The Hatchet by Gary Paulson

Hatchet is a 1986 Newbery Honor-winning young-adult wilderness survival novel written by American writer Gary Paulsen.

Brian Robeson is a thirteen-year-old son of divorced parents. As he travels from Hampton, New York on a single-engine Cessna bush plane to visit his father in the oil fields in Northern Canada for the summer, the pilot suffers a massive heart attack and dies.

Brian tries to land the plane but ends up crash-landing into a lake in the forest.

He must learn to survive on his own with nothing but his hatchet—a gift his mother gave him shortly before his plane departed.

… He discovers how to make fire with the hatchet and eats whatever food he can find, such as rabbits, birds, turtle eggs, fish, berries, and fruit. …

Over time, Brian develops his survival skills and becomes a fine woodsman. …

I enjoyed the short book. But it’s far from realistic. The Alone (TV series) documented just how difficult it is to survive on the much easier west coast of Vancouver Island.

The film adaptation is even more over the top.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Many readers asked the author WHAT would have happened to this teenager if he had to try to survive the Canadian winter. Brian was rescued by floatplane in The Hatchet.

So — in 1996 — Paulson published what would have been a sequel IF Brian had not found the emergency beacon.

Brian’s Winter

… still stranded at the L-shaped lake during the fall and winter, constructing a winter shelter, building snow shoes, being confronted by a bear, befriending and naming a skunk and learning how to make a bow more powerful. …

There are more books in this series. I’ll read those as well as I’ve grown to wonder how Brian adapts to civilization.


There are 3 other Brian books. All quite good.

I thought Brian’s Return was quite good. He meets a mysterious Indian mentor in the woods.

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