Module 4: Hatchet

29 06 2010

Book Cover

Summary: Fourteen-year-old Brian is going to visit his father for the first time since his parents divorce. But when his plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness Brian is left with the clothes on his back and a hatchet, a last minute present from his mother, attached to his belt. Brian must learn how to survive, make his own shelter, find his own food, while hoping for rescue.

Citation: Paulsen, Gary. (1987) Hatchet. New York: Simon Pulse.

My Impressions: Although I don’t read many survival stories, and when I do I prefer true stories, I enjoyed this book. Brian is a smart, resourceful boy and manages to survive 54 days by his own wits. I particularly like that Brian does not find the survival pack until the day he is found. Before that he had been forced to stop thinking like a city kid, to change the way he views world around him. Had he had the survival pack from the beginning he would have never learned how create fire using only a stone and his hatchet, he would have never had to create a fish trap, a bow and arrow, or a spear, and he would have never had to capture his own food. The reader can see Brian grow as a person, so that by the end of the book the boy consumed with the Secret and his parent’s divorce is much more mature and thoughtful. Anyone who enjoys a good adventure story can enjoy this book.


“Readers may wince as Paulsen’s drama unfolds: as night blends into gray false dawn, the grip of the pacing never falters. Brian learns that while smiling at the humor of a funny mistake, he could find himself looking at death; learns that the driving influence in nature is to eat; learns to be full of tough hope. After a tornado ravages his campsite—destroying every fragment of his microcosm of civilization—he’s back to square one, with nothing left but the hatchet and what he learned about himself. Classic action-adventure fiction.” –Phyllis Wilson, Booklist Online Review excerpt

Library Use Suggestion: Brian is left in the wilderness with only the clothes on his back and a hatchet. Children could imagine an climate or ecosystem in which they were stranded and come up with their own survival kit.