Cover image for Brian's winter
Brian's winter
Publication Information:
New York : Dell Laurel-Leaf, 1998, c1996.
Physical Description:
133 p. ; 18 cm.
General Note:
Companion book to: Hatchet and The river.
Instead of being rescued from a plane crash, as in the author's book Hatchet, this story portrays what would have happened to Brian had he been forced to survive a winter in the wilderness with only his survival pack and hatchet--Publisher.


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In Hatchet , 13-year-old Brian Robeson learned to survive alone in the Canadian wilderness, armed only with his hatchet. Finally, as millions of readers know, he was rescued at the end of the summer. But what if Brian hadn't been rescued? What if he had been left to face his deadliest enemy--winter?

Gary Paulsen raises the stakes for survival in this riveting and inspiring story as one boy confronts the ultimate test and the ultimate adventure.

Author Notes

Gary Paulsen was born on May 17, 1939 in Minnesota. He was working as a satellite technician for an aerospace firm in California when he realized he wanted to be a writer. He left his job and spent the next year in Hollywood as a magazine proofreader. His first book, Special War, was published in 1966. He has written more than 175 books for young adults including Brian's Winter, Winterkill, Harris and Me, Woodsong, Winterdance, The Transall Saga, Soldier's Heart, This Side of Wild, and Guts: The True Stories Behind Hatchet and the Brian Books. Hatchet, Dogsong, and The Winter Room are Newbery Honor Books. He was the recipient of the 1997 Margaret A. Edwards Award for his lifetime achievement in writing for young adults.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

