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Sameer A. Thomas

By Gary Paulsen
Macmillan, New Delhi, 1992, pp. 127, £4.99

By Dianna Wynne Jones . Illustrated by Paul Hess
Collins Voyager, 2003, pp. 234, £4.99

VOLUME XXIX NUMBER 11 November 2005

It has been two years since Brian Robeson was stranded in the Canadian wilderness for fifty-four days, and lived to tell the tale. Now he is back, in the sequel to Gary Paulsen’s amazing novel Hatchet: Survival Against All Odds. In this book, Brian Robeson lives comfortably with his mother in Hampton, New York. But Brian has never been the same since he was rescued. Even like simplest thing watching another person eat is fascinating for him. He has also developed culinary skills. He learns to settle down, but not for long. Three men pay him a visit saying that they belong to a school which teaches people the art of survival. They want Brian to take one of them, Derek Holtzer, a psychologist, back into the Canadian wilderness, in a different spot, with penknives instead of hatchets, to show them how he survives. At first Brian is hesitant, explaining that what had happened to him couldn’t be taught in any way, but when he understands that it would be useful to other people, he agrees. His parents had noticed his odd ways and thought he was crazy when he told them about his decision, but Brian remains firm, knowing they would never understand.   Upon his arrival, his survival instincts kick in and he forbids Derek from bringing any emergency supplies. But after a freak storm leaves Derek unconscious, Brian realizes he might have made a big mistake. Now he has to ferry Derek downriver to the nearest inhabited area in a flimsy raft. Though the plot sounds exciting, Hatchet: The Return is nothing compared to its prequel. It is thrilling in some places, but it doesn’t have the same appeal. For those who think that it could be better than Hatchet, don’t get your hopes up. If you want to read it, then do so for the follow-up on the previous book and to experience how one incident can change a person forever.   The Ogre Downstairs is an interesting blend of science fiction and family matters. It is about three siblings, Caspar, Johnny and Gwinny, who live in a small house with their mother, their ‘evil stepfather’ whom they call ‘The Ogre’ and his two sons, Douglas and Malcolm. When ‘The Ogre’ gives Johnny and Malcolm a chemistry set each to keep them out of trouble, it seems like a harmless present. But after accidentally ...

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