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Dear Gary Paulsen

Leah Grace Wolf
Hutchison School
7th - 8th Grade

Dear Gary Paulsen

On December 27, 2014 we were lost. All six of us were wandering aimlessly like a pack of stray dogs in the brisk California air. The sun was slipping down below Mount Saint Helena as we wound our way through the rampant vegetation that tore mercilessly at our skin and clothing. We had been separated from our parents at a fork in the road in which we children decided to veer right. Panic was setting in to my three cousins and two older brothers. We had been searing for a way back to the designated hiking path for two long hours that seemed to drag on for days. Night was setting in quickly bringing with it an icy chill that penetrated down our very core. We had no phones, no light, no sense of where we were heading. We continued to struggle on through the lush foliage. Without warning, my cousin burst into violent sobs and sat down. I rushed to his side, but in my hurry, I tripped over a stray branch and fell hard onto my hands and knees. As I made my way back to a standing position, I felt a hot sensation rush down the length of my forearm. My hand had been ripped open a span of almost four inches and blood was flowing steadily out.

My six-hour-long experience of pumping adrenaline, pain, stress, and fear is still engrained plainly in my mind. As I look back on that time, I understand that the only thing that kept me from becoming completely hysterical was the comforting memory of your book Hatchet. The thought that a young 13-year-old boy named Brian had the strength and determination to survive for 54 days made me want to prove to my brothers that I, too, would be able to handle myself in an appropriate, useful manner. While the next four hours were filled with pain, exhaustion, and worry, I was able to retain a calm demeanor, just like Brian, to assist in fining our way back to the main trail. The rest of the hike was a blur, but my persistence paid off.

The day of our little excursion I had ample time to think about the reason that Hatchet was able to clear my mind when nothing else could. At the time, I needed something that would remind me that I could find my way out if I only had persistence. Your book is not only a perfect demonstration of perseverance but also reminded me that I could depend on myself, and that I didn’t have to rely on Mom and Dad to protect me from everything. Your book inspired me to not be scared of a difficult predicament. Instead of becoming frightened and worried, I just needed to stay calm, keep a level head, and make rational decisions.

At the beginning of this project, my teacher explained to me that I needed to write about a book that changed my outlook on the world. To be honest, I do not think that is what Hatchet did for me. Instead of changing my view of the entire world, this book changed my view on children and their capabilities. As a child, I know how terrifying it can be to find myself in a situation where I feel threatened, but I have no one to protect me from the oncoming dangers or problems. This book showed me that just because we are kids, doesn’t mean that we need to feel completely reliant on others. Through your story, Brian taught me that we are able to accomplish things well beyond the realm of what we think is possible, no matter our age.

I would like to thank you for teaching me this lesson, for boosting my self-confidence, and for showing me that adventure is one of the most important aspects of life. Happy travelling.


Leah Grace Wolf.