Gary Paulsen, the American author of young adult fiction who has taught millions of children nature skills through novels such as Hatchet, Dogsong and The Winter Room, has died at the age of 82. His editor said Thursday his death was sudden but did not specify a cause.
Paulsen wrote over 200 books in his lifetime and was renowned for introducing generations of young readers to survivalist literature. According to his publisher, there are 35 million copies of his books printed and he has won three Newbery Honors. Hatchet, his story of a 13-year-old boy left to fend for himself in the woods, became a staple of mandatory reading lists in American schools after its publication in 1986.
Born in 1939 in Minnesota, Paulsen survived a difficult childhood as recounted in his memoir Gone to the Woods, published earlier this year, his mother was an alcoholic while his father went to fight in World War II. He recalled an important time as a child in the woods of Minnesota, where he learned skills such as fishing, cooking over a campfire, and camping, which would later become staples for his young characters.
Otherwise outside, Paulsen was in the library, where a librarian first gave him a notebook and pencil to write down his thoughts. None of this would have happened except that, Paulsen wrote, according to NPR.
During his lifetime, Paulsen also worked as a farm worker, engineer, construction worker, sailor, truck driver, satellite technician, and even magazine proofreader in Hollywood. He ran the Iditarod dog sled race twice and spent two years sailing around the world.
Most, more important thing is to read, Paulsen said, according to his publishing house. Read all the time; read when they tell you not to read, what they tell you not to read, read with a flashlight under the covers, read on the bus, standing in a corner, waiting for a friend, in the bathroom waiting for the dentist. Read every minute you can.
He is survived by his wife and son. His latest novel, Northwind, will be published in January 2022.
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