LEARNING ABOUT GARY PAULSEN


Compiled by Jan Johnson, Terrie Katz, Lynn Makler, and Gina Mitgang with Kay Vandergrift in Young Adult Literature

We have compiled information about Gary Paulsen, and his work, so you can learn more about this famous young adult author.

For additional information on Gary Paulsen

For the response of a young reader to the books of Gary Paulsen click here.

The biography of Gary Paulsen.

Written works include:

  • Juvenile Fiction
  • Juvenile Nonfiction
  • Adult Fiction
  • Plays
  • Other

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.

References

BIOGRAPHY

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.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Juvenile Fiction

Brian's Winter. New York: Delacorte, 1996.
Call Me Frances Tucket. New York: Delacorte, 1995.
Danger On Midnight River. New York: Doubleday, 1995.
Escape From Fire Mountain. New York: Bantam Books, 1995.
Hook 'em Snotty. New York: Doubleday, 1995.
The Rifle. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, 1995.
Rock Jockeys. New York: Bantam, 1995.
The Tent. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1995.
The Tortilla Factory. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1995.
The Car. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1994.
The Legend of Red Horse Cavern. New York: Bantam, 1994.
Dogteam. New York: Delacorte, 1993.
Harris and Me: A Summer Remembered. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, 1993.
Nightjohn. New York: Delacorte, 1993.
Sisters/Hermanas. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, 1993.
Christmas Sonata. New York: Delacorte, 1992.
The Haymeadow. New York: Delacorte, 1992.
The Cookcamp. New York: Orchard, 1991.
The Monument. New York: Delacorte, 1991.
The River. New York: Delacorte, 1991.
The Boy Who Owned the School. New York: Orchard, 1990.
Canyons. New York: Delacorte, 1990.
The Night the White Deer Died. New York: Delacorte, 1990.
Woodsong. New York: Bradbury Press, 1990.
The Voyage of the Frog. New York: Orchard, 1989.
The Winter Room. New York: Orchard, 1989.
The Island. New York: Orchard, 1988.
The Crossing. New York: Orchard, 1987.
Hatchet. New York: Bradury Press, 1987.
Sentries. New York: Bradbury Press, 1986.
Dogsong, New York: Bradbury Press, 1985.
Tracker. New York: Bradbury Press, 1984.
Dancing Carl. New York: Bradbury Press, 1983.
Popcorn Days and Buttermilk Nights. Lodestar Books, 1983.
The Spitball Gang. Elsevier, 1980.
The Green Recruit.Independence Press, 1978.
The C. B. Radio Caper.Raintree, 1977.
The Curse of the Cobra. Raintree, 1977.
The Foxman. T. Nelson, 1977.
The Golden Stick. Raintree, 1977.
Tiltawhirl John.T. Nelson, 1977.
Winterkill.T. Nelson, 1977.
Mr. Tuckett. Funk & Wagnalls,1968.
Culpepper Adventures Series. New York: Dell, from 1992 to present.

