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14 Books Like Hatchet

Books Like Hatchet

For adventure-seeking readers who were captivated by Gary Paulsen’s classic survival tale “Hatchet,” there’s a wealth of other books waiting to transport them to thrilling and perilous landscapes. 

From wilderness escapades to tales of resilience and resourcefulness, these books offer similar themes of survival, self-discovery, and the indomitable human spirit. 

Whether you’re a fan of survival stories or simply crave tales of adventure, these books are sure to ignite your imagination and keep you turning the pages.

Let’s go. 

Books Like Hatchet

1. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

This book follows the story of Sam Gribley, a young boy who decides to live in the wilderness of the Catskill Mountains. Armed with only a penknife, a ball of cord, forty dollars, and some flint and steel, Sam learns to survive on his own, making a home in a hollowed-out tree and living off the land. 

His adventures of self-sufficiency, friendship with animals, and the challenges he faces are compellingly detailed, making it a beloved classic for young readers.

Major Similarities: Similar to “Hatchet,” “My Side of the Mountain” explores themes of survival, self-reliance, and the journey of a young boy into the wilderness. Both protagonists learn to adapt to their environment and face the challenges of nature with determination and ingenuity. The detailed descriptions of survival techniques and the characters’ deep connections with nature are central elements in both stories.

2. The River by Gary Paulsen

A sequel to “Hatchet,” “The River” continues the story of Brian Robeson as he is asked to go back to the wilderness to teach survival skills to a government agency. This time, accompanied by Derek Holtzer, a psychologist, they face a disastrous storm that leaves Derek in a coma, and Brian must find a way to save them both. 

The book captures the essence of survival and resilience under even more challenging conditions than the first.

Major Similarities: “The River” shares the core theme of survival in the wilderness with “Hatchet,” focusing on the protagonist, Brian Robeson. It delves deeper into the psychological aspects of survival and the importance of resourcefulness and quick thinking. Like “Hatchet,” it emphasizes the relationship between humans and nature, and how adversity can lead to personal growth and self-discovery.

3. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

This novel is based on the true story of a young Native American girl stranded for years on an island off the California coast. Karana’s tale of survival is marked by courage, ingenuity, and the struggle for companionship in isolation. She battles the elements, wild dogs, and loneliness to create a life for herself in this stark yet beautiful environment.

Major Similarities: Both “Island of the Blue Dolphins” and “Hatchet” highlight the themes of solitude, survival, and the human connection to the environment. The protagonists of both books demonstrate resilience in the face of adversity, a deep understanding of nature, and the ability to adapt to their circumstances. These stories inspire a sense of adventure and respect for the natural world.

4. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

This novel tells the story of Miyax, a young Inuit girl who becomes lost on the Alaskan tundra. In order to survive, she befriends a pack of wolves, and through this alliance, learns the ways of the wild. 

The book explores themes of identity, survival, and the intersection of human and animal worlds.

Major Similarities: Like “Hatchet,” “Julie of the Wolves” focuses on survival in a harsh wilderness setting and the journey of a young protagonist finding their place in the world. Both books involve the main character forming a connection with animals, which plays a crucial role in their survival. The detailed depiction of the natural environment and survival skills is central to both stories.

5. Wilderness: The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison, Volume 1 by Jim Morrison

Though not a novel, this collection of writings by Jim Morrison, the iconic lead singer of The Doors, captures the essence of wilderness and exploration of the self. 

It includes poems, thoughts, and diary entries that reflect Morrison’s deep engagement with the natural world, personal discovery, and existential questions.

Major Similarities: While “Wilderness” differs in format from “Hatchet,” it shares a thematic connection with the idea of exploring the unknown—both externally in the natural world and internally within the self. Morrison’s reflections can resonate with readers who appreciate the themes of solitude, introspection, and the raw beauty of nature found in “Hatchet.” The focus on personal journey through the lens of the natural world links these works together.

6. The Call of the Wild by Jack London

This classic novel set in the Yukon during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush tells the story of Buck, a dog stolen from his home and sold into the brutal life of an Alaskan sled dog. 

Through his journey, Buck faces the harsh realities of survival and the wild, eventually answering the call of the wild. It’s a tale of transformation and adaptation to the environment, showing the struggle between civilization and the natural world.

Major Similarities: Like “Hatchet,” “The Call of the Wild” delves into themes of survival, adaptation, and the intrinsic call of nature. Both stories explore the protagonist’s journey of self-discovery and their evolving relationship with the natural environment. The detailed portrayal of the wilderness and the survival instincts of the characters are central to both narratives.

7. Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen

This novel follows the story of Cole Matthews, a troubled youth who chooses banishment to a remote Alaskan island as an alternative to jail. 

Here, Cole must survive alone and comes face to face with a mystical white bear, leading to a transformative journey of healing and redemption. The novel explores themes of anger, forgiveness, and the power of nature to heal the human spirit.

Major Similarities: “Touching Spirit Bear” shares with “Hatchet” the theme of a young protagonist undergoing a profound personal journey in a wilderness setting. Both narratives involve survival, self-discovery, and a deep connection to nature. The emotional and physical challenges faced by the characters lead to significant personal growth and understanding.

8. Surviving Bear Island by Paul Greci

This gripping novel features a young boy, Tom, who is separated from his father after a sea kayaking trip goes awry, leaving him stranded on Bear Island. With no tools but his wits and determination, Tom faces the daunting challenge of survival in the unforgiving wilderness. 

The narrative is a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the will to survive against all odds.

Major Similarities: Like “Hatchet,” “Surviving Bear Island” centers on a young individual’s struggle for survival in a remote wilderness setting. Both stories highlight the themes of resilience, resourcefulness, and the journey towards self-discovery through adversity. The detailed survival tactics and the characters’ deep connection with nature underscore the similarities between the two narratives.

9. Lost in the Barrens by Farley Mowat

This novel tells the adventure of two boys, a Cree native named Awasin and a Canadian orphan named Jamie, who become lost in the vast tundra of the Canadian Arctic. 

Together, they face the challenges of the wilderness, from harsh weather to wildlife, as they struggle to survive and find their way back to civilization. The story is a thrilling tale of friendship, survival, and the indomitable spirit of youth.

Major Similarities: “Lost in the Barrens” shares with “Hatchet” the theme of survival in the wilderness, but it adds the dimension of friendship and cooperation. Both books involve young protagonists who learn to respect and adapt to the natural world, using their skills and ingenuity to overcome the challenges they face. The exploration of the bond formed through shared adversity and the detailed depiction of survival techniques are key similarities between these stories.

10. Wilder Boys by Brandon Wallace

In “Wilder Boys,” two brothers set out on a perilous journey through the wilderness to find their father, who has mysteriously disappeared. 

Their adventure takes them through dangerous terrain, where they must rely on each other and their survival skills to face the challenges of the wild. This story is not only a tale of survival but also of brotherhood and the lengths to which family will go for one another.

Major Similarities: Similar to “Hatchet,” “Wilder Boys” explores themes of survival in the wilderness, with a strong focus on the bond between siblings faced with adversity. Both stories feature young protagonists who are thrust into challenging situations that test their resilience, resourcefulness, and ability to adapt to their environment. The emphasis on personal growth and the power of family ties are key similarities.

11. The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare

Set in the 18th-century American frontier, “The Sign of the Beaver” follows a 13-year-old boy named Matt who is left alone to guard his family’s newly built homestead. 

He forms an unlikely friendship with Attean, a Native American boy, and learns to survive with the help of Attean’s tribe. The novel is a rich tale of friendship, cultural exchange, and survival in the wilderness.

Major Similarities: Both “The Sign of the Beaver” and “Hatchet” involve young boys learning to survive in the wilderness with limited resources. The themes of friendship, learning from nature, and cultural understanding are prominent in both stories. The protagonists grow significantly, both in skills and in character, as they adapt to their environments and overcome challenges.

12. Dogsong by Gary Paulsen

“Dogsong” is another remarkable tale by Gary Paulsen, telling the story of Russel Susskit, a 14-year-old Inuit boy who feels disconnected from the modern ways of his village. 

He embarks on a traditional dogsled journey across the Arctic, guided by the wisdom of an old shaman. The journey is not only physical but also a spiritual quest for identity, belonging, and understanding the old ways.

Major Similarities: Like “Hatchet,” “Dogsong” focuses on a young protagonist’s quest for self-discovery and survival in a harsh, yet majestic wilderness. Both books celebrate the bond between humans and nature, the importance of traditional wisdom, and the journey towards self-sufficiency. Paulsen’s vivid storytelling and detailed depiction of survival skills are central to both narratives.

13. Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper

“Over Sea, Under Stone” is the first book in “The Dark is Rising” series, blending elements of adventure, mystery, and mythology. While not a survival story in the traditional sense, it follows three siblings on a summer holiday in Cornwall where they discover an ancient map that leads them on a quest for a magical artifact. 

Their journey is filled with challenges that test their bravery and determination.

Major Similarities: Although “Over Sea, Under Stone” diverges from the wilderness survival theme, it shares with “Hatchet” the element of young protagonists embarking on a challenging adventure that tests their resilience and ingenuity. Both stories involve navigating through unfamiliar and sometimes hostile environments, uncovering secrets, and growing significantly in the process.

14. A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

Based on a true story, “A Long Walk to Water” alternates between the stories of two eleven-year-olds in Sudan: Nya, a girl who walks eight hours every day to fetch water for her family, and Salva, a boy who becomes one of the “lost boys” of Sudan due to the civil war. 

Salva’s incredible journey of survival across Africa on foot and his eventual success in leading a project to bring water to Sudanese villages is an inspiring tale of resilience, hope, and determination.

Major Similarities: While set in a very different context, “A Long Walk to Water” shares with “Hatchet” the theme of survival against the odds and the transformative journey of a young protagonist. Both stories highlight the importance of perseverance, resourcefulness, and the impact of a single individual’s efforts to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges. The realistic portrayal of survival in a harsh environment and the personal growth that comes from facing such challenges are key similarities.

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