Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Brian's Saga, #1

Source: Purchased rating

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.

“Patience, he thought. So much of this was patience - waiting, and thinking and doing things right. So much of all this, so much of all living was patience and thinking.”

Despite some of the repetition getting annoying from time to time, Hatchet is an engrossing story of survival for a young boy unfortunate enough to endure a plane crash to become stranded in the Canadian wilderness. For the most part the story sticks to realistic stuff, concentrating mainly on hunger and food. So many other survival stories focus on more, but really the basics of food and hunger and survival would be the forefront issue most would encounter if stranded alone. It sets in fast and it's almost constant. Brian shows he has what it takes to survive, but the author doesn't make the child come across as anything super since he shows that nature is uncontrollable and that it's luck of the draw for us all. The author even ends the narrative of the story saying that if Brian had been unlucky enough to be stranded during wintertime in the Canadian wilderness, he very likely wouldn't have survived at all. His dependency on the lake is the only reason he made it past the first few days, and then subsequent months, but a frozen lake would have nixed that.

Although realistic with its focus on hunger and survival, it did have an unlikely tornado that felt contrived. Still the story can be forgiven this, as it focused on things like swarms of mosquitoes, baking sun, a random rude moose and other concerns. Brian didn't venture far from the landing, and I'm not sure I would have either. Some would venture far to try and find salvation themselves but he stuck to one area and stayed close to the shelter and food/water supply that were guaranteed to be sure. A more cautious method that worked. Not sure what I would have done in his circumstances, but I see the point that the chances of shelter like that would have been few and far between.

Written for children, it's more interesting and educational than upsetting. I do wish the author had spent more time granting us a deeper afterword. I realize the point of the story was the struggle, but I like to see more time involved with the after effect. Just a pet peeve of mine. We did get a small one at least. Besides the survival story being the focus, the Secret also weighed heavy in his mind, and ends up being a continuous thing he has to carry. The story ties into the Hatchet being the main tool he used to get started, but I do have to wonder why kind of random present that is that a mother gives a young boy. Either way, came in handy.

Even if the repetition with the writer's style grew too much at times, it was to the point and paced well. I can see why it won so many children's awards, including Newberry Honor.

   Book Quotes:

“He did not know how long it took, but later he looked back on this time of crying in the corner of the dark cave and thought of it as when he learned the most important rule of survival, which was that feeling sorry for yourself didn't work. It wasn't just that it was wrong to do, or that it was considered incorrect. It was more than that--it didn't work.”

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