Sunday, January 24, 2016

Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen

Brian Robeson is a thirteen-year-old boy, the son of divorced parents.  While traveling through Canada on a Cessna plane to meet his father for the summer, the pilot suffers a massive heart attack and dies.  Brian survives a crash-landing in the forest, leaving him stranded on his own with nothing to help him survive…except for a single hatchet.

“Hatchet” is a fast-paced adventure story which is considered to be one of today’s must-read books for young men, although I’m ashamed to say I never read it before now.  It’s a fast-paced story in which a seemingly endless series of challenges are thrown at Brian, one after another.  In fact, the only thing I really didn’t care for with this book was the way that it all seemed so unfair!  After surviving a traumatic plane crash, you’d think the last thing Brian would have to worry about would be dying from starvation or exposure!

Mr. Paulsen’s book proved so popular that he went on to write another four books in the “Hatchet” series, which collectively became known as “Brian’s Saga”.  I’m planning to move on to the first sequel in the series soon, if only to find out what kind of adventures Brian will be thrown into next.  Even though it never seems fair when it’s the entire world against one boy, these hopeless situations sure make for a great story!  “Hatchet” gets my strongest recommendation, so be sure to pick up your copy today.    

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, by Wendy Mass

Only one month before his thirteenth birthday, Jeremy Fink and his best friend Lizzy Muldoun receive a mysterious package in the mail.  The box is from Jeremy’s deceased father, and it contains a mysterious wooden box with four keyholes.  Determined to open the box, Jeremy and Lizzy set a goal to find all four of the lost keys during their summer vacation.  Their quest immediately runs into an obstacle when they run afoul of the law, and are required to complete a period of community service working with the mysterious Mr. Oswald.  As Jeremy’s birthday approaches fast, he begins to wonder if he’ll ever be able to open the box and discover the meaning of life.

One of the most remarkable things about this book is the amount of effort that Jeremy’s dad put into his project.  The plot follows a well-planned script that Mr. Fink laid out before he died, which includes major roles for many of his family friends and business partners.  It quickly becomes apparent that Mr. Fink was a devoted father, and he wanted to maintain a strong presence in Jeremy’s life even if he passed away.

I’m not going to spoil the ending by giving away the secret of life but yes, Jeremy does finally manage to open the box.  Even though the project of tracking down the missing keys tests his patience and resolve, it ends up being a great way for him to learn more about his father.  Do you ever wish that you had the opportunity to get to know a family member who’s passed away?