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Gary Paulsen, author of ‘Hatchet,’ more coming-of-age wilderness stories, dies ‘suddenly’ at 82

Gary Paulsen, the children’s author best known for “Hatchet” and other coming-of-age stories set in the wilderness, has died at age 82.

Paulsen died “suddenly” Wednesday, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group representative Molly B. Ellis confirmed to USA TODAY.

“It was Paulsen’s overwhelming belief in young people that drove him to write,” read a remembrance provided to USA TODAY by Ellis. “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.”

His most well-known book, “Hatchet” (1986), tells the story of a 13-year-old boy who must learn to survive on his own when a plane crash leaves him stranded in the wilderness with only a hatchet as a resource. It nabbed him one of his three Newbery Honor awards, which he also won for “The Winter Room” and “Dogsong.”


Gary Paulsen has Died at Age 82

Gary Paulsen, a central figure in young adult fiction, winner of three Newberry Medals, and winner of a Margaret Edwards Award, among other honors, passed away on October 13, 2021, in the morning. Publisher’s Weekly confirmed it later that afternoon in a tweet, although the cause of death is yet unknown.

His books were a fixture in my mother’s school library, the books in constant rotation as kids who patiently waited for them to be returned picked them up almost as soon as they hit the shelf. The covers of his books were always among the most well worn, any paperbacks loved to velvet softness around the edges. I can’t count the number of times I sat through a book report presentation of Hatchet.


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