Gary Paulsen death: Tributes pour in after ‘incredible’ YA author of ‘Hatchet’ dies aged 82

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Gary Paulsen reflects on life as an author in a 2010 video (YouTube/Random House Kids)
Gary Paulsen reflects on life as an author in a 2010 video (YouTube/Random House Kids)

Tributes are pouring in for celebrated author Gary Paulsen after his death at the age of 82.

Paulsen died “suddenly” on Wednesday (13 October), Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group representative Molly B Ellis told USA Today.

“It was Paulsen’s overwhelming belief in young people that drove him to write,” Ellis told the publication. “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 was best known for his children’s adventure novels set in the wilderness including the 1986 Hatchet, which became the first in a series of five centring around protagonist Brian Robeson.

Paulsen’s other titles include Dogsong, originally published in 1985, and the 1989 The Winter Room. Hatchet, Dogsong and The Winter Room earned him three Newbery Honor titles from the Association for Library Service to Children in the US.

In a 2010 video for Random House Kids, Paulsen reflected on his life as an author, explaining: “I don’t think in terms of a lesson in my work. I don’t look for role models or any of that. I tell stories. I put bloody skins on my back and I dance around the fire and I tell what the hunt was like. I don’t pretend to do more than that.”

After the news of Paulsen’s death broke, industry figures and readers celebrated his work and its impact.

“We grief this incredible loss and are thankful for his numerous contributions to children’s literature throughout his life,” reads a tribute shared from the Twitter account for the publishing house Scholastic. “His legacy will live on through the pages of his books.”

Dogsledder and author Blair Braverman wrote: “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.”

The bookstore chain Barnes & Noble shared a quote from Paulsen in which 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 every minute you can. READ LIKE A WOLF EATS. Read.”

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