Horn Book Review

With consummate skill, Doherty tells the story of James, a championship diver who runs away from his adoptive parents to seek out his birth mother. James has few clues at the start of his search, but with the help of a snake-shaped stone - an ammonite - and a scrap of paper with the message "Look after Sammy" written on it, he finds the woman who left him in a mailbox in a tiny village in Derbyshire, England, fifteen years earlier. James learns more about the painful history surrounding his adoption; meets his birth mother, Elizabeth; and is finally able to appreciate the reasons why she gave him away. In the end, he decides to return to his loving adoptive parents without disrupting his birth mother's world. James is a thoughtful and sensitive adolescent, and his first-person narration draws the reader into his quest for identity. James's story alternates with Elizabeth's shorter, although no less powerful, narration. As a young girl, Elizabeth falls in love with a gypsy and becomes pregnant. To protect the baby and herself, she knows she must abandon him with strangers. Her fright is palpable, as are her innocence and bravery. The two stories, told in two distinct voices, are deftly intertwined. With carefully crafted prose, Doherty creates vivid images and realistic dialogue that convey a rich sense of place and character. A moving and potent story of self-discovery. m.v.k. Penelope Farmer Penelope g The protagonist in this unusual fantasy set in contemporary England is Flora, a strange, pensive child given to inexplicable outbursts and terrible headaches. Since the death of her mother and the disappearance of her ne'er-do-well father, Flora has lived with her aunt and uncle and her cousin Louise. Flora's marked intelligence has earned her a scholarship to a private school, which has put her at odds with Louise and set her apart from her working-class adoptive family. What really distinguishes Flora from those around her, however, are memories she experiences that seem to belong to a little girl named Penelope who lived during the eighteenth century. When in the throes of one of these experiences, Flora speaks in a little girl's voice, and she might find herself suddenly reciting in Latin, or expertly playing the piano. Her aunt is convinced that Flora is the reincarnation of one of her ancestors, but the idea is too frightening for Flora to contemplate, until a confluence of forces brings about some resolution. The combination of her long-lost father's appearance, a visit to the tomb where little Penelope is buried, and the discovery that Flora herself had a twin sister - also named Penelope - who died at birth provides a gratifying climax that finally unites Flora with her past and allows the long-dead Penelope some peace. This is an ambitious novel that doesn't entirely succeed in placating the stormy ambience that it rouses. At times the need for exposition seems a drag on the flow of the narrative, and Louise's relationship with Flora begs for more attention. Flora's predicament is a compelling one, however, as is the notion of reincarnation. Readers looking for something off the beaten track might well enjoy this journey. n.v. Robin Klein The Sky in Silver Lace Continuing her series of books set in Australia not long after World War II, Klein tells of the difficult adjustments of the four Melling sisters and their mother when they move from their small country town to a large city. The oldest girl, Grace, is unhappily employed in a menial job but hopes to forge a career for herself using her undeniable artistic and design skills. Heather and Cathy have won scholarships to a prestigious girls' high school and struggle to make themselves accepted in a society far more sophisticated than any they have ever encountered. Vivienne, in primary school, is vulnerable and lost without her sisters and her friends. Ma is buffeted by the struggle to make ends meet, her inability to provide a permanent home, and the spiteful remarks and cold-hearted charity of a city relative. Various episodes present each girl's efforts to adjust to a new way of life while dealing with the limitations of poverty. Finally, at the end, even Vivienne, the youngest, is forced to realize that the return of their long-awaited father will never happen; they are on their own. But each sister has made a modest gain in self-confidence, and they are all on their way to a more secure future. This novel is distinguished by the carefully observed and solid setting, and by the perceptively delineated, realistic relationships between the girls and their mother. The Mellings are at a suspenseful turning point in their lives, and readers will hope for another installment. a.a.f. Gary Paulsen Brian's Winter In this ultimate "what if" companion to Paulsen's 1987 Newbery Honor-winning Hatchet (Bradbury), the author explores what would have happened to thirteen-year-old Brian if his ordeal in the Canadian wilderness had not ended before winter began, if the boy had not been able to trigger a radio signal, if he had been left with only his wits and his hatchet for the winter. In the wilderness, "fall came on with a softness" that almost fools Brian. His winter survival is chronicled in great, sometimes grisly, detail, until the boy, wearing skins for clothes and carrying stone arrowheads for weapons, comes across a Cree trapping family with whom he stays until he is finally flown out. A readable, fast-paced novel that can be read independently of the first book. m.b.s. Frances Temple The Beduin's Gazelle According to custom in their nomadic Khalidi tribe, cousins Halima and Atiyah have been promised to each other in marriage since birth. Atiyah, under pressure from his city-dwelling uncle, reluctantly leaves his people to study Islamic law at the university. There he meets the French pilgrim and student Etienne, whom readers may remember from the author's earlier companion novel, The Ramsay Scallop (Orchard). During a family move in the desert, Halima becomes lost in a sandstorm and is found by the rival Shummari tribe. Their presumptuous sheikh, Raisulu, proposes marriage, and Halima, bound by custom, cannot refuse, although she is emotionally distraught over the prospect. Just as Halima is about to become the sheikh's newest wife, Etienne and Atiyah arrive to rescue her. The Beduin's Gazelle touches on themes similar to those in The Ramsay Scallop, such as romance and the spread of religion. Readers will find themselves easily engaged by the vibrant characters, who illustrate the rich lives of Bedouin desert dwellers in the year 1302. The author's re-creation of the Bedouin culture, with its long tradition of storytelling and poetry and its capable women and children, makes reading this novel an enlightening experience. ellen fader From HORN BOOK, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-9-At the conclusion of Hatchet (Macmillan, 1987), Brian Robeson is rescued after surviving a plane crash and summer alone in the north Canadian woods. Now, in this second sequel, Paulsen shows what would have happened if the 13-year-old boy had been forced to endure the harsh winter. For a brief time, Brian lives in relative luxury, living off the contents of the recently recovered survival pack, which included a gun for hunting. Then, his freeze-dried food runs out and his rifle fails, and he realizes how careless and complacent he has become. Suddenly aware of the changing seasons, he works frantically to winterize his shelter, fashion warmer clothes from animal skins, and construct a more powerful bow and arrow. About the time he has mastered winter survival, he discovers a dog-sled trail that leads him to a trapper and final rescue. The same formula that worked before is successful here: the driving pace of the narration, the breathtaking descriptions of nature, and the boy who triumphs on the merits of efficient problem solving. The author's ability to cast a spell, mesmerize his audience, and provide a clinic in winter survival is reason enough to buy this novel. Although the plot is both familiar and predictable, Paulsen fans will not be disappointed.æTim Rausch, Crescent View Middle School, Sandy, UT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

