Authors: Gary Paulsen

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American novelist

Author Works

Children’s/Young Adult Literature:

Winterkill, 1976

The Foxman, 1977

The Night the White Deer Died, 1978

The Spitball Gang, 1980

Dancing Carl, 1983

Popcorn Days, 1983

Tracker, 1984

Dogsong, 1985

Sentries, 1986

The Crossing, 1987

Hatchet, 1987

The Island, 1988

The Winter Room, 1989

The Voyage of the Frog, 1989

Canyons, 1990

The Boy Who Owned the School, 1990

The Cookcamp, 1991

The Monument, 1991

The River, 1991

The Haymeadow, 1992

Harris and Me, 1993

Nightjohn, 1993

Mr. Tucket, 1994

The Tent, 1995

Call Me Francis Tucket, 1995

The Rifle, 1995

Brian’s Winter, 1996

Sarny, 1997

The Schernoff Discoveries, 1997

Amos Binder, Secret Agent, 1997

Soldier’s Heart, 1998

The Transall Saga, 1998

Brian’s Return, 1999

Alida’s Song, 1999

Tucket’s Gold, 1999

The White Fox Chronicles, 2000

Tucket’s Home, 2000

The Beet Fields: Memories of a Sixteenth Summer, 2000

The Glass Café, 2003

How Angel Peterson Got His Name, 2003

Short Fiction:

The Madonna Stories, 1989


Eastern Sun, Western Moon: An Autobiographical Odyssey, 1993

Father Water, Mother Woods: Essays on Fishing and Hunting in the North Woods, 1994

Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod, 1994

Puppies, Dogs, and Blue Northers: Reflections on Being Raised by a Pack of Sled Dogs, 1996

Pilgrimage on a Steel Ride: A Memoir About Men and Motorcycles, 1997

Guts, 2001

Caught by the Sea: My Life on Boats, 2001


Gary Paulsen has been one of the most prolific writers of books for young adult readers in the genre’s history. Raised by his mother for the first seven years of his life, he did not meet his father until the family was reunited in the Philippines, where his father was serving in the U.S. Army. Moving from base to base after World War II, sometimes in the care of his grandmother, Paulsen was uninterested in school and frequently in trouble. He began to read when he was offered a library card after he entered a library building to get warm while working a newspaper route. He left home at fourteen to join a carnival and later worked as a ranch hand and a construction worker. At seventeen, he enlisted in the Army, where he learned enough about missiles to became a technician for the Lockheed Martin Corporation upon his discharge. Convinced that his experiences were worth further examination, he left that job to work as a magazine proofreader and began writing at night.{$I[A]Paulsen, Gary}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Paulsen, Gary}{$I[tim]1939;Paulsen, Gary}

He completed his first novel while living in a cabin in the Minnesota woods, where his experiences with animals and his developing skills for survival in a harsh environment gave him the central subjects of his ensuing work. A fascination with dogs had led him to make two successful runs in the Iditarod sled race; when a heart condition restricted his physical activities, he put “the same energy and effort that I was using with dogs” into writing, sometimes twenty hours a day.

Paulsen was immediately successful, with a number of books that captured the close relationship between a young man and a wild animal, as well as with stories about teenage boys who did not fit easily into any of the roles considered acceptable in society. With Dogsong, however, he moved into the first rank of young-adult authors. This story of an Inuit learning about a hidden heritage while on a trek through forbidding but enchanting terrain brought together Paulsen’s feeling for animals, his thorough knowledge of survival skills, and his ability to write with insight and sensitivity about a unique individual. Paulsen was temporarily sidetracked by a lawsuit brought by a man who wrongly assumed that Winterkill was based on the claimant’s life, but after prevailing in court, Paulsen returned to the same schedule of prolific production. His wife, artist Ruth Wright, began illustrating some of his children’s books.

In addition to his continuing interest in survival situations and his fascination with the dimensions of the natural world–areas that he has also addressed effectively in essays and memoirs–Paulsen has returned to several other themes in evolving narratives that he has developed in multibook sequences. The Monument, about the Vietnam War, and Soldier’s Heart, about the Civil War, are candid, forceful examinations of combat, while The Rifle directly confronts the destructive appeal of weapons in American life. Nightjohn and Sarny powerfully evoke the plague of slavery. In a much lighter mode, he has also written a number of comic novels, such as The Boy Who Owned the School and The Schernoff Discoveries, whose protagonists are still young people living outside the sphere of popularity. Throughout his career, Paulsen has moved from one subject and setting to another, producing books directed to, if not exclusively limited to, a particular cohort. His greatest success has been with younger readers, as indicated by the distinguished Newbery Medals for Hatchet, Dogsong, and The Winter Room and numerous designations from the American Library Association, including Best Book for Young Readers for Soldier’s Heart. The distinction, however, between children’s books and those which also interest a mature reader does not strictly apply to Paulsen’s best work.

BibliographyPaulsen, Gary. “Gary Paulsen.” Interview by Marguerite Feitlowitz. In Authors and Artists for Young Readers. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 1989. In this interview with Paulsen, the author responds with insight and enthusiasm to questions about the origins and development of his central themes and concerns.Peters, Stephanie True. Gary Paulsen. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Learning Works, 1999. A competent overview of Paulsen’s writing, covering his output through the end of the twentieth century, with a focus on literature for younger readers.Salvner, Gary M. Gary Paulsen. New York: Twayne/Simon & Schuster, 1996. An excellent study of Paulsen’s life and work, highly responsive to his aims and accomplishments, with a good balance of biographical detail mixed with considerations of individual books. Includes an appendix listing Paulsen’s awards, an index, and a selected bibliography with a list of reviews of his most significant books.
Categories: Authors