Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen
For twenty years, teachers and librarians have recommended Hatchet to eight to twelve-year-olds, so most kids will get the opportunity to read this book at some point. Kids like the adventure in this story and adults like the message that self-pity hinders survival.
The sole passenger in a single engine plane flying over northern Canada, thirteen-year-old Brian must execute a crash landing into a lake after the pilot dies of a heart attack. He survives but has only the hatchet his mother gave him right before she sent him on this trip to visit his father.
Though the idea of finding oneself all alone in a deep northern wilderness with nothing but a hatchet is terrifying, it is also hynotically appealing. What would you do to survive? How would you make use of the natural resources to eat and to protect yourself? Brian contends with what he can control – his intelligence and his will to live – and with what he cannot – the weather, fellow critters, and the elusiveness of food. He makes dreadful mistakes and he toughens up. His experience in the wilderness is almost unbearably difficult but his accomplishments are deeply satisfying.
This is a story where the reader can effortlessly tag along with the protagonist. There is some frightening imagery but this is not a horror story. It is more of an encouraging story of the strength of the human spirit. If you know a child who has not read this book yet and likes realistic adventure, give him this book. Or read it together; it is an enjoyable read for any age.