First there was Hatchet, Paulsen's classic tale of a boy's survival in the north woods after a plane crash. Then came a sequel, The River, and, last year, Father Water, Mother Woods, a collection of autobiographical essays introduced as the nonfiction counterpart to Hatchet. Now Paulsen backs up and asks readers to imagine that Brian, the hero, hadn't been rescued after all. His many fans will be only too glad to comply, revisiting Brian at the onset of a punishing Canadian winter. The pace never relents-the story begins, as it were, in the middle, with Brian already toughened up and his reflexes primed for crisis. Paulsen serves up one cliffhanger after another (a marauding bear, a charging elk), and always there are the supreme challenges of obtaining food and protection against the cold. Authoritative narration makes it easy for readers to join Brian vicariously as he wields his hatchet to whittle arrows and arrowheads and a lance, hunts game, and devises clothes out of animal skins; while teasers at the ends of chapters keep the tension high (``He would hunt big tomorrow, he thought.... But as it happened he very nearly never hunted again''). The moral of the story: it pays to write your favorite author and ask for another helping. Ages 12-up. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

Gr. 5^-9. Writing with simplicity, Paulsen is at his best in an elemental story of wilderness survival. In this sequel to his widely popular Hatchet (1987), he spells out an alternative ending many readers have tried to imagine: What if 13-year-old Brian hadn't been rescued before winter came? What if he had had to face the cold months alone in the Canadian north? This time Brian has a survival kit he found in the crashed plane (including two butane lighters, a rifle, a fishing line, and a sleeping bag), but otherwise he has to find food, shelter, and clothing from the world around him. He sees himself like the first Americans, learning to make arrowheads and snowshoes, getting to know the sounds and tracks and weather of his place in the wild. Of course, Brian is extraordinarily resourceful and inventive. What's more, he somehow recovers from everything without injury, even after being knocked unconscious by a 700-pound moose. There's no suspense; we know he'll make it. Yet, as in the autobiographical Woodsong (1990), Paulsen writes with the authoritative particularity of someone who knows the woods. This docunovel is for outdoors lovers and also for all of those adventurers snug at home in a centrally heated high-rise. The facts are the drama. --Hazel Rochman

Kirkus Review

Suppose Brian Robeson hadn't been rescued from the wilderness before hard winter set in? On this premise Paulsen (The Rifle, p. 1286) crafts a companion/sequel to Hatchet (1987) containing many of its same pleasures: seeing Brian face challenge after life- threatening challenge, of both the immediate and the insidious kind, aided only by ingenuity, spirit, sharp eyes, and a tiny cache of salvaged gear; discovering with him the tools and skills needed for survival; savoring Paulsen's economical, evocative descriptions of woodland sights, sounds, and smells. Brian learns how to hunt large game with bows and arrows and to fashion crude but effective winter clothing and shelter just in time for winter rains and snows. Having already fought his battles with fear, despair, and loneliness in the previous book, Brian seems almost comfortable, his thoughts of home more a way of passing time than a source of any sharp emotion, and when a family of Cree trappers finds him at the end, he leaves with mixed feelings, clearly seduced by the wild. Aside from a brief foreword, Paulsen picks Hatchet's story up in midstream; read together, the two books make his finest tale of survival yet. (Fiction. 10-14)



