Gary Paulsen
1987 Aladdin / Simon & Schuster

“He would not forget his first hit. Not ever. A round-shaped fish, with golden sides, sides as gold as the sun, stopped in front of the arrow and he aimed just beneath it, at the bottom edge of the fish, and released the arrow and there was a bright flurry, a splash of gold on the water. He grabbed the arrow and raised it up and the fish was on the end, wiggling against the blue sky.”

Hatchet has won dozens of awards and appears on many summer reading lists, for good reason. Eloquent, suspenseful prose, plus accurate natural detail, make this a fun, intelligent read.

Raised in the city, and stranded without food, tools, or supplies, Brian calls upon his limited knowledge of physics and biology to carve out an existence for himself in the Canadian woods. Through trial and error, he learns to create shelter, catch rabbits and fish, and defend himself.

Paulsen does not romanticize the difficulties Brian faces. Readers witness his gut-wrenching sickness from eating too many berries, and his shock when he realizes he has never before heard total silence: “The noise of his voice had startled everything and it was quiet. He looked around, listened with his mouth open . . . it lasted only a few seconds, but it was so intense that it seemed to become part of him.” Brian’s failures and triumphs are presented as equal parts of one life-altering experience.

In the two months he spends in the wild, Brian undergoes countless mental and physical changes. Paulsen keeps the reader at Brian’s side as he discovers how strong he has always been.

Hatchet will keep readers enthralled to the last page. Fans may also enjoy Paulsen’s The Island, as well as the companion volumes to Hatchet (Brian’s Winter, Brian’s Return, The River) – all are about people who learn to love the world around them, even when doing so is difficult. Reading these books can only build a massive affection for nature. As twelve-year-old Megan says, “Hatchet made me have to go outside and really look at the trees.”