Hatchet 20th Anniversery Addition


I loved this book when I read it as an adolescent, and after reading it again as an adult, I fell in love again. As a child, I loved the story, the suspense and the struggle to survive, but as an adult, I noticed elements like Paulsen’s voice and literary techniques such as repetition and the rich lesson it provides on the human condition in terms of its environment. I also admire the way the book navigates through the main character, Brian’s, mind. He becomes a different person because his environment demands it. One of my favorite moments in the book, especially as a life-skills teaching tool, is when Brain observes, “the second most important thing about nature, what drives nature. Food was first, but the work for the food went on and on. Nothing in nature was lazy.”

The version of Hatchet that I have attached is especially prolific because there are notes from the author spread throughout the book. Paulsen often chooses a theme or an action that Brain preforms in given chapters and writes a personal connection, or non-fiction information as compliments. For example, he gives information about how to detect and respond to a heart attack,  how to rid yourself of skunk odor, facts about bears, shares his experience with making a mistake and learning from it in chapter 14 when Brian realizes how crucial they are. Students will thoroughly enjoy this novel and it ignites rich discussion and debate.


2 thoughts on “Hatchet 20th Anniversery Addition

  1. Thanks for your post, CP.

    It sounds like the 20th Anniversary Edition offers many insights and poses solutions to the predicaments Brian faces. This edition would be great for students who are interested in learning more about the problems in Hatchet. I mean, it doesn’t get much better than having built-in supplemental readings!

    Another advantage that this text offers is an abundance of action and adventure. One thing I’ve noticed while working in New York City classrooms is that adventure books really appeal to those otherwise difficult-to-reach hyper-masculine students. Girls, I think, can be much more open about class readings. In other words, our female students are not ashamed to read books like Hatchet or Monster.

    However, just last week when I asked a young male student whether he liked The House on Mango Street, he said something along the lines of: “Nah, not really. I like adventure books like Monster.” He didn’t seem to have given The House on Mango Street much of a chance, but maybe that’s my point. Students like this one might not be embarrassed or bored by books like Hatchet; they might give it a chance. And while I don’t want to give any one student special attention or preferential treatment, I do want students like this one to take some interest in class texts or at the very least, learn that there are other books like Monster available to him. I also don’t mean to suggest that we should tailor the majority of our units to those hyper-masculine types, but as a female teacher, I’ve learned that I need to keep my own interests and sensibilities in check.

    Posted by SD

  2. I too enjoyed Hatchet and heard Paulsen’s voice throughout the book. There is one particular section though in which I had a strong negative reaction to his views and that is when Paulsen writes on page 45 with regard to Brian, “…he learned the most important rule of survival, which was that feeling sorry for yourself didn’t work. It wasn’t just that it was wrong to do, or that it was considered incorrect. It was more than that–it didn’t work.” I disagree with feelings being characterized as wrong, especially in a book aimed at teens who are experiencing so many new emotions, many of which they don’t yet know how to handle or express. It’s normal for everyone to feel sorry for themselves at one point or another. It’s not about whether it works or doesn’t work. It’s simply a human emotion that anyone may feel at times and it has to be allowed to occur in order for it to be processed and released the way Brian does when he cries. While I agree that it’s unproductive to wallow in self-pity for any length of time, to characterize it as wrong in a book for young adults is an irresponsible message to send.
    – YMK

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