Juvenile NonFiction

Father Water, Mother Woods: Essays on Fishing and Hunting in the North Woods.illustrated by R. W. Paulsen, New York: Delacorte, 1994.
Sailing: From Jibs to Jibing.illustrated by R. W. Paulsen, Messner, 1981.
T. V. and Movie Animals.(with Art Browne, Jr.), Messner, 1980.
Canoeing, Kayacking, and Rafting.illustrated by John Peterson and Jack Storholm, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1979.
Downhill, Hotdogging and Cross-Country--If the Snow Isn't Sticky. photographs by Kluetmeier and Willis Wood, Raintree, 1979.
Facing Off, Checking and Goaltending-Perhaps.photographs by Kluetmeier and Melchior DiGiacomo, Raintree, 1979.
Going Very Fast in a Circle--If You Don't Run Out of Gas.photographs by Kluetmeier and Bob D'Olivo, Raintree, 1979.
Launching, Floating High and Landing--If Your Pilot Light Doesn't Go Out. photographs by Kluetmeier, New York: Delacorte, 1979.
Pummeling, Falling and Getting Up-Sometimes. photographs by Kluetmeier and Joe DiMaggio, Raintree, 1979.
Track, Enduro and Motocross--Unless You Fall Over. photographs by Kluetmeier, Raintree, 1979.
Forehanding and Backhanding--If You're Lucky. photographs by Kluetmeier, Raintree, 1978.
Hiking and Backpacking. (with John Morris), illustrated by R. W. Paulsen, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1978.
Running, Jumping, and Throwing--If You Can. photographs by Kluetmeier, Raintree, 1978.
Careers in an Airport. photographs by R. Nye, Raintree, 1977.
Riding, Roping, and Bulldogging--Almost, photographs by Kluetmeier, Raintree, 1977.
Tackling, Running, and Kicking--Now and Again.photographs by Kluetmeier, Raintree, 1977.
Dribbling, Shooting, and Scoring Sometimes.photographs by Kluetmeier, Raintree, 1976.
The Grass-Eaters:Real Animals. illustrated by Goff, photographs by Miller, Raintree, 1976.
Hitting, Pitching, and Running Maybe.photographs by Kluetmeier, Raintree, 1976.
Martin Luther King: The Man Who Climbed the Mountain. (with Dan Theis), Raintree, 1976.
The Small Ones.illustrated by K. Goff, photographs by Wilford Miller, Raintree, 1976.

Adult Fiction

Murphy's Ambush.Walker, 1995.
Murphy's Stand.Walker, 1993.
Murphy's Herd.Walker, 1989.
The Madonna Stories.Van Vliet, 1988.
Murphy's Gold.Walker, 1988.
Murphy.Walker, 1987.
Clutterkill. New York: Harlequin, 1982.
Campkill.Pinnacle Books, 1981.
The Sweeper. New York: Harlequin, 1981.
C. B. Jockey.Major Books, 1977.
The Death Specialists. Major Books, 1976.
The Implosion Effect.Major Books, 1976.

Plays

Together-Apart (one-act), produced in Denver, CO, at Changing Scene Theater, 1976.
Communications (one act), produced in New Mexico, 1974.

Other

Winterdance. (adult nonfiction), San Diego, CA: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1994.
Eastern Sun, Winter Moon. (adult nonfiction), San Diego, CA: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1993.
Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass. (adult nonfiction). San Diego, CA: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1992.
Night Rituals. New York: Bantam, 1991.
Kill Fee.Donald I. Fine, Inc., 1990.
Beat the System: A Survival Guide.Pinnacle Books, 1983.
Money-Saving Home Repair Guide. Ideals, 1981.
Successful Home Repair. Structures, 1978.
Farm: A History and Celebration of the American Farmer. Prentice-Hall, 1977.
The Building a New, Buying an Old, Remodeling a Used, Comprehensive Home and Shelter Book. Prentice-Hall, 1976.
Some Birds Don't Fly. Rand McNally, 1969.
The Special War. (with Raymond Friday Locke), Sirkay, 1966.

LITERARY AWARDS

Dancing Carl.
  • ALA Best Book - 1983
Tracker.
  • Society of Midland Authors Book Award - 1985
  • ALA Best Book - 1984

Dogsong.
  • Parents' Choice Award, Parents' Choice Foundation - 1985
  • Newbery Honor Book - 1986
  • Children's Book of the Year Award, Child Study Association of America - 1986
  • Volunteer State Book Award - 1989
  • ALA Notable and Best Book - 1985

The Crossing.
  • ALA Notable Best Book - 1987

Hatchet.
  • Newbery Honor Book - 1988
  • ALA Notable Book - 1987
  • Booklist Editor's Choice citation - 1988
  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award - 1989
  • Georgia Children's Book Awards - 1991
  • Young Hoosier Book Awards - 1991
  • Iowa Childrens Choice Award and Iowa Teen Award - 1990
  • William Allen White Childrens Book Award - 1990
  • Maud Hart Lovelace Book Award - 1991
  • Flicker Tale Childrens Book Award - 1990
  • Ohio Buckeye Childrens Book Awards - 1991
  • Sequoyah Children and YA Book Awards - 1990
  • Virginia Young Readers Program - 1990
  • Golden Archer Little Archer Awards - 1989

