Tag Archives: survival

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

20 Mar

Hatchet is a story about a boy’s survival in the wilderness. Brian, a thirteen year old boy is flying across the Canadian wilderness when the pilot of the plane has a heart attack. The plane crashes in to a lake and Brian must learn to survive alone in the wilderness. He must learn to make fire, find food and build shelter. Brian survives by crafting a bow and arrow and using various equipment and supplies leftover from the plane wreckage including a hatchet. He experiences many hardships during his time in the wilderness, but also learns to value and appreciate his life back home. During his time in the wilderness Brian experiences flashbacks of his old life and questions whether to tell his father his mother is having an affair.   Brian’s brush with death makes him a stronger, more reflective person. Young readers,boys and girls interested in survival and adventure will enjoy Paulsen’s vivid descriptions and imagery. Paulsen does an excellent job depicting how a thirteen year old boy could survive in the Canadian wilderness and does so in a believable and realistic manner.

Winner of Newbery Award 1987


This book is a classic. I find the scenario utterly amazing because on some level this could have actually happened. This book will appeal to children especially those that like the outdoors and are interested in survival. As much as I like to think of myself as an independent and capable person, this book sure tells me otherwise.  For the more mature, older reader consider suggesting Alive.

Suggested Library Activity:

Have students imagine what it would be like to be lost in the wilderness. What would they do to survive? Expand on this to include different climates. What would students do in the desert? In the rainforest? What kind of shelter would they build? Have them document their imaginary experience in a journal.

Bibliographic Citation:

Paulsen, G. ( 2006). Hatchet (6th ed.). New York: Simon Pulse.

Additional Book Review:

“The plot from the publisher reads, “Brian Robertson, sole passenger on a Cessna 406, is on his way to visit his father when the tiny bush plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness. With nothing but his clothing, a tattered windbreaker, and the hatchet his mother had given him as a present, Brian finds himself completely alone. Challenged by his fear and despair — and plagued with the weight of a dreadful secret he’s been keeping since his parent’s divorce — Brian must tame his inner demons in order to survive. It will take all his know-how and determination, and more courage than he knew he possessed.”

In 100 Best Books for Children Anita Silvey says that, “the book was actually inspired by a visit to the Hershey, Pennsylvania, Middle School in April 1986.  While talking to students about their passions, Paulsen realized that he should write the survival tale that had been brewing in his mind, and he dedicated the book to those children.”  A lot of the trials Brian endures in the course of the novel actually happened to Mr. Paulsen as well.  Everything from the mosquitoes to the fire to the turtle’s eggs (Silvey writes, “Although he was not successful at getting them down, he decided that Brian, being much hungrier, would be able to do so.”)

In an interview with School Library Journal in June of 1997 Paulsen said that when writing this book, “I didn’t think of boys at first. At one point, I actually toyed with the idea of writing Hatchet with a girl protagonist.” Later, when asked which of his books are his favorites he says, “Hatchet is in the sense that it struck some nerve that I still don’t understand, and that has made it one of my favorite books. It was not when I wrote it…”

Top 100 Children’s Novels. (2010, March 11). [Review of the book Hatchet]. School Library Journal Online.


Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

17 Mar

Ryan’s story is full of vivid imagery and painful lessons. It is a story about Esperanza, a privileged girl living in Mexico during the Great Depression. After Esperanza’s father is murdered by bandits, Tio Louis offers to buy her home, but does not offer a fair price. Esperanza’s other refuses to sell and the whole property including the vineyards is set on fire and burns to the ground. Tio Louis then offers his hand in marriage to Esperanza’s mother. Esperanza’s mother and Esperanza prepare to flee Mexico with their servants and head to California to begin a new life. This is where Esperanza’s story really begins. During one episode, Esperanza is taught how to prepare potatoes for planting. Esperanza’s mother becomes ill with valley fever and Esperanza has to survive and work to pay for her mother’s care. During this time Miguel, her friend steals all of her money and vanishes in to thin air. Miguel does eventually resurface retrieving Esperanza’s grandmother from Mexico. This is a deep story about survival, injustice and what it truly means to live.

Winner of the Pura Belpre award

Suggested Library Activity:

Have students research this time period. Have them imagine what it would be like to be children living during this time. Create a news broadcast and interview someone from this time (another student can act a character out). What kinds of questions would they ask someone from this time period?

Bibliographic Citation:

Ryan, Pam Munoz. (2008). Esperanza rising. New York: Scholastic.

Additional Book Reviews:

“Esperanza Rising is a very thought provoking book about the plight of those seeking seasonal employment on the big farms in California during the Great Depression. Esperanza learns the value of hard work and after a while overcomes her selfish ways…”
Wednesday, B. (2010, May 19). Book Review: Esperanza Rising.


Horn Book starred (Spring 2001)

In this poignant look at the realities of immigration, thirteen-year-old Esperanza, daughter of an affluent Mexican rancher, is forced to trade fancy dolls and dresses for hard work and ill-fitting hand-me-downs after her beloved father dies. Laboring in the United States, picking grapes on someone else’s land for pennies an hour, Esperanza is transformed into someone who can take care of herself and others.