For two weeks the weather grew warmer and each day was more glorious than the one before. Hunting seemed to get better as well. Brian took foolbirds or rabbits every day and on one single day he took three foolbirds. He ate everything and felt fat and lazy and one afternoon he actually lay in the sun. It was perhaps wrong to say he was happy. He spent too much time in loneliness for true happiness. But he found himself smiling as he worked around the camp and actually looked forward to bringing in wood in the soft afternoons just because it kept him out rummaging around in the woods. He had made many friends--or at least acquaintances. Birds had taken on a special significance for him. At night the owls made their soft sounds, calling each other in almost ghostly hooonnes that scared him until he finally saw one call on a night when the moon was full and so bright it was almost like a cloudy day. He slept with their calls and before long would awaken if they didn't call. Before dawn, just as gray light began to filter through the trees, the day birds began to sing. They started slowly but before the gray had become light enough to see ten yards all the birds started to sing and Brian was brought out of sleep by what seemed to be thousands of singing birds. At first it all seemed to be noise but as he learned and listened, he found them all to be different. Robins had an evening song and one they sang right before a rainstorm and another when the rain was done. Blue jays spent all their time complaining and swearing but they also warned him when something--anything--was moving in the woods. Ravens and crows were the same--scrawking and cawing their way through the trees. It was all, Brian found, about territory. Everybody wanted to own a place to live, a place to hunt. Birds didn't sing for fun, they sang to warn other birds to keep away--sang to tell them to stay out of their territory. He had learned about property from the wolves. Several times he had seen a solitary wolf--a large male that came near the camp and studied the boy. The wolf did not seem to be afraid and did nothing to frighten Brian, and Brian even thought of him as a kind of friend. The wolf seemed to come on a regular schedule, hunting, and Brian guessed that he ran a kind of circuit. At night while gazing at the fire Brian figured that if the wolf made five miles an hour and hunted ten hours a day, he must be traveling close to a hundred-mile loop. After a month or so the wolf brought a friend, a smaller, younger male, and the second time they both came they stopped near Brian's camp and while Brian watched they peed on a rotten stump, both going twice on the same spot. Brian had read about wolves and seen films about them: and knew that they "left sign," using urine to mark their territory. He had also read--he thought in a book by Farley Mowat--that the wolves respected others' territories as well as their own. As soon as they were well away from the old stump Brian went up and peed where they had left sign. Five days later when they came through again Brian saw them stop, smell where he had gone and then spot the ground next to Brian's spot, accepting his boundary. Good, he thought. I own something now. I belong. And he had gone on with his life believing that the wolves and he had settled everything. But wolf rules and Brian rules only applied to wolves and Brian. Then the bear came. Brian had come to know bears as well as he knew wolves or birds. They were usually alone--unless it was a female with cubs--and they were absolutely, totally devoted to eating. He had seen them several times while picking berries, raking the bushes with their teeth to pull the fruit off--and a goodly number of leaves as well, which they spit out before swallowing the berries--and, as with the wolves, they seemed to get along with him. That is to say Brian would see them eating and he would move away and let them pick where they wanted while he found another location. It worked for the bears, he thought, smiling, and it worked for him, and this thinking evolved into what Brian thought of as an understanding between him and the bears: Since he left them alone, they would leave him alone. Unfortunately the bears did not know that it was an agreement, and Brian was suffering under the misunderstanding that, as in some imaginary politically correct society, everything was working out. All of this made him totally unprepared for the reality of the woods. To wit: Bears and wolves did what they wanted to do, and Brian had to fit in. He was literary awakened to the facts one morning during the two-week warm spell. Brian had been sleeping soundly and woke to the clunking sound of metal on rock. His mind and ears were tuned to all the natural sounds around him and there was no sound in nature of metal on stone. It snapped him awake in midbreath. He was sleeping with his head in the opening of the shelter and he had his face out and when he opened his eyes he saw what appeared to be a wall of black-brown fur directly in front of him. He thought he might be dreaming and shook his head but it didn't go away and he realized in the same moment that he was looking at the rear end of a bear. No, he thought with a clinical logic that surprised him--I am looking at the very large rear end of a very large bear. The bear had come to Brian's camp--smelling the gutsmell of the dead rabbit, and the cooking odor from the pot. The bear did not see it as Brian's