Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Sometimes you've got to read the books that you've got. When I started two, almost three, years ago I inherited a decent sized classroom library. One problem with that: they were relatively dated. By dated I mean 10+ years from publication date in most cases, and that is being generous. Therein is the challenge for the teacher. How do you make sure that you have new books that kids see in bookstores like Barnes and Noble (believe it or not they still actually go there, I've seen them!) as well as old books?

Part of that challenge is alleviated by publishers sprucing up books with new covers. New covers make timeless books look relevant to kids today. Out with the smaller, thicker, tiny font books (mass market books as they are called by booksellers). In with the slightly larger, more space between lines/font, and shiny cover. That is what led me to Hatchet.

I have about 10 copies of Hatchet at school. I opted not to use it for novel study/literature circle because of the size of the book, and the size of the print. It had also been some time since I'd read it myself (although I am not 100% sure I read it as I am confusing it with Call of the Wild). After reading it, I think I'll use it. The story of Brian surviving in wilderness for almost 2 months is moving. I think kids will see the story of growth, and conquering fear in an empowering manner. How can I do that? or I can be just like Brian, taking control of my anger. Perhaps it is far-fetched, but I do see where kids will at the very least be able to identify with the themes in the story. Now I pick up a few more with the fancy cover... hmmm.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5. I prefer books with more dialogue but the story was very good, and you wanted to know what would come of Brian as he struggled to survive in the wilderness.


  1. FYI... A selection from Hatchet is included in the LWSD sixth grade Houghton reader. I believe it is one of the sections of Houghton we are supposed to use.
    ~ An LWSD colleague who follows your blog

  2. Thanks for the tip. While I use the 5th grader reader some, most of my fiction work comes from novel study and lit circles. I use the assessment (skills and end of unit) as I tailor the instruction to hit the skills/strategies in the HM units. The reader is helpful in some ways, but just doesn't propel kids to want to be readers- the brief glimpse of a book hasn't been that inspiring for my kiddos. The deep understanding that came out of conversations with novel study were much more worthwhile.

    Additionally using the reader is difficult when much of the literacy work is using the social studies text (that is how we have it structured). So bouncing back and forth can be disorienting. In all, I'd imagine it will change in the coming year anyway as there will be a lit materials adoption (which I hope is the Benchmark/Fountas+Pinnell stuff).