This is the review I wrote for Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. I figured if I had to write one for the book club, the least I could do is post it here. You're so welcome.
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen is a classic survival story written for children ages 10+. So it's like Castaway, but for kids. Brian Robeson is on a small charter plane to visit his father for the summer when the pilot (and only other person on board the plane) has a heart attack. Brian miraculously survives the plane crash, but he's a city kid lost in the Canadian wilderness with no food, no change of clothes, and no hope... Except he's got this hatchet that his mom bought him as a going away gift for the summer vacation. The book describes Brian's life in the woods and documents the development of his survival skills.
I really enjoyed this book, although I could not stop thinking about the fact that if I were Brian, I would already be dead. I doubt I would've even survived the plane crash, much less several weeks in the woods. Actually, I probably would've had my own heart attack if the pilot of my plane had a heart attack, so I wouldn't have ever had to worry about landing the plane to begin with. There is no way I would be smart enough to start a fire with sparks from slamming metal against a rock. There's no way I'd ever be able to spear a fish, and the first time I tried to de-skin a bird, I'd vomit and swear off food for the rest of my life. Also, if I were lucky enough to find berries, they'd almost certainly be poisonous... They always were when I played Oregon Trail on the computer in elementary school. So, kudos, Brian. Glad you're a kid and smarter than me.
I'm not sure how much I would've enjoyed this as a 10-year-old, nor do I think my kids at school would like it very much. There are some action-packed parts here and there, but for the most part, it's pretty slow. It makes sense for it to be slow, because it's mostly about Brian teaching himself to survive, usually by trial-and-error. This book won the Newberry in 1987 (what a good year that was...), and I can see why it would've been popular for kids then.
I think -- no, I KNOW -- kids don't have the same attention span now as they did 25 years ago. If I asked my kids what they would do if there were stuck in the woods alone, they'd say, "Get out my cell phone and call my mom" or maybe, "I'd update my Facebook status so that everyone would know to look for me." Who the hell needs a hatchet? That being said, I think kids today SHOULD read this. Not only could they use the survival information, but Brian learns to take nothing for granted. I don't know of a kid in my life who couldn't stand to learn that lesson.
Read from February 13, 2012 - February 16, 2012