parent’s divorce and his mother’s role in it. Hatchet is the first in Brian’s Saga, a series of books about Brian Robeson written by Gary Paulsen. The book was made into a movie, A Cry in the Wild, in 1990 and is available on DVD.
Critical Evaluation: Brian’s story of survival, and the subplot of his parent’s divorce – in the background, but always there – make this a very readable book for boys and girls alike. While the main character is a boy, the struggle to survive and the feelings he finds himself confronted with, told with urgency, make this a page-turner that communicates emotions all tweens and teens can relate to.
Reviews: School Library Journal: “Paulsen emphasizes character growth through a careful balancing of specific details of survival with the protagonist’s thoughts and emotions.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review): “This is a spellbinding account…a winner.”
Awards: Newbery Honor (1987); American Library Association (ALA) Notable Book (1987); Booklist Editor’s Choice (1988).
Reader’s Annotation: Brian Robeson’s plane has gone down in the Canadian wilderness. Now, he has to figure out how to survive with just a hatchet.
Author Information: Gary Paulsen is a three-time Newbery award-winning novelist. His Random House site has information about his other books, with excerpts and teachers’ guides. There are a wealth of discussion materials for the book available online. Scholastic offers a free lesson plan and unit plan on teaching imagery with Gary Paulsen; Literature Index offers free PowerPoint presentation, clip art, and templates; and BookRags offers a study guide.
Genre: Action/adventure. Subgenres: Award-winners, survival, famlies.
Booktalking Ideas: When the pilot of Brian Robeson’s plane has a heart attack and dies, Brian manages to crash land the plane and learn how to survive only by his intelligence and remembering shows he’s watched on television. Do you think that having Internet access would give you the same chance that Brian had? Do you watch any shows or read any websites that contain survival information? Would you lose hope if you thought that no one knew where you were, or would you keep hoping for rescue?
Reading Level/Interest Age: 12+
Challenge Issues/Defense: Some may object to Brian’s killing animals and fishing to survive. Defense: This is a book about survival in the wilderness.
Why did you include this book in the titles you selected?
It is a highly recommended book and I was interested in the survival aspect.