Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Survival, Teenage Boys, Canada, Wilderness, Solitude, Self-Sufficiency
Thirteen-year-old Brian is on board a tiny aluminum Cessna on the way to spend the summer with his father when the pilot, the only other passenger, has a heart attack, leaving Brian in charge of landing the plane with no idea how to fly and no idea where he is. Hatchet tells the story of Brian’s struggle to make a shelter, find food, build a fire, and expertly outlines the change from pudgy city boy to a hungry and observant survivor. I remember that most of my fourth grade class hated this book so I fear some of my respect for it comes from an older person’s admiration of Paulsen’s skill, but it is a well-crafted and detailed account of Brian’s thoughts and actions that let the reader understand him without being bored. It is highly suspenseful and really makes you think about how easy it is to be unobservant in a world where things are so easy to find.
Later books: The River, Brian’s Winter, Brian’s Return, Brian’s Hunt