Gary Paulsen

How did Gary Paulsen die? Beloved ‘Hatchet’ series author dies at 82

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Author and wilderness advocate Gary Paulsen, best known for writing young adult literature including the Hatchet novel series, has passed away.

Publisher’s Weekly brings word of Paulsen’s death, revealing that he died in the morning of Wednesday, October 13, Paulsen was 82. In a tweet, they wrote: “Three-time Newbery Honor author Gary Paulsen, known for his wilderness adventure novels for children such as ‘Hatchet,’ died this morning at age 82.”

No further details about Paulsen’s death were announced. He is survived by his wife, Ruth Wright Paulsen, and three children, Michael Paulsen, Paulette Paulsen, and Bill Paulsen.

Best known for featuring nature, wilderness, survival training, and coming of age-style narratives within his stories, Paulsen’s 1986 Newbery Medal winning book Hatchet quickly became a favorite for young readers and remains a staple in that category.

Its success would spawn a series, known as Brian’s saga, which would see four more novels be published within it including The River in 1991, Brian’s Winter in 1996, Brian’s Return in 1999 and Brian’s Hunt in 2003.

Paulsen isn’t the only author who left for heavenly abode this year. In March, Norton Juster, who wrote ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ died at 91. Then in June, journalist and author Janet Malcolm succumbed to lung cancer. Speaking of authors, in June, beloved children’s writer Enid Blyton was dubbed “racist and xenophobic” by English Heritage, sparking a major controversy.

How did Gary Paulsen die?

Details of Paulsen’s death were not available, so we cannot say for sure what led to the author’s death. The magazine simply tweeted, “Three-time Newbery Honor author Gary Paulsen, known for his wilderness adventure novels for children such as ‘Hatchet,’ died this morning at age 82.” No other details were provided.

Given that he lived largely away from the spotlight, we could not find any reports of Paulsen suffering from serious illness, or battling any major ailments, so the cause of his death does remain a mystery. He also doesn’t maintain his own website or social media profiles, so there’s no way to confirm what happened. The only known health scare he had was a heart disease back in the 90s, which led to his road trip from New Mexico to Alaska, as chronicled in the book ‘Zero To Sixty’.

The real-life and literary adventures of the author Gary Paulsen - The New  York Times

‘He impacted so many lives with his incredible stories’

News of his death quickly spread, and tributes flowed in on social media. One person tweeted, “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.” Another commented, “RIP, Gary Paulsen. Thank you for changing my life.”

“So sad to hear about the passing of Gary Paulsen. He impacted so many lives with his incredible stories. It was an honor to meet him many years ago. He will be dearly missed,” one person tweeted. Another remembered, “reread The Car at the beginning of the pandemic, and it was just as good as I remembered. what an incredible writer. RIP Gary Paulsen.” Another commented, “damn, rip to a legend i read so much gary paulsen as a kid.”

Though the Hatchet books are among his most well known that are just one of several series that Paulsen regularly wrote. Others included The Tucket Adventures, recounting the story of a young man on the Oregon Trail and other historical moments; Culpepper Adventures, a mystery series following two young boys in the modern era; The World of Adventure series, individual books that focused on various survival and adventure scenarios; and more.

Paulsen also wrote several autobiographical books including Woodsong, My Life in Dog Years, and Guts: The True Stories Behind Hatchet and the Brian Books.

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