Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
First there was Hatchet, Paulsen's classic tale of a boy's survival in the north woods after a plane crash. Then came a sequel, The River, and, last year, Father Water, Mother Woods, a collection of autobiographical essays introduced as the nonfiction counterpart to Hatchet. Now Paulsen backs up and asks readers to imagine that Brian, the hero, hadn't been rescued after all. His many fans will be only too glad to comply, revisiting Brian at the onset of a punishing Canadian winter. The pace never relents-the story begins, as it were, in the middle, with Brian already toughened up and his reflexes primed for crisis. Paulsen serves up one cliffhanger after another (a marauding bear, a charging elk), and always there are the supreme challenges of obtaining food and protection against the cold. Authoritative narration makes it easy for readers to join Brian vicariously as he wields his hatchet to whittle arrows and arrowheads and a lance, hunts game, and devises clothes out of animal skins; while teasers at the ends of chapters keep the tension high (``He would hunt big tomorrow, he thought.... But as it happened he very nearly never hunted again''). The moral of the story: it pays to write your favorite author and ask for another helping. Ages 12-up. (Feb.)
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
Gary Paulsen's Hatchet is one of the most successful books for young adult readers, reluctant or otherwise. It's a gripping story of survival that leaves a young boy to fend for himself in the northern Wilderness. In response to two hundred letters a week from children begging for sequel, he wrote Brian's Winter. The sequel begins with the assumption that the boy was not rescued at the end of the summer, as he was in Hatchet, and now must struggle to survive the approaching winter. There is a whole different set of concerns; Brian's shelter must be winterized, his clothing made warmer, and his hunting kills larger to sustain bitter weather. Changing the end of one book to allow for a sequel is tricky, but Paulsen's book succeeds. Brian, while consistent in character, evolves in survival skills. Paulsen adds new conflicts, but his writing is still gripping. All these justify the new ending, but the best justification is that this book will please his fans.
The ALAN Review - Gary M. Salvner
This "alternative sequel" explores what might have happened had thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson not been rescued at the end of Paulsen's noted Hatchet and instead had to survive a frigid winter alone in the northern Canadian wilderness. In this book the cold is the primary enemy, and Brian again learns that survival depends upon first observing closely his environment and then living according to its laws. A veteran winter survivalist, Paulsen fills Brian's Winter with the same vivid details that made the earlier Hatchet and The River so believable. And here he adds an extra dimension: like Russell Suskit in Paulsen's Dogsong, Brian survives this time by returning to the "old ways" - fashioning flint arrowheads to hunt large game and even painting on cave walls to record important events. Finally, Paulsen has brought his lively humor to this work. His character Betty the skunk is certainly literature's most entertaining animal thief since E. B. White's Templeton! Lovers of Gary Paulsen's survival stories will love this work also. This is terrific outdoor adventure writing.
VOYA - Helen Turner
Brian Robeson is stranded in the Canadian wilderness following the crash of a small plane which kills the pilot, the only other person aboard. After about two months, he is rescued. The riveting account of the teenager's struggle to survive was vivdly portrayed in Paulsen's Hatchet (Bradbury, 1987). Here is an alternative ending, in which Brian is not rescued at the end of the summer but instead is forced to spend the fall and part of a bitter winter in the woods. Adapting the skill he has already learned, Brian is able to fortify his cave shelter, find ways to kill larger game and protect himself against new dangers. As he ranges farther from his camp, he encounters a toboggan track that leads him to the home of a Cree family of trappers. Brian stays with the Cree family until their supply plane makes its scheduled stop, and he leaves the wilderness on the plane. This is more than a relating of Brian's adventures with bears, moose, blizzards and skunks. It is about animals and weather and survival, of course, but there is a beauty and a compelling depth to the writing. As Brian sometimes fails and sometimes succeeds, his characterization is consistent and believable. The descriptions of the wilderness and Brian's thoughts and interactions with all of his surroundings are woven into the narrative. There are a few references to incidents in Hatchet, but this story will stand alone. Pick either ending - a summer rescue or a winter rescue-and you have a great adventure story. VOYA Codes: 5Q 5P M J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written, Every YA (who reads) was dying to read it yesterday, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Children's Literature - Caroline Goddard
Gary Paulson strikes again in this what if… sequel to Hatchet. What if Brian was not rescued and had to survive through a Canadian winter? How would Brian keep warm, hunt, and keep a fire going when the woods were covered in snow? Paulson takes us step-by-step through Brian's thinking and realization that winter is coming. You can taste Brian's fear as the first frost hits, and Brian knows that he cannot ignore the signs anymore; winter will be upon him at any moment. Brian learned to insulate his shelter for the winter, create clothes to keep himself warm, and even figured out how to create stronger and fasters arrows so that he can hunt larger prey. Brian had good days and bad days as the winter progresses, whether it is the skunk attack or the fabulous feast of the moose that Brian was able to kill. Brian became more and more confident throughout the winter and would venture out farther and farther away from his shelter. On one of his trips, he sees sled tracks. Has he found his way out? Paulson, who personally has lived through rough winters, adds believable details that help the reader feel the cold and the fear. Read aloud by Richard Thomas, of Walton's fame, this story comes alive to the listener. Though, added musical accents can interrupt your involvement with the story, it is worth a listen. Reviewer: Caroline Goddard
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-At the conclusion of Hatchet (Macmillan, 1987), Brian Robeson is rescued after surviving a plane crash and summer alone in the north Canadian woods. Now, in this second sequel, Paulsen shows what would have happened if the 13-year-old boy had been forced to endure the harsh winter. For a brief time, Brian lives in relative luxury, living off the contents of the recently recovered survival pack, which included a gun for hunting. Then, his freeze-dried food runs out and his rifle fails, and he realizes how careless and complacent he has become. Suddenly aware of the changing seasons, he works frantically to winterize his shelter, fashion warmer clothes from animal skins, and construct a more powerful bow and arrow. About the time he has mastered winter survival, he discovers a dog-sled trail that leads him to a trapper and final rescue. The same formula that worked before is successful here: the driving pace of the narration, the breathtaking descriptions of nature, and the boy who triumphs on the merits of efficient problem solving. The author's ability to cast a spell, mesmerize his audience, and provide a clinic in winter survival is reason enough to buy this novel. Although the plot is both familiar and predictable, Paulsen fans will not be disappointed.Tim Rausch, Crescent View Middle School, Sandy, UT
Advocates Voice of Youth
"There is a beauty and a compelling depth to the writing. As Brian sometimes fails and sometimes succeeds, his characteristizationis consistent and believable."
