Hatchet – Gary Paulsen

HatchetOn 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. 

Published: 1987



The Review:

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.

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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

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“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





Airborn – Kenneth Oppel

airbornOn The Cover: Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on the Aurora, a huge airship that sails hundreds of feet above the ocean, ferrying wealthy passengers from city to city. It is the life Matt’s always wanted; convinced he’s lighter than air, he imagines himself as buoyant as the hydrium gas that powers his ship. One night he meets a dying balloonist who speaks of beautiful creatures drifting through the skies. It is only after Matt meets the balloonist’s granddaughter that he realizes that the man’s ravings may, in fact, have been true, and that the creatures are completely real and utterly mysterious.

In a swashbuckling adventure reminiscent of Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson, Kenneth Oppel, author of the best-selling Silverwing trilogy, creates an imagined world in which the air is populated by transcontinental voyagers, pirates, and beings never before dreamed of by the humans who sail the skies.

Published: 2005

Other Books by this Author:



The Review:

I was super nervous when I picked this book up. Kenneth Oppel’s book Silverwing was one of my all-time favourites growing up – yet I’ve never read any of Oppel’s other works. What if this book doesn’t live up to all of my beloved childhood memories of Oppel’s worlds? (No pressure, Airborn!)

Within the first few pages I was immersed. The same feelings I got from reading Silverwing were weaved throughout Airborn, and I felt practically giddy with happiness the entire time I was reading this book. Oppel has a way of sucking me into his worlds, of completely convincing me of his realities, and the excitement and adventure are so solid that I never have a moment of doubt when reading his books.


Hands down my favourite aspect of this book is being on an airship. The descriptions of the ship flying, sailing, even landing and taking off are majestic. Oppel certainly has an appreciation for the beauty of flight. The descriptions of the airship itself were equally fascinating. Oppel manages to convey a great deal about the ship’s inner workings using very little description, and Matt’s viewpoint was especially well utilized to give the reader an inside view to every working aspect of the airship. I also appreciated that the action itself used every corner of the airship – from the passenger lounges to the outside sails, from the cargo bays to the bridge, the book was inside and out of the airship and I absolutely loved how much the airship was used. It was not just a setting – it was an integral part of the story, intertwined in the narrative itself.

Perhaps the easiest complaint would be to pinpoint the simplicity of the characters. On the surface the characters are young, naïve, and appear as one dimensional – Kate is a rich brat, and Matt has only one desire in life – to fly. But as I progressed through the book I began to appreciate both characters for their subtleties and the nuances of their choices. I do think these characters will appeal to the younger side of YA readers – but the adventure contained in these pages will appeal to readers of any age who only want to soar above the clouds.

Rating: 5 / 5

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“The ornithopter’s drone grew louder. Crouching, I could just see it, behind the Aurora’s tail fins, coming in. It seemed to be hardly moving, wings scarcely beating now, and I thought he would make it first try. But when the ornithopter was only feet away from the docking trapeze, it shuddered and dipped, and I heard shouts of alarm from the passengers as the ornithopter dropped away and banked sharply.” (OverDrive eBook)

“The foliage was so high and thick that I couldn’t see the sky. The humid air pressed against my chest. Great pine-like trees, with slender drooping branches, bristled with spiky flowers. Ferns and fronds and vines and brilliant petals were everywhere. A shrieking parrot flashed by, scarlet and green. Insects chattered in the perfumed heat. I kept looking for the light between trees, the brightness overhead, just wanting to punch through it all. Just wanting a horizon.” (OverDrive eBook)