cover image for HatchetPaulsen, Gary. (1987) Hatchet.  New York, NY: Simon Pulse.

Plot Summary:

Brian is on his way to visit his father after his parent’s divorce when the pilot if the two seater plane he is taking to get there dies of a heart attack mid-flight.  Brian survives the crash, but the pilot does not, leaving Brian alone to survive in the wilderness, hundreds of miles from civilization.

Critical Evaluation:

Hatchet’s widespread appeal comes from the believability of Brian Robeson’s situation, and how he reacts to it.  Despite being unlikely, none of the events in the book is outside the realm of possibility.  When events first begin to unfold, Brian panics, as any thirteen year old would.  He continues to make mistakes throughout his ordeal, but he also learns from them and always gets back up – eventually, anyway – once he’s been knocked down.  Watching Brian constantly learning and problem solving keeps reader’s guessing “what if?” long past the initial hook of the story.  The credulity of his saga, as well as the betrayal that led to his being on the plane in the first place, bring a emotional immediacy to Hatchet that is missing from mamy other survival scenarios.

Reader’s Annotation:

The sole survivor of a plane crash, Brian must find a way to survive in the wilderness, hundreds of miles from civilization.

Author Information:




Booktalking Ideas:

What would you do if the pilot of your flight had a heart attack at seven thousand feet?  Could you fly the plane if there was no one else there?  Would you live through the inevitable plane crash?  How would you survive if you crashed hundreds of miles from civilization, with nothing but the clothes on your back….and your brand new hatchet?

Reading Level/Target Age:

5th grade/ 10-15

Reasons for Choosing This Title:

This book has been a mainstay when I do reader’s advisory for years, based on reputation and reader reviews.  I figured it was time I actually read it myself.


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