Gary Paulsen, who enchanted generations of young readers with his adventure novels, including Hatchet, has died at 82.
Paulsen’s death was announced by publisher Random House Children’s Books.
A Minnesota native, Paulsen lived a life of adventure starting at a young age. He ran away from home at 14, and worked a series of odd jobs, including stints as a farmhand, truck driver, and construction worker.
He made his literary debut in 1966 with an essay collection titled Some Birds Don’t Fly. More than 200 books would follow, including Hatchet, his 1986 novel about a 13-year-old boy who has to survive on his own in the woods after a plane crash.
The novel spawned several sequels, including The River and Brian’s Hunt. His next book, Northwind, is scheduled for publication in January of 2022; in a starred review, a critic for Kirkus praised the novel as “a voyage both singular and universal, marked by sharply felt risks and rewards and deep waters beneath.”
Paulsen’s admirers paid tribute to him on social media. Author and dog-sledder Blair Braverman tweeted, “I know many mushers—myself included—who first fell in love with mushing through Gary Paulsen’s stories about his sled dogs. He changed lives in big ways; he wrote about wilderness, animals, fear, wonder with extraordinary grace. An incredible writer. May he rest in peace.”
And editor Melissa Warten wrote, “We rarely know if our heroes are the people we hope them to be, but Gary Paulsen was truly the kindest, most gracious man and writer. It’s the honor of my career to have had even a small hand in publishing his stories. A monumental loss, yes—but what a monumental gift he was.”
We rarely know if our heroes are the people we hope them to be, but Gary Paulsen was truly the kindest, most gracious man and writer. It’s the honor of my career to have had even a small hand in publishing his stories. A monumental loss, yes—but what a monumental gift he was. https://t.co/2lb7y8yCXl— Melissa Warten (she/her) (@melissa_warten) October 13, 2021
Michael Schaub is a Texas-based journalist and regular contributor to NPR.