31 December 2009


Before thirteen year old Brian Robeson embarks on a plane trip across the rugged wilds of North Canada to spend the summer with his father, his mother gives him a hatchet as a parting gift. Brian thinks little of it when he hastily clips the hatchet onto his belt, but a few hours later, after his pilot dies and the plane crashes hundreds of miles off course, the hatchet is the only possession that Brian has. Brian quickly learns that the only way he'll stay alive in the rugged wilderness is to learn to use his hatchet...and his wits.

My dear friend Bev loves Gary Paulsen novels and she recommended Hatchet to me. (Thanks again, Bev!) As I have mentioned on here before, I adore a good survival story, and the Newberry Prize-winning Hatchet is no exception. A good survival novel has to have an appropriate level of suspense and action, and Hatchet certainly delivers on that count. Between the terrifying plane crash, Brian's pitiful early attempts to stay alive, and his unnerving encounter with an angry moose, I couldn't put this book down. Author Paulsen is an avid outdoorsman (He's even competed several times in Alaska's grueling Iditarod dog race); consequently, he infuses much of his knowledge of the wilderness into this book, adding an authentic feel that many other survival novels lack. I also enjoyed Paulsen's prose. He writes with a blunt, pared-down style, and his prose has a naturalistic, conversational tone which, oddly enough, reminded me some of The Catcher in the Rye. (That's a weird comparison, but it kept coming back to me as I read.) Paulsen also effectively uses repetition in his narration, giving the text an almost lyrical narrative poetry sound.

The biggest strength of this novel, though, is Brian. He is so easy to sympathize with. Of course, it's hard not to be sympathetic to his plight, but he is also a genuinely likable character. He lacks the angsty, whiny attitude that so many teenaged protagonists have (and which I find to be a distasteful turnoff.) Brian is also a realistic teenaged character who is easy to relate to. He's levelheaded and intelligent, but he's also no superhuman: he's vulnerable; he makes mistakes. His ordinary qualities make him all the more appealing.

Hatchet is a young adult novel which will delight readers of all ages. This novel is well-written, engaging, and exciting - the perfect antidote to a dreary winter day. Erm, dare I say this without being too corny? You'll enjoy getting lost with Hatchet.


Next Time: For my first article of 2010, I will finally post my long-promised article on online book resources. I promised waaaaay back in September to add links to my blog. (You thought I forgot. Admit it.)) This article will serve as a tour guide, if you will, of my additions. I'll include some of my favorite internet sources for books and book recommendations (you guys have to promise you won't desert me for polished reviewers who do not ramble incessantly!), genre-specific websites, and online recommendations lists. If, and this if is highly contingent on my notoriously inept techno abilities, I can get them to load, I will also have links to prominent annual book awards and the New York Times' bestseller lists.


  1. Oh I used to be in a book club where one of my friends RAVED about this book! He raved so much, none of my friends or I ever read it. I'm not a huge fan of survival novels, but I might just read this.
    Oh! There was one survival novel that I liked, though, and you might enjoy it too--Last of the Breed, about a USAF American-Indian Pilot who is captured by the Soviets during the Cold War and has to escape to Siberia and from there to Alaska. It's a great tale by a master storyteller--Louis L'Amour, who I'm sure you've heard of--and the main character is, if sometimes a bit unbelievably skilled, always interesting. ;)
    I'd recommend it. Happy New Year's Eve!


  2. I once tutored a kid who read this book, I actually own the sequel, The River. I need to remember to get the original first, nice review!

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  4. Scott, Hehe Your friend sounds like me. I am always driving people crazy when I start babbling about books. :D Thanks for the recommendation! I have been meaning to read some L'Amour. Now I have a book to start wth.

    Jourdie, Thanks! Is the sequel good? I am a bit curious about those, as well. I may have to read them. :)

    Happy New Year's! :)

  5. I loved Hatchet! Its sequel, The River, is good and so is its alternate ending, Brian's Winter. I have a copy of the book (it was a library book, but I lost it, or so I thought, and I paid for it. But I found it UNDER MY SISTER'S BED! Now I know my sister hates reading, so why on earth was it there? I haven't the slightest clue.)
    May I recommend Story Time by Edward Bloor? I loved it. It's fantasy, but it's not completely in another world. It's about an evil magnet school with a demon in it. It's more exciting than it sounds, really. And I would also recommend Tangerine by the same author.

  6. Sana, I am glad to hear the other Hatchet books are good! I will have to give them a read. :)

    Thanks for the recommendations! They will be duly noted on my list. Story Time's plot has me intrigued.

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting! :)

  7. Yes I like a good survival story. I've always shied away from Paulsen for my own reasons. Not whiny and angsty enough? Lol. Anyway, I'd consider reading this one. My family likes My Side of the Mountain -- another book I haven't read. I think you're a good reviewer Zella bc you make me want to read your picks!

  8. Eric, Thank you so much! I am glad you enjoy the reviews. :) This is a good book - I was impressed with it because it didn't strive to be outlandish. Why have you avoided Paulsen? :)