Author: Gary Paulsen
Age Range: Late middle grade/teen
Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson, haunted by his secret knowledge of his mother’s infidelity, is traveling by single-engine plane to visit his father for the first time since the divorce. When the plane crashes, killing the pilot, the sole survivor is Brian. He is alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but his clothing, a tattered windbreaker, and the hatchet his mother had given him as a present.
At first consumed by despair and self-pity, Brian slowly learns survival skills—how to make a shelter for himself, how to hunt and fish and forage for food, how to make a fire—and even finds the courage to start over from scratch when a tornado ravages his campsite. When Brian is finally rescued after fifty-four days in the wild, he emerges from his ordeal with new patience and maturity, and a greater understanding of himself and his parents.
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First published in 1986, this book is still a best-seller for a reason--it's riveting. I still remember picking up the audio version from the library and listening to it with my boys (now ages 9 and 12). They hung on the author's every word. How could they not? It was their little boy fantasy of having an adventure in the woods. With a hatchet.
It's a story that captures the fear of living out in the wild alone, but along the way we see Brian's growth. That is the part I loved the most. As readers we got to see what he did and how he thought through things. We also thought about what we would do in that situation as well. I highly recommend this book, especially for young boys. But don't be surprised if they ask you to buy them a hatchet after they're done reading!