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Clinton's Letter to Gary Paulsen
By Clinton Ray Jeffrey
Genre: Non-fiction Level: Junior 7-9
Year: 2001 Category: Letters About Literature

Dear Gary Paulsen:

The first time I read Hatchet was when I was in the fourth grade. I have always liked survival stories yet Hatchet brought my perspective of a "good book" to a whole new level. I really appreciate the section when Brian tells how his English teacher Perpich told him to "stay positive and stay on top of things" and "You are your most valuable asset. Don't forget that. You are the best thing you have."

This helped me through a tough time in my life. I had just moved to Alaska a year before, and I felt that I didn't have many friends. Just these few words helped me realize that I make myself who I am. Not what I wear, what my grades are, or who I hang out with. I am who I am and my core self, my soul is the best thing I have. Nobody can take that away, and no matter how bad things get, I am still me.

Besides teaching me about myself, Hatchet taught me about nature, and how to look at it. When I was little I would just notice things. Oh, there is a bird, or there is a plant. Now I almost "study" the bird, or the plant. Hatchet gave me a certain respect for nature that I didn't have before. I realized how unpredictable nature is.

I have always had the same intrigue that all young children have in animals. Yet I feel that Hatchet (and its sequels) have further developed my interest, and have led me to read and do research involving animals.

Sometimes when I was little I would pretend that I was stranded in the woods like Brian and Terry did. Of course I pretended that I had matches, a tent, and a gun, but it also developed my interest in survival stories. I was fascinated by people who would live in the woods without electricity, running water and other modern conveniences, but I lost that interest. Now I think it's amazing how some people can survive in the wild with just themselves. It would take an extremely skilled and talented person to do this.

I was greatly impacted by the scene painted in my head by the section in chapter four where the fish started jumping all over the lake. Whenever I go out to the near-by lake I imagine that scene.

When (and how) Brian built his "house" interested me. I have always liked building; from the Duplo blocks of my younger age, to the robots of today, but building with what you could find in the woods, or on the beach, that's a challenge. Once when our school went to a camp for a field trip, there was a survival class. It wasn't very hard seeing that we were in 5th grade. The first challenge was to make a shelter. It was amazing; I found a place that looked exactly like what I imagined when Brian built his house. Half an hour later I finished my construction. I looked exactly like I thought Brian did. I was amazed at myself. When you put your mind to it, you can do anything.

I'm in Boy Scouts, and I know how hard it is to build a fire with a flint & steel. It is incredible, but when I finally did, I must have felt like Brian did when he got the fire going. It is one of the most amazing experiences, seeing the soft red glow grow into a roaring fire. It is an experience I'll never forget, just like I'll never forget how Hatchet changed me.

Clinton Ray Jeffrey
8th Grade
Haines Middle School, Haines, Alaska
Teacher: Ms Lisa Andriesen

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