On the Cover: Brian is on his way to Canada to visit his estranged father when the pilot of his small prop plane suffers a heart attack. Brian is forced to crash-land the plane in a lake–and finds himself stranded in the remote Canadian wilderness with only his clothing and the hatchet his mother gave him as a present before his departure.
Brian had been distraught over his parents’ impending divorce and the secret he carries about his mother, but now he is truly desolate and alone. Exhausted, terrified, and hungry, Brian struggles to find food and make a shelter for himself. He has no special knowledge of the woods, and he must find a new kind of awareness and patience as he meets each day’s challenges. Is the water safe to drink? Are the berries he finds poisonous?
Slowly, Brian learns to turn adversity to his advantage–an invading porcupine unexpectedly shows him how to make fire, a devastating tornado shows him how to retrieve supplies from the submerged airplane. Most of all, Brian leaves behind the self-pity he has felt about his predicament as he summons the courage to stay alive.
A story of survival and of transformation, this riveting book has sparked many a reader’s interest in venturing into the wild.
I read this book probably a dozen times growing up and I will probably read it a dozen more as an adult. There is something really timeless in this book in that it always feels relevant, and will always entertain me no matter how many times I’ve read it.
I picked up this book again because of it’s Canadian setting, but I had forgotten how wonderfully authentic this book is. Anyone who has spent time camping in the Canadian wilderness will recognize these surroundings. Paulsen is amazing at capturing the different aspects of the setting, from the ever-present bugs to the hot days and chilly nights, the sounds and smells of the forest and all of the wildlife. I love every part of the setting in this book, especially how alive it all feels.
My favourite part of this book is the narrating voice – Brian’s voice. Brian is completely by himself in the wilderness. There is an inherent danger to this type of book where the main character can get exceedingly irritating to the reader by whining about their situations or over-narrating in their heads. Yet that doesn’t happen in Hatchet. I loved the different strategies that Paulsen uses to narrate the story, but the best is that Brian stays so task-oriented throughout the book. Brian’s story comes down to one important aspect: survival. As he strives to survive in the wilderness he narrows his tasks down to the most basic needs: Step one, water. Step two, shelter. Step three, food. Reading Brian’s voice as he stays so focused on the tasks at hand made me focus on these tasks too and kept my attention on surviving. As each step prompted Brian to move to the next, so did the narration prompt me through the story. The narration is simple, and focused, and I will forever love the style of this book.
This is one of those books that is entertaining for all ages. It is a thrilling story about survival, overcoming obstacles, and learning from your surroundings. The book has some truly terrifying moments, but it makes all the small victories taste even sweeter. I happily recommend this to any reader thrilled by the idea of being dropped into a Canadian forest with nothing but a hatchet.
Rating: 5 / 5
“He was flying but did not know where, had no idea where he was going. He looked at the dashboard of the plane, studied the dials and hoped to get some help, hoped to find a compass, but it was all so confusing, a jumble of numbers and lights. One lighted display in the top corner of the dashboard said the number 342, another next to it said 22. Down beneath that were dials with lines that seemed to indicate what the winds were doing, tipping or moving, and one dial with a needle pointing to the number 70, which he thought – only thought – might be the altimeter.” p 14
“With his mind opened and thoughts happening it all tried to come in with a rush, all of what had occurred and he could not take it. The whole thing turned into a confused jumble that made no sense. So he fought it down and tried to take one thing at a time. […]
Slow down, he thought. Slow down more.
My name is Brian Robeson and I am thirteen years old and I am alone in the north woods of Canada.
All right, he thought, that’s simple enough.
I was flying to visit my father and the plane crashed and sank in a lake.
There, keep it that way. Short thoughts.
I do not know where I am.” p 43