Common Sense Media says

Hold on tight for an intense tale of survival.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

This school-assigned read is fast-paced and intense. It shows, rather than tells, just how unforgiving nature can be.

Positive role models

Brian starts out stubborn with a bad attitude, but he is forced to be brave, hardworking and careful to survive.  The story charts his personal growth in the face of an incredible challenge -- to survive.


The main character kills various wild animals in order to feed and defend himself. Brian's life is constantly at risk. Readers are held in suspense by Brian's fight to survive.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Gary Paulsen's Hatchet is an intense, fast, exciting read. The main character is a 13-year-old boy whose parents are divorced. He survives a plane crash in the Canadian wilderness en route to visit his father and must use the hatchet his mother once gave him to stay alive. Many kids report that this is the first school-assigned book they fell in love with.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

A city boy is stranded in the Canadian wilderness, equipped with nothing but a hatchet and the clothes on his back. Readers get a riveting view of Brian's struggle to survive for the next two months, forever changing his attitude toward the twentieth-century civilization to which he is eventually returned.

Is it any good?


Muscular prose, plus an accurate depiction of the necessities of survival from an author who has lived the details, makes this a riveting, intelligent read. HATCHET has won dozens of awards and appears on many summer-reading lists -- and for good reason. In the end, the book is a fascinating thrill that will keep readers mesmerized to the last page.

Gary Paulsen does not romanticize the difficulties Brian faces. Readers witness his gut-wrenching sickness from eating too many berries and his shock when he realizes he has never before heard total silence. His failures and triumphs are also presented as equal parts of one life-altering experience. In the two months he spends in the wild, Brian undergoes countless emotional and physical changes. But Paulsen keeps the reader at Brian's side as he discovers how strong he has always been.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Brian's failures and triumphs and how they change his attitude and viewpoint.

  • Do you think you could survive if you were in the same situation?

  • Is there anything Brian did that you might have done differently?

  • What was the most terrifying part of his experience, in your opinion?

Book details

Author:Gary Paulsen
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Publication date:January 1, 1987
Number of pages:195
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12
Available on:Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

This review of Hatchet was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 6 and 9 year old Written bymcdolins August 2, 2011

Adult issues involved

To be honest, I am disappointed that this book is regarded so highly. Although it is well-written and I am sure that my almost-10-year-old will love the adventure story when his 4th grade class reads it this year, I do not believe that it is appropriate for him to be reading about the character's "secret" - the fact that he knows about his mother's marital infidelity that led to his parents' divorce. This is adult content, not suitable for children of this age. Also, the graphic detail at the beginning of the book (describing how the main character gets stranded) is scary...
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Teen, 14 years old Written bykaratedude April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age


I absoulutely LOVE this book, but one of the big issues is the Brian's mother cheated on his father. Brian must kill many things to survive in the wild, there are also a few iffy words used. Brian often thinks of McDonald's, but he is a great role-model! This is a great book for any one ages 9+!
Teen, 16 years old Written byNoseBleed April 26, 2011

I didn't like it but you might! :)

I thought that Hatchet was an okay book. The story line was somewhat boring in places and didn’t have any strong characters. Yes, Brian was there and you got to know him somewhat, but there was no other character interaction. I’m not saying it has to be another person that magically appears in the middle of the wilderness but it would be nice if Brian had a companion of some sort. Also, Hatchet seemed to be written very poorly. Almost every sentence was repeated many times and it annoyed me very much! But I have to say, I did like the fact that I felt like I learned something in the end! If I were stranded in the wilderness I might be able to make it a few days longer with the help of Hatchet! :) To me, the book had no "Inappropriate" things whatsoever. Yeah, he did kill some animals but don't we all eat meat?
What other families should know
Educational value


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