Hatchet by Gary Paulsen - Review

I first picked up this book as it was recommended on an outdoors website as the reason the writer was interested in small axes. What I hadn't realised at the time was that it was a children's book. Admittedly, this did colour my enjoyment of the book somewhat as it doesn't go into great detail about many things and the main character has a very limited range of emotions. Unlike many children's books he doesn't succeed first time in everything he attempts.

The basic premise is that a young boy is stranded alone after a plane accident and the pilot's death. It's a story of the discoveries and associations the boy makes in order to survive and the skills he develops there.
If I had read this book when I was ten I would have loved it though, as it's a nice story of a young boy who is stranded alone in the Canadian forest with only the coat on his back and a hatchet on his belt. I think that kids would love it for the lack of adult interference (although there is a back story about the hero's parent's divorce) and the fairly graphic and gory descriptions of hunting. The situation he is in isn't a normal one but he comes from a normal background and it's an easy situation to imagine when you're out walking in the woods and can't see any hints of the modern world.

From an adult perspective I have to say the character is a little simplistic and there is a maddening lack of information about some of the things he does. One thing in particular which I did find frustrating is that most of the animals in the story are given nicknames by the boy and none of them are properly named at any point in the book. I have no idea what animal he is talking about at some points. I think a little appendix of the real animals and facts about them would help bring the story and normal natural history together; as a child I loved natural history books and there are many children I know who would love this aspect.

In my opinion, this is a book which is worth a read as an adult but far more valuable to younger readers who already have an interest in bushcraft and survival or who could do with a proper boys' adventure story.


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