Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
This Newbery Honor book is a dramatic, heart-stopping story of a boy who, following a plane crash in the Canadian wilderness, must learn to survive with only a hatchet and his own wits. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal Review
Gr 8-12 Brian Robeson, 13, is the only passenger on a small plane flying him to visit his father in the Canadian wilderness when the pilot has a heart attack and dies. The plane drifts off course and finally crashes into a small lake. Miraculously Brian is able to swim free of the plane, arriving on a sandy tree-lined shore with only his clothing, a tattered windbreaker, and the hatchet his mother had given him as a present. The novel chronicles in gritty detail Brian's mistakes, setbacks, and small triumphs as, with the help of the hatchet, he manages to survive the 54 days alone in the wilderness. Paulsen effectively shows readers how Brian learns patienceto watch, listen, and think before he actsas he attempts to build a fire, to fish and hunt, and to make his home under a rock overhang safe and comfortable. An epilogue discussing the lasting effects of Brian's stay in the wilderness and his dim chance of survival had winter come upon him before rescue adds credibility to the story. Paulsen tells a fine adventure story, but the sub-plot concerning Brian's preoccupation with his parents' divorce seems a bit forced and detracts from the book. As he did in Dogsong (Bradbury, 1985), Paulsen emphasizes character growth through a careful balancing of specific details of survival with the protagonist's thoughts and emotions. Barbara Chatton, College of Education, University of Wyoming, Laramie (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
The thematic concepts of man against nature and man against self are introduced in this story of a 13-year-old boy who is the lone survivor of a plane crash in the Canadian wilderness. His struggle to survive creates an exciting adventure for the reader and poses questions about one's ability to endure environmental hardships.
Kirkus Book Review
A prototypical survival story: after an airplane crash, a 13-year-old city boy spends two months alone in the Canadian wilderness. In transit between his divorcing parents, Brian is the plane's only passenger. After casually showing him how to steer, the pilot has a heart attack and dies. In a breathtaking sequence, Brian maneuvers the plane for hours while he tries to think what to do, at last crashing as gently and levelly as he can manage into a lake. The plane sinks; all he has left is a hatchet, attached to his belt. His injuries prove painful but not fundamental. In time, he builds a shelter, experiments with berries, finds turtle eggs, starts a fire, makes a bow and arrow to catch fish and birds, and makes peace with the larger wildlife. He also battles despair and emerges more patient, prepared to learn from his mistakes--when a rogue moose attacks him and a fierce storm reminds him of his mortality, he's prepared to make repairs with philosophical persistence. His mixed feelings surprise him when the plane finally surfaces so that he can retrieve the survival pack; and then he's rescued. Plausible, taut, this is a spellbinding account. Paulsen's staccato, repetitive style conveys Brian's stress; his combination of third-person narrative with Brian's interior monologue pulls the reader into the story. Brian's angst over a terrible secret--he's seen his mother with another man--is undeveloped and doesn't contribute much, except as one item from his previous life that he sees in better perspective, as a result of his experience. High interest, not hard to read. A winner. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.