Hatchet, published by Bradbury Press in 1987, is Gary Paulsen's best-known novel. It is the first of five in the Hatchet series, detailing the events in Brian Robeson's life after he ends up stranded in a forest after the pilot of a bush plane he was flying in has a heart attack and dies mid-flight. Hatchet is a story of survival, resourcefulness, and resilience, and remains a popular novel for young adults nearly 30 years after its publication.
Paulsen's novels often center on nature, and Hatchet is no exception. The majority of the novel takes place in a remote Canadian forest, where Brian makes a camp beside a lake and spends nearly two months trying to survive until he is rescued. The novel caries important themes of respecting and understanding the natural world and the way it functions, and over the course of his two months there Brian truly becomes a part of the natural world around him.
Paulsen considers Hatchet one of his favorite books he has written. He has had many of the experiences that Brian has in the novel: he spent time living in the woods in order to get away from his family and their destructive tendencies.
Hatchet is often taught in school curriculums. It is followed by four other books in Brian's Saga, which all serve different purposes. The River was the next book written, and it follows chronologically from the events of Hatchet. Brian's Winter, on the other hand, envisions an alternate ending to Hatchet, and the final two books, Brian's Return and Brian's Hunt, follow this alternate storyline as well.
Hatchet has received numerous awards, notably the 1987 Newbery Honor medal.