Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
March 19, 2009 in Creative Writing activities, Elementary Educators, Making Personal Connections, Middle Grade Novel, Paulsen, Gary Tags: character study, Gary Paulsen, Hatchet, Middle Grade Novel, Newberry Honor Book, writing activities
Reviewed by Margo Dill, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.margodill.com
Middle grade novel, realistic fiction
13-year-old boy as main character
Rating: Gary Paulsen tells a captivating story of Brian and his plight in Hatchet, a Newberry Honor Book.
Short, short summary: In Hatchet, Gary Paulsen tells the story of Brian Robeson, who is taking a single engine plane to visit his father because his parents are divorced. The plane crashes, the pilot dies, and Brian is left alone in the wilderness with a hatchet. He is angry over his parents’ actions, but now he must fight to survive. Brian’s adventure in Hatchet is one that all children and adults love to read.
So, what do I do with this book?
1. One of the most obvious, but worthwhile writing activites, to engage students while reading Gary Paulsen’s book is to ask them to put themselves in Brian’s shoes. Ask students to write about what they would have done if they were faced with a situation such as Brian’s. You can even ask them to write a “diary” entry where they pretend to be in the wilderness, and write about what they did that day.
2. What do students think Brian should do about the Secret? You can start a debate in your classroom or at home (if you homeschool) over this topic because all children will not agree. In the end of Hatchet, we find out that Brian does not tell his dad the Secret. Do students think this was a good idea or not? Why didn’t he tell his dad? If you want to get a lively discussion going in your classroom, this is a great topic to work on speech and debate skills.
3. Since Brian is the main character and one of the only characters for several chapters of the book, Hatchet is perfect for a character study. Ask students to list Brian’s character traits at the beginning of the book and then at the end of the book (the Epilogue can help with this). How does Brian change? You can also ask students or your children to write about or discuss how Brian’s character traits from the beginning of the novel helped in his survival. Yes, he changed, and he gained more valuable character traits throughout his adventure, but he had to have some before he started or he would not have survived.
If you have used this book in your classroom or at home, please leave a comment here and tell us how it went. For more Hatchet activities and lesson plans, please see: Teaching Theme and Author’s Purpose with Hatchet.