camp or territory. There was a food smell, it was hungry, it was time to eat. It had found the pot and knife by the fire where Brian had left them and scooped them outside. Brian had washed them both in the lake when he finished eating, but the smell of food was still in the air. Working around the side of the opening, the bear had bumped the pan against a rock at the same moment that it had settled its rump in the entrance of Brian's shelter. Brian pulled back a foot. "Hey--get out of there!" he yelled, and kicked the bear in the rear. He was not certain what he expected. Perhaps that the bear would turn and realize its mistake and then sheepishly trundle away. Or that the bear would just run off. With no hesitation, not even the smallest part of a second's delay, the bear turned and ripped the entire log side off the shelter with one sweep of a front paw and a moist "whouuuff" out of its nostrils. Brian found himself looking up at the bear, turned now to look down on the boy, and with another snort the bear swung its left paw again and scooped Brian out of the hollow of the rock and flung him end over end for twenty feet. Then the bear slipped forward and used both front paws to pack Brian in a kind of ball and whap him down to the edge of the water, where he lay, dazed, thinking in some way that he was still back in the shelter. The bear stopped and studied Brian for a long minute, then turned back to ransacking the camp, looking for where that delicious smell had come from. It sat back on its haunches and felt the air with its nostrils, located another faint odor stream and followed it down to the edge of the water where the fish pool lay. It dug in the water--not more than ten feet from where Brian now lay, trying to figure out if his arms and legs were still all attached to where they had been before--and pulled up the rabbit skull, still with bits of meat on it, and swallowed it whole. It dug around in the water again and found the guts and ate them and went back to rummaging around in the pool, and when nothing more could be found the bear looked once more at Brian, at the camp, and then walked away without looking back. Other than some minor scratches where the bear's claws had slightly scraped him--it was more a boxing action than a clawing one--Brian was in one piece. He was still jolted and confused about just exactly which end was up, but most of all he was grateful. He knew that the bear could have done much more damage than it had. He had seen a bear tear a stump out of the ground like a giant tooth when it was looking for grubworms and ants. This bear could just as easily have killed him, and had actually held back. But as the day progressed Brian found himself stiffening, and by the time he was ready for bed his whole body ached and he knew he would be covered with bruises from the encounter. He would have to find some way to protect himself, some weapon. The fire worked well when it was burning, but it had burned down. His hatchet and knife would have done nothing more than make the bear really angry--something he did not like to think about--and his bow was good only for smaller game. He had never tried to shoot anything bigger than a foolbird or rabbit with it and doubted that the bow would push the arrow deep enough to do anything but--again--make the bear really mad. He bundled in his bag that night, the end of the two weeks of warm weather. He kept putting wood on the fire, half afraid the bear would come back. All the while he tried to think of a solution. But in reality, the bear was not his primary adversary. Nor was the wolf, nor any animal. Brian had become his own worst enemy because in all the business of hunting, fishing and surviving he had forgotten the primary rule: Always, always pay attention to what was happening. Everything in nature means something and he had missed the warnings that summer was ending, had in many ways already ended, and what was coming would be the most dangerous thing he had faced since the plane crash. An Excerpt from Brian's Winter         He would have to find some way to protect himself, some weapon. The fire         worked well when it was burning, but it had burned down. His hatchet and         knife would have done nothing more than make the bear really angry--something         he did not like to think about--and his bow was good only for smaller         game. He had never tried to shoot anything bigger than a foolbird or rabbit         with it and doubted that the bow would push the arrow deep enough to do         anything but--again--make the bear really mad.         He bundled in his bag that night, the end of the two weeks of warm weather.         He kept putting wood on the fire, half afraid the bear would come back.         All the while he tried to think of a solution.         But in reality, the bear was not his primary adversary. Nor was the wolf,         nor any animal. Brian had become his own worst enemy because in all the         business of hunting, fishing and surviving he had forgotten the primary         rule: Always, always pay attention to what was happening. Everything         in nature means something and he had missed the warnings that summer was         ending, had in many ways already ended, and what was coming would be the         most dangerous thing he had faced since the plane crash.      Excerpted from Brian's Winter by Gary Paulsen All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.