Hatchet: A Survival Story You Won’t Soon Forget

What Would You Do If a Hatchet Was Your Only Survival Tool?

Could you be as creative in the wild as 13-year-old Brian Robeson?
“Hatchet” by Gary Paulson is the survival story of 13-year-old Brian Robeson.

Hatchet is a remarkable survival story. When thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson boards a single-engine bush plane to visit his father in the north woods of Canada, he certainly wasn’t thinking about survival. Brian was angry and grappling with a horrible secret. Should he tell his dad what he saw? He certainly wasn’t thinking about the gift his mother gave him before he left…a simple hatchet.

Most teenagers are ill-equipped to survive alone in a city, much less in the wilderness of Canada. When the pilot suffers a catastrophic heart attack, the only thing Brian has left to protect him in the skies over Canada is a short stint when the pilot allowed him to try out the controls earlier in the flight.

A Son’s Survival

I am the mother of two sons and this book pulled me back to the days when we were trying to prepare them for anything the world handed them. The thought of them being stranded in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but a hatchet and a vivid imagination is terrifying but totally believable. I loved how Brian made up names for the critters he couldn’t identify and taught himself through trial and error how to build a shelter, create a fire, and scavage for food. You will quickly learn what’s important in life as you read one page after another.

I highly recommend Hatchet for parents and teens. It’s not only a great story, but it also provides the beginning of the discussions on “What would you do?” that should take place daily in the homes of teens. This is truly one of the best books I’ve read in the past few years and is a Newberry Honor Book that should be on your bookshelves for years to come. Your survival may one day depend on it.

Description of Hatchet by Gary Paulson

No food...no shelter...and only a hatchet to survive.
If you only have one hatchet to protect yourself, it wouldn’t make sense to throw it at an intimidating bear or wolf.

This award-winning contemporary classic is the survival story with which all others are compared—and a page-turning, heart-stopping adventure, recipient of the Newbery Honor. Hatchet has also been nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read.

Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson, haunted by his secret knowledge of his mother’s infidelity, is traveling by single-engine plane to visit his father for the first time since the divorce. When the plane crashes, killing the pilot, the sole survivor is Brian. Alone in the Canadian wilderness, he has nothing but his clothing, a tattered windbreaker, and the hatchet his mother had given him as a present.

At first, consumed by despair and self-pity, Brian slowly learns survival skills—how to make a shelter for himself, how to hunt and fish and forage for food, how to make a fire—and even finds the courage to start over from scratch when a tornado ravages his campsite. After Brian’s rescue fifty-four days after the crash, he emerges from his ordeal with new patience and maturity. A maturity that now includes a greater understanding of himself and his parents.

About the Author of Hatchet

Gary Paulsen, Author of Hatchet
Gary Paulsen created a stunning survival story in “Hatchet”

Seventy-four-year-old author Gary Paulsen was born in Minneapolis, the city where I raised my sons. Like me, he was an avid reader of books from a very young age. Also, like me, his childhood wasn’t perfect. He lived with his grandmother for a time. Next, he went to live with his mother, who took him to the Philippines to live with his father. Things were far less than perfect. Also, Paulsen couldn’t stand all the conflict. So, he ran away from home at the age of 14 to work on a sugar beet farm. From there, he moved on to work in a carnival.

Gary Paulsen is the distinguished author of many critically acclaimed books for young people, including three Newbery Honor books: The Winter Room, Hatchet, and Dogsong. He won the Margaret A. Edwards Award given by the American Library Association for his lifetime achievement in young adult literature. Among his Random House books are Road Trip (written with his son, Jim Paulsen); Family TiesVoteCrushFlat BrokeLiar, LiarPaintings from the CaveWoods RunnerMasters of DisasterLawn BoyNotes from the DogThe Amazing Life of BirdsMolly McGinty Has a Really Good DayHow Angel Peterson Got His Name; Guts; and five books about Francis Tucket’s adventures in the Old West. Gary Paulsen has also published fiction and nonfiction for adults. He divides his time between his home in Alaska, his ranch in New Mexico, and his sailboat on the Pacific Ocean.

Paulsen lives in New Mexico with his wife, artist Ruth Wright Paulsen, who has illustrated several of his books.

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