Booktalk: Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

When I first became a young adult librarian trainee, Gary Paulsen was required reading.  He’s written many realistic fiction books featuring boy protagonists who have to face tough decisions.  I previously shared my booktalk for The Crossing, but Hatchet is far and away his most popular book.  Part of the reason this book is so popular is that teachers love it, so they assign it to their students year after year.  So librarians, in turn, keep ordering more copies because the demand is so high.  Which explains why I wrote this booktalk in the first place.

Years ago, I was asked by a supervisor to join her in booktalking to some children’s classes that were scheduled to visit our library.  I knew how much effort went into creating each booktalk, so I perused the shelves of our children’s room looking for “crossover” books that I recognized from the young adult collection so that I could booktalk those titles to different grade levels.  I was also specifically looking for books that had multiple copies on the shelf, so that *IF* my booktalks were a hit I could satisfy more readers who wanted to check the books out.  The crossover book I found that had the most copies on the shelf was Hatchet, so that was the first booktalk I wrote to deliver to 6th grade classes.

If you or your readers enjoy Hatchet and are looking for more … well, there’s a LOT more.  In addition to the book itself, there’s also a special 20th anniversary edition.  Then there are the sequels to HatchetThe River, Brian’s Winter, Brian’s Return, and Brian’s Hunt.  But if you STILL want more, then you can also read Paulsen’s nonfiction book called Guts: The True Stories Behind Hatchet and the Brian Books.


Brian Robeson is 13 years old, and his life has just started falling apart.  His parents just got a divorce, and he hates it.  Now he has to go back and forth between his mother and his father and lead two separate lives.  That’s why he’s on a tiny plane on his way to Canada, to spend the summer with his father.  Brian is alone with the pilot, with nothing but the secret to keep him company.

Oh, that’s right – I haven’t told you what the secret is.

The secret is the real reason his parents got divorced, and Brian knows it.  The secret eats away at him, making him angry and upset.  He keeps it locked away inside, where it grows and grows.

Well, very soon something happens that makes Brian forget about the secret and everything else.  The pilot starts getting sick.  He starts feeling faint, and having pains in his chest and up his arm.  By the time Brian realizes he’s having a heart attack, it’s too late.  Soon Brian learns that his bad luck is just beginning.  Now he has to try to land the plane himself and then survive until he gets rescued … if he gets rescued.  His only tool for survival is a hatchet his mother gave him as a going-away present.

Find out how Brian survives with no one to help him – but himself.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *