Monday, August 8, 2016

MMGM: Brian's Winter

In the spring, my kids and I always read a survival book together. Last spring it was My Side of the Mountain. This spring we picked up Hatchet. The strange thing for me was that I didn’t enjoy Hatchet as much the second time around. But my boys loved it and want to read everything in the series.

So we just finished Brian’s Winter, despite it being summer here. We all thoroughly enjoyed it.

Here’s the synopsis:

In Hatchet, 13-year-old Brian Robeson learned to survive alone in the Canadian wilderness, armed only with his hatchet. He was rescued at the end of the summer. Brian's Winter begins where Hatchet might have ended: Brian is not rescued, but must build on his survival skills to face his deadliest enemy--a northern winter.

Why I loved about Brian’s Winter (or why I liked it more than Hatchet):

1. Brian is more in touch with nature in this book than Hatchet. In Hatchet, he’s still pining for civilization and thinking of cheeseburgers, in Brian’s Winter, he has the skills to survive and he thinks mostly of how to do just that—and isn’t sure he ever wants to leave.

2. The writing style is less choppy. I think one of the reasons I didn’t like Hatchet as much the second time around was that it was hard to read aloud: lots of repetitions, one word sentences, and staccato-like prose. The writing in Brian’s Winter felt is more fluid, perhaps reflecting how Brian has grown used to the woods and is no longer in crisis.

3. It didn’t have any elements that I’d rather not read aloud to my kids. (I didn’t like the subplot of Brian’s mom’s affair or his suicide attempt in Hatchet.)

4. It had all of Paulsen’s gritty realism. While learning how a wolf eats a moose alive might make some kids queasy, my biology-orientated son ate it up (excuse the pun!).

5. One of the great things about both Hatchet and Brian’s Winter is that we learn along with Brian. In My Side of the Mountain, Sam is already an expert and has prepared for life in the woods. Brian knows nothing about the woods (except what he’s seen on documentaries or learned in science class), which makes him so relatable and makes us feel like we could survive on our own.

6. Like a "choose your own adventure story," it was fun reading about the possibility of a different ending to Hatchet. 

I loved this quote from the author at the beginning:

Whether it’s getting through heavy traffic, facing an illness, living in a rough neighborhood, or having to deal with a northern winter as Brian does makes no matter, the art of survival is the same—it is bad and you use your brain and body to get through it. The tools for survival are in all of us, just waiting to be used…

This is why I love survival fiction!

Have you read any good survival books lately?

(This post contains an Amazon affiliate link, only because it's easier for me to post book covers that way. Thank you for your support!)

To check out more Marvelous Middle Grade suggestions, check out Shannon Messenger's blog. 


  1. I love that quote too. Awesome that you enjoyed this and the writing was better than other books in the series. Even better, your sons love the series.

  2. Great quote! I read Hatchet ages ago, but I hadn't heard of Brian's Winter. I might have to go back and re-read Hatchet then pick up Winter. Will definitely make a note of as possibilities for my nephew.

  3. Sounds like the author really improved for the second one. Interesting premise to change the ending of the first book and continue the story.

  4. I enjoyed Hatchet and you have me wanting to race out and find a copy of Brian's Winter. I'm glad you found the writing more fluid. Thanks for the heads-up on this one.

  5. This sounds awesome! I read Hatchet a couple of years ago and I loved it. I'm so happy to hear that there is another book!

  6. This sounds awesome! I read Hatchet a couple of years ago and I loved it. I'm so happy to hear that there is another book!

  7. I love survival books. I especially love survival books set in winter. I like everything by Paulsen I have read. I will definitely get this one. Thanks for telling me about it.