Three-time Newbery Honor author Gary Paulsen, known for his wilderness adventure novels for children such as ‘Hatchet,’ died this morning at age 82
‘Hatchet’ Author Was Only 82
Gary James Paulsen was born May 17, 1939, in Minneapolis. His childhood and adolescence were fairly rough and he recounts several traumatic instances in his autobiographical work Eastern Sun, Winter Moon: An Autobiographical Odyssey. Hatchet and the other four novels in the Brian’s Adventures series are his most popular novels. The series served as inspiration for the 1990 film A Cry in the Wild. His 1994 memoir Winterdance, which detailed his experience running the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, was the basis for the 2002 Disney film, Snow Dogs.
The bulk of Paulsen’s literary works focus on the outdoors and are geared towards the young adult audience. He had a passion for hunting, fishing, dog breeding, and sled dog racing. In 1983, he entered the 1,150 mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and placed 41st out of the 54 finishers. His official time was 17 days, 12 hours, 38 minutes, and 38 seconds. Despite an initial decision to give up sled dog racing in 1990, he would get back into the sport in 2003 and participate in the 2006 Iditarod. He was a true outdoorsman, living in the remote wilds of Alaska, on a houseboat on the Pacific, and finally in the deserts of the American Southwest.
The first novel in the Hatchet series, along with Dogsong, are some of the first novels I remember reading in grade school. Paulsen was a tremendous influence and fostered a great passion for reading and eventually writing in me. His prolific body of works is full of adventure, grit, and a deep fondness for nature. If it’s been a while since you’ve read some of his works or are looking for something new to read, you could do a lot worse than a Gary Paulsen story.