Survival is a popular theme for many readers, in particular boys. In this post I share two of my most successful book talks in this theme.
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
The fact that many of the boys have read Hatchet, or had it read to them in primary school, helps this book talk, as I can promote the other books in the series. The boys who are familiar with the book show their enthusiasm for it during the lesson, and this inspires others to read it, always a good thing!
Brian is on his way to visit his father in Canada. He is in a small Cessna 406 over the Canadian wilderness, the only passenger and is in the co-pilot’s seat. He has his belongings in the cargo, the only possession with him a small hatchet his mother gave him as a gift, attached to his belt. After chatting with the pilot and having a small turn at the controls, Brian is enjoying his ride, until the pilot has a massive heart attack. Brian is on his own, in the air, in a plane. He tries the radio but it seems to be out of range after the first initial contact. Brian has a few decisions to make, try and land in the forest, amongst trees, or head for a lake and land on the water. There are no roads, this is the wilderness. When the plane runs out of fuel he is left with little choice, and tries to head the plane towards one of the lakes he sees.
Read chapter 3.
Brian survives, but is totally alone with only his hatchet. He must now try and survive in the wilderness, a 13-year-old boy from New York City.
There are many things about this book that appeals to my boys. It is a story of survival and action, and is centred around an epic, fictional motor cycle race. The alternate history is always an interesting facet and has been the motivation for some very interesting class discussions on the Second World War and the Holocaust. My review can be found here.
It is 1956 and Germany and Japan have won the Second World War. Yael, a Jewish escapee from the death camps, is competing in the Axis Tour motorbike race. She was part of an experiment in the concentration camp and she can now skinshift, changing her physical appearance to look the same as any woman she has seen. She is taking the place of Adele Wolfe, the only female victor of the race. Her mission is to win and kill Hitler at the Victor’s Ball at the end. But that is not going to be easy as the riders do not always play fair.
Read from the top of page 68 to page 71, “…back into the race”.
There is a lot of action in this book and I found it hard to put down. As you ride with Yael through the deserts and highways from Germania to Japan, you will also experience flashbacks as she remembers those who have helped her survive and are now symbolized on her arm as wolves to cover the tattoo number given to her at the concentration camp.