From the Publisher
"Paulsen crafts a companion/sequel to Hatchet containing many of its same pleasures...Read together, the two books make his finest tale of survival yet."
--Kirkus Review, Pointer
"Paulsen at his best."
--School Library Journal
Read an Excerpt
For two weeks the weather grew warmer and each day was more glorious than the one before. Hunting seemed to get better as well. Brian took foolbirds or rabbits every day and on one single day he took three foolbirds.
He ate everything and felt fat and lazy and one afternoon he actually lay in the sun. It was perhaps wrong to say he was happy. He spent too much time in loneliness for true happiness. But he found himself smiling as he worked around the camp and actually looked forward to bringing in wood in the soft afternoons just because it kept him out rummaging around in the woods.
He had made many friendsor at least acquaintances. Birds had taken on a special significance for him. At night the owls made their soft sounds, calling each other in almost ghostly hooonnes that scared him until he finally saw one call on a night when the moon was full and so bright it was almost like a cloudy day. He slept with their calls and before long would awaken if they didn't call.
Before dawn, just as gray light began to filter through the trees, the day birds began to sing. They started slowly but before the gray had become light enough to see ten yards all the birds started to sing and Brian was brought out of sleep by what seemed to be thousands of singing birds.
At first it all seemed to be noise but as he learned and listened, he found them all to be different. Robins had an evening song and one they sang right before a rainstorm and another when the rain was done. Blue jays spent all their time complaining and swearing but they also warned him when somethinganythingwas moving in the woods. Ravens and crows were the samescrawkingand cawing their way through the trees.
It was all, Brian found, about territory. Everybody wanted to own a place to live, a place to hunt. Birds didn't sing for fun, they sang to warn other birds to keep awaysang to tell them to stay out of their territory.
He had learned about property from the wolves. Several times he had seen a solitary wolfa large male that came near the camp and studied the boy. The wolf did not seem to be afraid and did nothing to frighten Brian, and Brian even thought of him as a kind of friend.
The wolf seemed to come on a regular schedule, hunting, and Brian guessed that he ran a kind of circuit. At night while gazing at the fire Brian figured that if the wolf made five miles an hour and hunted ten hours a day, he must be traveling close to a hundred-mile loop.
After a month or so the wolf brought a friend, a smaller, younger male, and the second time they both came they stopped near Brian's camp and while Brian watched they peed on a rotten stump, both going twice on the same spot.
Brian had read about wolves and seen films about them: and knew that they "left sign," using urine to mark their territory. He had also readhe thought in a book by Farley Mowatthat the wolves respected others' territories as well as their own. As soon as they were well away from the old stump Brian went up and peed where they had left sign.
Five days later when they came through again Brian saw them stop, smell where he had gone and then spot the ground next to Brian's spot, accepting his boundary.
Good, he thought. I own something now. I belong. And he had gone on with his life believing that the wolves and he had settled everything.
But wolf rules and Brian rules only applied to wolves and Brian.
Then the bear came.
Brian had come to know bears as well as he knew wolves or birds. They were usually aloneunless it was a female with cubsand they were absolutely, totally devoted to eating. He had seen them several times while picking berries, raking the bushes with their teeth to pull the fruit offand a goodly number of leaves as well, which they spit out before swallowing the berriesand, as with the wolves, they seemed to get along with him.
That is to say Brian would see them eating and he would move away and let them pick where they wanted while he found another location. It worked for the bears, he thought, smiling, and it worked for him, and this thinking evolved into what Brian thought of as an understanding between him and the bears: Since he left them alone, they would leave him alone.
