I first read Gary Paulsen’s survival novel Hatchet back in fifth grade, I think, when we were starting out our real chapter book reading and discovering who we were ourselves. In the short novel, Brian became relateable for us young readers, and Paulsen succeeded in keeping our attention.
Paulsen’s book focuses around Brian, a young man who is flying to visit his father in Canada when the pilot has a heart attack and the plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness. Thus, Brian, a city boy, must figure out how to survive on his own with very little knowledge and a hatchet as his only tool.
I’ve always loved this book. I don’t know if it’s because it’s a survival story, and I read it for the first time when I was at an age where I wished I was older and could experience something like that, or if it was just because I enjoyed the adventure of it all.
Paulsen is a brilliant writer who looks at real-world scenarios and turns them into fiction for the masses. He knows how to relate to kids and bring about his own history within the text.
However, my only complaint about this, which is similar to anyone else’s, is it wasn’t long enough. There was plenty of action, but it felt like Brian got off a little easy when he managed to get home so quickly, and before the real trouble began.
But, I’m glad Paulsen continued the story. A young man who goes into the wilderness is changed, and by bringing that character back and continuing his story with four other books was the perfect way to show just how much Brian has grown.
This is definitely a book for all ages. It may be written for the younger demographic, but the adventure, the sorrow and the beauty of nature are all things anyone can experience or wish to experience. Paulsen’s novels need to be read, and they can be in a short amount of time. They’re worth devouring.
For other novels written by Paulsen, including The Rifle, the entirety of Brian’s Saga, Dogsong and more, visit Barnes and Noble online or in stores, or other sites such as Amazon.com.