Marvelous Middle Grade Monday – HATCHET and Survival Tales

For this week’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday I’m looking at a classic survival story, HATCHET by Gary Paulsen. This is one I didn’t read as a child. This Newbery Honor book was published in 1987. when I was already an adult and I didn’t read it until well into the 21st Century, when I was practically ANCIENT. That said, for a realistic novel this one is kind of tailor made for me. I love survival stories. I read one in a single sitting at my high school library one day called PILOT DOWN PRESUMED DEAD which I also remember loving. I also have vague memories of doing LOST IN THE BARRENS at school, which, of course, sucked all the enjoyment out of it. But I’m sure that’s a great book too.

Survival stories are definitely appealing to me. What I love about HATCHET is that, being a bit more modern, it doesn’t sugar coat the whole experience. It’s frightening and revolting and the kid very nearly dies, and worse, very nearly loses his will to live. In a way, HATCHET sets the stage for things like THE HUNGER GAMES and THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO in the sense that the idea of a kid out on his or her own in the wilds is given the horrifying treatment it warrants.

HATCHET is a shortish book, just over 46,000 words, and has a reading level of about grade five. It’s a SUPERB book for boys. I have never met a boy reader who didn’t love it , in fact, but might also appeal to a reader who enjoys the historical deprivations and ingenuity of the Little House or Green Gables books. Followed by half a dozen sequels, none of which I’ve read, HATCHET deserved its Newbery honor, and I would recommend it to any young reader aged 8+.

For this week’s I can’t wait to read, I’m going to go with THE FALSE PRINCE by Jennifer A. Nielsen. It’s the first in a new trilogy, which is JUST what I need (not) but what the heck, it sounds cool.

For other Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts check out these blogs:

13 thoughts on “Marvelous Middle Grade Monday – HATCHET and Survival Tales

    1. I know, me too. But that’s why I like this one. Because some kids’ books treat this theme like this would be a bit of a laugh, and the reality is (because it happens all the time) it usually ends in death. So I like how HATCHET is real about that.

  1. Ahaha, Gabrielle. I doubt you’re older than I am. But I read this book back in the early 90s (when I was all grown up) and that does seem like a long time ago. I loved it and quickly devoured all his other Brian books. Probably what appealed to me, besides the tight writing and the fast pace, was living vicariously through Brian and imagining what it would be like to survive alone in the wilderness. Otherwise, I’m a total wimp. I don’t even like camping.

    Interestingly, my older son (the reader) HATED this book! Probably has a lot to do with what you mentioned: the dreaded required school reading.

  2. This sounds good. Will put it on the TBR list. Thanks for pointing it out. I too like survival books. I enjoyed Prue Mason’s Camel Rider for that reason. Look forward to hear what you have to say about The False Prince.

  3. I still recommend the Phleger title, and Blackwood’s Wild Timothy is very similar. I have a two page list of outdoor survival books, because a couple of boys every year want to read nothing else. I do think that Hatchet has been overdone in schools.

  4. I am now writing an unnecessary, very obnoxious comment: did you mean Little House on the Prarie? Because Green Gables isn’t much of a survival book. But maybe the combination of the two is a survival story about an imaginative redhead being chased by an evil witch named, wait for it, Marilla. Gasp!

    1. Not obnoxious at all. There was a typo. I meant Little House OR Green Gables books, and neither is a survival story, but both reflect the ingenuity and deprivation inherent in their time period. Things are hand made and simple, home cooked etc.

      I loved those books as a kid because I loved hearing about making bread and maple syrup from scratch and playing imagination games without TV and video games.

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