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The biography of Gary Paulsen.
Written works include:
Literary Awards he has achieved for his work.
We have reviewed the following books:
A list of published interviews by Gary Paulsen.
A suggested reading list for more information on Gary Paulsen.
Born on May 17, 1939 in Minneapolis,
Minnesota, Gary Paulsen is the prolific author of more than 40 books, 200
magazine articles and short stories, and several plays; primarily for Young
Adults. Paulsen's interests in books and reading came when he was a teenager
and walked into a library to escape the cold of a Minnesota winter. Once inside,
and much to his surprise, the librarian offered him a library card and a book
to read (Something About the Author, 1995). Reading helped Paulsen cope with
a difficult family situation then and remains a constant in his life today.
Since the age of 15, Paulsen has
worked at many jobs in an effort to support himself: migrant worker, soldier,
field engineer, truck driver, and magazine editor (Handy, 1991). Paulsen used
his work as a magazine editor to learn the craft of writing. In 1966, his
first book was published, The Special War. Using his varied life experiences,
but especially those of an outdoorsman--a hunter, trapper, and two-time competitor
in the Iditarod, a 1,200 mile Alaskan dogsled race, Paulsen writes about what
he knows best. This knowledge comes through clearly in the descriptive details
he uses, making the reader feel part of the narrative.
Much of Paulsen's work features
outdoor settings showing the importance of water and woods to the harmony
of nature. He often uses a coming of age theme, where a character masters
the art of survival in isolation as a rite of passage to manhood. Ethnic groups
are presented with sensitivity and understanding, giving the reader a perspective
not realized previously. . .the majestic use of language, the examination
of human potential, a strong sense of humor...has won Paulsen his much deserved
reputation...(Lesesne, 1996, p.341).
Paulsen lives in La Luz, New Mexico with his wife, Ruth, an artist.
Russell Suskitt is a modern-day Eskimo boy who mourns the loss of his culture. When he is taken in by Oogruk, the village shaman, he is shown the old way of life and learns how to lead the dog teams, and how to let them run.
In a classic coming of age novel,
Paulsen blends the mystical with the harsh realities of life. This novel has
it all, the search for the holy grail, in this case, his "song" the long and
painful trip in inhospitable environs, the search for food, the dreams, the
killing of the huge polar bear, and even the rescue of the pregnant woman.
Along the way, Russell discovers what he is made of, and what is really important
to him. "Paulsen...recognizes the reality of killing to save lives, and of
dreaming to save sanity, in the communion between present and past, life and
death, reality and imagination, in this majestic exploration into the Alaskan
wilderness by a master author who knows his subject well." (Ward, December
1985, p.321). According to Booklist,."Paulsen's mystical tone and blunt
prose style are well suited to the spare landscape of his story, and his depictions
of Russell's icebound existence add both authenticity and color to a slick
rendition of the vision-quest plot, which incorporates human tragedy as well
as promise." (C. H., April, 1985, p.1114).
Dogsong is a somewhat mystical book using to great advantage Paulsen's ability to describe harsh reality, and the understanding of an old and deep culture. Paulsen himself has said that he considers Dogsong to be the favorite among his books (Handy, 1992). One can understand why Dogsong is his favorite, because of its depth of knowledge and understanding of Eskimo culture and human nature.
Could you survive in the Canadian wilderness with just your basic instincts and a hatchet? In Paulsen's book,Hatchet, the protagonist, Brian Robeson, does just that, he survives in the wilderness for 54 days by using his instincts and a hatchet, a present from his mother.
Brian is being flown to see his father in the Canadian wilderness for the summer after the divorce of his parents, when he is thrown into a life threatening situation when the pilot of the two-seater plane has fatal heart attack. Immediately Brian must think of how to survive by landing the plane in a lake. From this moment Paulsen takes you through the survival techniques of Brian's 54 days in the wilderness.
Fast paced, suspenseful with minute detail description, Paulsen's theme of survival is evident in his description of how Brian must learn from his mistakes and to rely on nature to survive. But Brian must also learn to get over the divorce his parents just went through and not dwell on the past and his fears, for this takes away from his focus to survive. Through Paulsen's descriptions you experience Brian's first success in making a fire without matches, catching his first meat, to his disappointments when his "home" is destroyed by a tornado.
