Tributes to Hatchet author Gary Paulsen, who has died aged 82

Tributes to Hatchet author Gary Paulsen, who has died aged 82

Tributes have been paid to Gary Paulsen, after the Hatchet author passed away at the age of 82.

The three-time Newbery Medal-winning author died suddenly on 13th October, his publisher Macmillan announced.

His award-winning and critically acclaimed books include Hatchet, Brian’s Winter, The River, Brian’s Return, Brian’s Hunt, Dogsong, The Winter Room and most recently his memoir, Gone to the Woods: A True Story of Growing Up in the Wild. His final novel, Northwind, will be published in July 2022 in the UK by Macmillan Children’s Books.

Belinda Ioni Rasmussen, m.d. of Macmillan Children's Books (MCB), said: "All of us at MCB are shocked to hear this sudden news of the death of Gary Paulsen. We are proud to be his UK publisher for more than 30 years and his classic Newbery Honor-winning novel Hatchet has, in particular, been widely loved, recommended and shared by children, families and teachers since it was first published in the UK in 1989. Our thoughts are with his family at this time." 

Born on 17th May 1939 in Minnesota, Paulsen went on to become one of America’s most popular writers for young people. His passion for reading began at an early age when a librarian gave him a book to read and a library card to get more. He also had a taste for adventure which, among other things, saw him run away at the age of 14 to travel with a carnival.

Macmillan said: “Paulsen’s realisation that he would become a writer came when he was working as a satellite technician for an aerospace firm in California. One night he walked off the job, never to return. He spent the next year in Hollywood as a magazine proofreader, working on his own writing every night. Then he left California and drove to northern Minnesota, where he rented a cabin on a lake; by the end of the winter, he had completed his first novel.” 

The publisher explained: “It was Paulsen’s overwhelming belief in young people that drove him to write. His desire to tap deeply into the human spirit and encourage readers to observe and care about the world around them brought him both enormous popularity with young people and critical acclaim from the children’s book community.”

Paulsen, who is survived by his wife and son, wrote more than 200 books alongside 200 articles and short stories for children and adults. Hatchet, Dogsong and The Winter Room were all Newbery winners and, in 1997, he received the ALA Margaret A Edwards Award for his contribution to young adult literature. His books have sold more than 35 million copies worldwide, according to the publisher. Sales of the UK edition of Hatchet stand at more than 500,000 copies, MCB said.

He told his readers: “The most, most important thing is to read. 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 on a corner, waiting for a friend, in the dentist’s waiting room. Read every minute you can. Read like a wolf eats. Read.”