Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

genre: middle grade

When thirteen-year-old Brian gets on a small plane to go spend the summer with his father in Northern Canada, he has no idea that his life is about to abruptly change.  That small plane crashes.  Brian is left alone.  Truly, utterly alone, with only his hatchet to help survive in the wilderness.  This book is the story of Brian's journey from a city boy into a rugged survivor as he faces challenges and purposely decides to overcome.

I read this one outloud to my two sons, ages 8 and 11.  They devoured it.  Completely.  They loved the adventure and the small victories.  The first time Brian managed to make a fire, they cheered.  It really is an engaging and believable look at what might happen.  I particularly liked when Brian recognizes how much he has changed - how this being alone and his new-found abilities and capacity to DO has turned him into a different person.  It's not as detailed in the survivial-skills descriptions as other books in the genre for this age group (I'm thinking My Side of the Mountains) but definitely enough to get my boys pumped.  My 11 year old is convinced HE could build a bow and arrow out of sticks and a shoelace too :)

A couple things that irked me:  in the beginning, the first thing we find out is that Brian's mother had an affair and that Brian saw her and the cheating man in a car together by accident.  He calls it "The Secret."  I wanted to read my boys a book about survival, not about adultery.  I sort of skimmed over it the best I could but I really wish there had been some other kind of secret that was bothering him in the plane before it crashed.

Also, it's repetitive, in the sense that words or phrases are said over and over in a row.  And it happens often.  The author uses it as a literary device a la Martin Luther King Jr., and I get it, that it makes ideas more powerful, but sometimes it got really annoying and I would skim over that too while reading aloud.

Those two things aside, this was a great time with my boys.  I feel like it took them on a journey and I could see them imagining themselves in his position.  By the time I was at the last few chapters, they were actually screaming for more and we had to just finish to keep the peace.  Glad I picked it.

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