Hatchet is a book about a Brian Robeson, a thirteen year old boy who crashes in the middle of the Canadian wilderness and must learn to survive for almost two months by himself. He has only a hatchet and a windbreaker and some vague knowledge of survival stories.
I read this book because my fifth grade students are reading it in their English class. Honestly, I think the reading level is above fifth grade. The vocabulary is sometimes very specific, and while I like books that challenge students, there is almost no explanation of the vocabulary and fifth graders don’t quite have the skills to look up the words for the amount of new vocabulary there is in this book.
It is an okay read, fairly fast paced, but typical as far as survival stories go. It seemed pretty realistic, even at times to the point that I was slightly amazed that this kid didn’t know how to do certain things, like how to make sparks to start a fire. I didn’t really like Paulsen’s style of writing though. It could be because he was trying to make things abrupt, like the situation in the book, but it felt choppy and amateur. There were also many punctuation mistakes and misspellings (although that could have just been this printing of the book).
I like the ideas that this book introduces, and I like the informational quality to it, but overall I thought the story was incredibly underdeveloped. In the beginning of the book, Brian is completely preoccupied with his parent’s divorce and the “Secret” that he knows about his mother and the other man, but there is no follow through with this storyline, and absolutely no character development for Brian. I wouldn’t recommend this book, even though it won a Newberry Honor. There are so many things that could have been done better in the plot development to make it a story, not just an informative anecdote.
I did really enjoy reading about the wildlife in the book though, especially since it takes place in the same type of wilderness where I just spent the last week. There is even a section where Brian hunts some birds, which I instantly recognized as grouse, and I just went grouse hunting for the first time last week. So, if you enjoy reading survival stories and learning a little bit about plants and animals in the Canadian wilderness, by all means read this book. But if you want something that involves survival and better storytelling, I would advise against it.