Biography of Gary Paulsen

Gary Paulsen, born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1939, is a famous writer of young adult literature. He has written over 200 books, as well as more than 200 magazine articles and short stores intended for teenagers. His most famous work is Hatchet, the first in a saga all focused around the main character, Brian.

Paulsen spent most of his childhood in Minnesota; however, he also lived in the Philippines for two years (beginning when he was seven) while his father was stationed there in the military. This was Paulsen's first time meeting his father, who had not lived with them because of his military duties. Paulsen has written a few autobiographical works, including Eastern Sun and Winter Moon: An Autobiographical Odyssey which detail some of his struggles growing up, which primarily involved coping with the absence of his father, as well as his mother's alcoholism and various sexual encounters with other men. At age 14, Paulsen ran away and joined a carnival.

Paulsen often writes about his life in the prologues and epilogues of his books, and many of his works, while primarily fiction, have numerous autobiographical qualities. Hatchet was partly inspired by the way Paulsen had to take care of himself between the ages of 12 and 14 because of his mother's alcoholism; he learned to hunt, first with a gun, and then eventually with a bow and arrows he made to hunt deer.

In his early adult life Paulsen lived in poverty, worked a number of jobs, and even served in the Army. He struggled as a writer for a long time, until his first award-winning book, Dogsong, was published. He received the prestigious Margaret Edwards Award from the American Library Association in 1997, and three of his books have been runners-up for the Newbury Medal.

Paulsen's work primarily centers on the outdoors, and often displays prominent "coming-of-age" themes.

Study Guides on Works by Gary Paulsen

Hatchet, published by Bradbury Press in 1987, is Gary Paulsen's best-known novel. It is the first of five in the Hatchet series, detailing the events in Brian Robeson's life after he ends up stranded in a forest after the pilot of a bush plane he...