Gary Paulsen—prolific adventure writer best known for the winner of the Newbery medal Hatchet and its aftermath – died, as confirmed in a tweet from Editors Weekly. The cause of death was not disclosed, although he notably lived a private life that suited his work’s fascination with the wilderness (United States today this he died “suddenly”). Paulsen was 82 years old.
Born in Minnesota in 1939, Paulsen has detailed much of his young life in various autobiographical books like Guts: The Real Stories Behind Hatched and Brian’s Books and Gone To The Woods: Surviving A Lost Childhood (which was released earlier this year).
He wrote about issues with his parents, including his mother’s alcoholism and his infidelity to his father, as well as various traumatic experiences like plane crashes that inspired his work. It also led him to develop a commitment to self-reliance that turned him into a voracious reader and taught him about woodland survival.
Hatchet, his most famous book, was published in 1986 and is about a boy named Brian flying from New York to Canada to visit his father. When the pilot of his plane has a heart attack and the plane crashes, Brian must use an ax his mother gave him to find a way to survive. As noted above, the book won the Newbery Medal, which honors children’s literature, and it has become an important book for teaching children to experience the world around them.
The first suite, River, was published in 1991 and is about Brian trying to teach a government psychologist some survival skills. After it was Brian’s winter, an alternative account of Hatchetends, and two books—Brian’s Return and Brian’s Hunt– in which Brian realizes he is more at home in the wilderness than in modern society.
Although the Hatchet books are his most iconic, Paulsen has written over 200 other books and hundreds of short stories primarily aimed at young audiences. His other books include Dog song, The winter room, and Harris and me, as good as Song of the woods and Winter dance about the famous Iditarod sled dog race in Alaska (in which he competed several times).
Paulsen’s latest novel, Wait north, will be released early next year. He is survived by his wife, illustrator Ruth Wright Paulsen, and their son.