Paulsen effectively demonstrates to his readers how Brian must learn to survive by watching, listening, overcoming his mistakes, and through sheer determination to survive. Paulsen's sub-plot of "The Secret" about Brian's mother, and the divorce of his parents is mentioned a number of times in the story but it does not bring any relevance to the main theme of Brian's survival.
"Paulsen's knowledge of our national
wilderness is obvious and beautifully shared...YA readers will surely identify
with Brian's anger at his parent's divorce...his awakening self-assurance
and pride" (Wilson, February 1988, p.283).
"Paulsen effectively shows readers how Brian learns patience - to watch, listen, and think before he acts..." (Chatton, December 1987, p. 103).
What would have happened to Brian Robeson if he had not been rescued? Could he have survived in the harsh winter of the Canadian wilderness? Gary Paulsen's most recent book for young adults answers these questions.
Brian has become almost comfortable with his solitary existence until he begins to feel the first intimations of winter--shorter days, colder mornings, longer rain storms. Suspecting, but not actually knowing, that the winter will be severe, Brian begins to react to changes in his environment. The survival skills he has already learned serve as the foundation for the more serious challenges to come. Brian must provide for himself the basics of human life--shelter, food, and clothing. Despite a broken rifle, a rampaging bear, an attacking moose, bone chilling cold, and deep snows, Brian survives.
The familiar themes of Paulsen's writing echo through the book. His masterful use of language keeps the reader turning the pages. When Brian kills a very large moose and then must clean it and transport the meat back to his shelter, the detailed description of this process puts you right next to him, breathing a sigh a relief when the meat is safely stored away. To respect and learn from nature is another theme used frequently by the author. During the fall, Brian spent long hours watching beavers build a dam. Putting these observations to good use, he winterizes his shelter using the same techniques. As the snow gets deeper, Brian must still gather wood for heating and hunt for food. Observing how rabbits adapt to the winter landscape--fur changing color to blend with the snow and thickening on their paws--Brian remembers that snowshoes would keep him on top of the snow. After he fashions crude snowshoes from the hide of the moose, he feels at one with environment again. The snowshoes work well enabling him to travel farther in search of food and giving him back the sense of freedom he felt he had lost when winter set in. Ultimately, the snowshoes are Brian's ticket out of the wilderness.
"Authoritative narration makes it easy for readers to join Brian vicariously..." (Publishers Weekly, December 18, 1995, p.55).
". . . Paulsen crafts a companion/sequel to Hatchet (1987) containing many of its same pleasures..." (Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 1995, p. 1638).
Me is the unnamed city boy who narrates this hilarious and touching story set back in the fifties when he was 11 years old. "Harris" is the narrator's crude and rude, irresistibly irrepressible 9 year old second cousin.
As the son of abusive, alcoholic parents, Paulsen's young narrator finds himself passed from one set of extended family members to another. When he lands for a summer on Harris's farm--only 40 miles from his own city home, but light years away from any family experience he's ever known -- he's in for the time of his young life. In fact, he's lucky to survive the summer with his life -- his limbs -- in tact, thanks to Harris's high-energy, low-caution, idea of how to pack the most adventure into each day.
The escapades are wildly imaginative, often daring, and always fun to read. English Journal called it ". . . the most comfortable and funniest Paulsen book in years..." declaring that "Only prissy people...won't take joy in Harris and Me (K. L. D. November, 1994, p.101-102). Kirkus Reviews "praised it as an earthy, wonderfully comic piece" (October 15, 1993, p.1334). School Library Journal advised "Some stories push beyond believability and edge into tall-tale territory, but it doesn't matter, for this is storytelling in the tradition of Twain and Harte, memorable and humorous and very telling of human nature." (Bock, January 1994, p.132).
Paulsen has created a story with great wit, charm, and in the end, poignancy. For it is during this one memorable summer that the narrator experiences his first taste of belonging, in a loving family environment -- only to be wrenched from this rough-and-tumble bliss and returned to the bleak rough-and-tumble of his own home back in the city at summer's end.
"Truly one of Paulsen's best," concluded Booklist (Zvirin, December 1, 1993, p. 685).
This is a selected list of the best articles which have been personally examined. You can also search for "Gary Paulsen" or individual book titles in newspaper and magazine indexes.
You may search for "Gary Paulsen" or individual book titles in any magazine or newspaper indexes at your disposal. Also, bibliographic encyclopedias often identify selected review sources. The most comprehensive sources for reviews are:Book Review Digest. New York: H. W. Wilson.
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Created March 22, 1996; Last revised October 30, 1996