Unfortunately the bears did not know that it was an agreement, and Brian was suffering under the misunderstanding that, as in some imaginary politically correct society, everything was working out.
All of this made him totally unprepared for the reality of the woods. To wit: Bears and wolves did what they wanted to do, and Brian had to fit in.
He was literary awakened to the facts one morning during the two-week warm spell. Brian had been sleeping soundly and woke to the clunking sound of metal on rock. His mind and ears were tuned to all the natural sounds around him and there was no sound in nature of metal on stone. It snapped him awake in midbreath.
He was sleeping with his head in the opening of the shelter and he had his face out and when he opened his eyes he saw what appeared to be a wall of black-brown fur directly in front of him.
He thought he might be dreaming and shook his head but it didn't go away and he realized in the same moment that he was looking at the rear end of a bear. No, he thought with a clinical logic that surprised himI am looking at the very large rear end of a very large bear.
The bear had come to Brian's campsmelling the gutsmell of the dead rabbit, and the cooking odor from the pot. The bear did not see it as Brian's camp or territory. There was a food smell, it was hungry, it was time to eat.
It had found the pot and knife by the fire where Brian had left them and scooped them outside. Brian had washed them both in the lake when he finished eating, but the smell of food was still in the air. Working around the side of the opening, the bear had bumped the pan against a rock at the same moment that it had settled its rump in the entrance of Brian's shelter.
Brian pulled back a foot. "Heyget out of there!" he yelled, and kicked the bear in the rear.
He was not certain what he expected. Perhaps that the bear would turn and realize its mistake and then sheepishly trundle away. Or that the bear would just run off.
With no hesitation, not even the smallest part of a second's delay, the bear turned and ripped the entire log side off the shelter with one sweep of a front paw and a moist "whouuuff" out of its nostrils.
Brian found himself looking up at the bear, turned now to look down on the boy, and with another snort the bear swung its left paw again and scooped Brian out of the hollow of the rock and flung him end over end for twenty feet. Then the bear slipped forward and used both front paws to pack Brian in a kind of ball and whap him down to the edge of the water, where he lay, dazed, thinking in some way that he was still back in the shelter.
The bear stopped and studied Brian for a long minute, then turned back to ransacking the camp, looking for where that delicious smell had come from. It sat back on its haunches and felt the air with its nostrils, located another faint odor stream and followed it down to the edge of the water where the fish pool lay. It dug in the waternot more than ten feet from where Brian now lay, trying to figure out if his arms and legs were still all attached to where they had been beforeand pulled up the rabbit skull, still with bits of meat on it, and swallowed it whole. It dug around in the water again and found the guts and ate them and went back to rummaging around in the pool, and when nothing more could be found the bear looked once more at Brian, at the camp, and then walked away without looking back.
Other than some minor scratches where the bear's claws had slightly scraped himit was more a boxing action than a clawing oneBrian was in one piece. He was still jolted and confused about just exactly which end was up, but most of all he was grateful.
He knew that the bear could have done much more damage than it had. He had seen a bear tear a stump out of the ground like a giant tooth when it was looking for grubworms and ants. This bear could just as easily have killed him, and had actually held back.
But as the day progressed Brian found himself stiffening, and by the time he was ready for bed his whole body ached and he knew he would be covered with bruises from the encounter.
He would have to find some way to protect himself, some weapon. The fire worked well when it was burning, but it had burned down. His hatchet and knife would have done nothing more than make the bear really angrysomething he did not like to think aboutand his bow was good only for smaller game. He had never tried to shoot anything bigger than a foolbird or rabbit with it and doubted that the bow would push the arrow deep enough to do anything butagainmake the bear really mad.
He bundled in his bag that night, the end of the two weeks of warm weather. He kept putting wood on the fire, half afraid the bear would come back. All the while he tried to think of a solution.
But in reality, the bear was not his primary adversary. Nor was the wolf, nor any animal. Brian had become his own worst enemy because in all the business of hunting, fishing and surviving he had forgotten the primary rule: Always, always pay attention to what was happening. Everything in nature means something and he had missed the warnings that summer was ending, had in many ways already ended, and what was coming would be the most dangerous thing he had faced since the plane crash.
An Excerpt from Brian's Winter
He would have to find some way to protect himself, some weapon. The fire
worked well when it was burning, but it had burned down. His hatchet and
knife would have done nothing more than make the bear really angrysomething
he did not like to think aboutand his bow was good only for smaller
game. He had never tried to shoot anything bigger than a foolbird or rabbit
with it and doubted that the bow would push the arrow deep enough to do
anything butagainmake the bear really mad.
He bundled in his bag that night, the end of the two weeks of warm weather.
He kept putting wood on the fire, half afraid the bear would come back.
All the while he tried to think of a solution.
But in reality, the bear was not his primary adversary. Nor was the wolf,
nor any animal. Brian had become his own worst enemy because in all the
business of hunting, fishing and surviving he had forgotten the primary
rule: Always, always pay attention to what was happening. Everything
in nature means something and he had missed the warnings that summer was
ending, had in many ways already ended, and what was coming would be the
most dangerous thing he had faced since the plane crash.
From the Audio Cassette (Unabridged) edition.