Gary Paulsen's Hatchet, a Newbery Honor book that sparked a whole series of follow-up novels, has been fascinating even the most reluctant readers for 20 years. The story of a boy stranded alone and unprepared in the Canadian wilderness has perennial appeal, especially when the unrelenting drama and spare, muscular prose is rooted in the author's personal experiences. Brian, the 13-year-old protagonist, struggles with challenge after challenge—internal and external—and gradually accumulates the skill, fortitude and self-reliance to keep himself going.
In celebration of two decades of continuing popularity, a new hardcover anniversary edition of Hatchet adds three things: an introduction and ongoing commentary by Paulsen, plus gorgeous line drawings by artist Drew Willis. The handwritten notes and pen-and-ink sketches are scattered throughout the text like sepia-toned pages ripped from a weathered field journal, giving the book an intimate, journal-like quality, as if Paulsen himself is guiding us through Brian's adventures. Hatchet is all adventure, and which kind is the most horrifying is difficult to say: a dead pilot, a crash-landing, a tornado, wild animals, starvation or the prospect of parents headed for divorce. For young readers dealing with a world composed of shades of gray, Hatchet presents a welcome, vicarious scenario of black and white, perish or survive. This handsome gift edition is a real treat. Copyright 2007 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2008 Spring
This handsome large-format twentieth-anniversary edition features a new introduction and conversational sidebars written by Paulsen that personalize some of the novel's material. Naturalistic sepia-tone drawings are lovely but would be better suited to illustrate a nature journal than a survival story. Readers may be put off by the book's large size, but teachers will especially appreciate the additional content. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Guide Reviews.