Hatchet (novel)

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Hatchet (Paulsen novel - cover art).jpg
20th anniversary edition cover
AuthorGary Paulsen
Original titleHatchet
IllustratorDrew Willis
CountryUnited States
SeriesBrian's Saga
GenreYoung adult novel
Publication date
1 Nov 1986[1]
Media typeHardcover and Paperback and Ebook
Pages195 p. (first edition, hardback)
186 p. (second edition, paperback)
ISBN0-02-770130-1 (first edition, hardback)
[Fic] 19
LC ClassPZ7.P2843 June 1987
Followed byThe River 

Hatchet is a 1986 Newbery Honor-winning young-adult wilderness survival novel written by American writer Gary Paulsen.[2] It is the first novel of five in the Hatchet series. Other novels in the series include The River (1991), Brian's Winter (1996), Brian's Return (1999) and Brian's Hunt (2003).[3]


Brian Robeson is the thirteen-year-old son of divorced parents. As he travels from Hampton on a single-engine Cessna bush plane to visit his father in the oil fields of Northern Canada for the summer, the pilot suddenly suffers a massive heart attack and dies. Brian tries to land the plane, but ends up crash-landing into a lake, in the middle of a vast forest.

Throughout the summer, Brian learns how to survive on his own in the vast wilderness, with nothing but his windbreaker and a hatchet—a gift his mother gave him shortly before his plane departed[4]. He discovers how to make fire with the hatchet, and eats whatever food he can find, from rabbits and ruffed grouse – which he nicknames “foolbirds” – to turtle eggs, fish and berries. Simultaneously, he deals with many of Nature's dangers, including mosquitoes, a porcupine, two huge bears – one of which is a mother with her cubs –, a pack of three wolves, a skunk, a bad-tempered female moose, and even a tornado.

Over time, Brian develops his survival skills and becomes a fine woodsman. He crafts a bow, some arrows, and a fishing spear to aid in his hunting. He also fashions a shelter out of the underside of a rock overhang. During his time alone, Brian struggles with memories of home as well as the bittersweet memory of his mother, whom Brian had caught cheating on his father before their divorce.

When a sudden tornado hits the area, it draws the tail of the plane toward the shore of the lake. This triggers Brian's thoughts that there may be a survival pack of some sort on the plane. He makes a raft from a few broken-off treetops to get to the plane. When he cuts his way into the tail, he drops his hatchet in the lake and dives in to get it. Once inside the plane, Brian finds a survival pack that includes additional food, an emergency transmitter, and a .22 AR-7 rifle.

Back on shore, Brian activates the transmitter, but not knowing how to use it, he thinks it is broken and throws it aside. However, his distress call is heard by a passing airplane, and he is rescued. In the end, Brian spends the remainder of the summer with his father but does not disclose his mother's affair.[4]

Sequel novels[edit]

Paulsen continued the story of Brian Robeson with four more novels, beginning with The River in 1991.

Film adaptation[edit]

A film adaptation titled A Cry in the Wild was released in 1990.[5]


Hatchet was a recipient of the 1988 Newbery Honor.[6] In 2012 it was ranked number 23 on a list of the top 100 children's novels published by School Library Journal.[7]


Paulsen, Gary (1999). Hatchet. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781416936473.


  • Salvner, Gary M. (2001). "Lessons and Lives: Why Young Adult Literature Matters". The ALAN Review. 28 (3): 9. doi:10.21061/alan.v28i3.a.2.
  • Sturm, Brian W. (Winter 2009). "The Structure of Power in Young Adult Problem Novels". Young Adult Library Services. 7 (2): 39–47.
  • Unwin, Cynthia G.; Palmer, Brian (1999). "Survival as a Bridge to Resistant Readers: Applications of Gary Paulsen's Hatchet to an Integrated Curriculum". The ALAN Review. 26 (3): 9–12. doi:10.21061/alan.v27i1.a.3.


  1. ^ Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
  2. ^ Greasley, Philip A. (30 May 2001). Dictionary of Midwestern Literature, Volume 1: The Authors. Indiana University Press. p. 403. ISBN 0-253-10841-1.
  3. ^ "Brian's Saga Series in Order - Gary Paulsen - FictionDB". www.fictiondb.com. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  4. ^ a b Paulsen, Gary (1999). Hatchet. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4169-3647-3.
  5. ^ Wilson, Staci Layne (2007). Animal Movies Guide. Running Free Press. p. 282. ISBN 9780967518534.
  6. ^ "Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922-Present". Association for Library Service to Children. The American Library Association. Retrieved May 4, 2015.
  7. ^ Bird, Elizabeth (July 7, 2012). "Top 100 Chapter Book Poll Results". A Fuse #8 Production. Blog. School Library Journal (blog.schoollibraryjournal.com).

External links[edit]

Preceded by Winner of the
William Allen White Children's Book Award

Succeeded by