The Island.
  • ALA Best Book - 1988
The Voyage of the Frog.
  • Parenting Magazine Reading-Magic Award - 1990
  • Teachers' Choice Award from International Reading Association - 1990
  • Best Books of the Year citation from Learning Magazine - 1990
  • ALA Best Book - 1989
  • School Library Journal Best Book of the Year - 1989
The Winter Room.
  • Newbery Honor Book - 1990
  • Judy Lopez Memorial Award - 1990
  • Parenting Magazine Best Book of the Year - 1990
  • ALA Notable and Best Book - 1989
The Boy Who Owned the School.
  • Parents' Choice Award - 1991

The Cookcamp.
  • ALA Best Book - 1991
  • School Library Journal Best Book of the Year - 1991

The Monument.
  • ALA Best Book - 1991
  • An American Bookseller Pick of the Lists - 1991

The River.
  • IRA/Children's Book Council - 1991
  • Parents Magazine Best Book of the Year - 1991

Woodsong.
  • Booklist Editor's Choice citation - 1991
  • Society of Midland Authors Book Award - 1991
  • Spur Award, Western Writers of America - 1991
  • Minnesota Book Awards - 1991

The Haymeadow.
  • Spur Award - 1993
  • ALA Notable and Best Book - 1992

Dogteam.
  • IRA/Children's Book Council - 1994

Harris and Me: A Summer Remembered.
  • Booklist Books for Youth Top of the List citation - 1993
  • ALA Notable and Best Book - 1993

Nightjohn.
  • IRA/Children's Book Council - 1994
  • ALA Notable and Best Book - 1993

Sisters/Hermanas.
  • Children's Literature Award finalist, PEN Center USA West - 1994

REVIEWS

DOGSONG.
By Lynn Makler.

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.

HATCHET.

ByTerie Katz.

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).

Brian's Winter.

By Jan Johnson.

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).

Harris and Me: A Summer Remembered.

By Gina Mitgang.

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).


PUBLISHED INTERVIEWS

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.

  • Bartky, Cheryl. (1994, July). "Write What You Are."Writer's Digest, vol. 74, pp.42-44, 65.
    Interview focuses on questions of writing style, with illustrative excerpts from several of Paulsen's books. Illustrated with a photo portrait and book covers.
  • Devereaux, Elizabeth. (1994, March 28). "Gary Paulsen." Publisher's Weekly, vol. 24, pp.70-71. [In feature: PW Interviews]
    Interview characterizes Paulsen and his work and discusses some of the business end regarding Paulsen's various publishers and agents.
  • "Gary Paulsen: The Storyteller's Legacy." (1992, January). English Journal, vol. 81, #1, pp. 85-88. [In feature: Books for the Teenage Reader]
    Admiring introduction about Paulsen and his work, followedby reviews of several of his Young Adult titles, and a poignant excerpt from the Winter Room.
  • Handy, Alice Evans. (1992). "An Interview with Gary Paulsen." Author Profile Collection, pp.67-70. Worthington, OH: Linworth Publishing Inc.
    Interview focuses on the life of Gary Paulsen, his likes and dislikes. Discusses some of the characters from his books.
  • Weidt, Maryann N. (1992, January). "The Fortunes of Poverty." Writer's Digest, vol.72, p.8. [In feature: The Writing Life]
    Paulsen explains how learning to live with poverty contributed to his success.
  • Weidt, Maryann N. (1986, August/October). "Gary Paulsen: A Sentry for Peace." Voice of Youth Advocates, vol. 9, # 3, 4, pp.129-130.
    Question-and-answer format explores Paulsen's spiritual beliefs, childhood, family life, personal literary influences, and what kids ask him.
  • Trumpet Video Visits Gary Paulsen. The Trumpet Club, Inc. (1993). 24 minutes.
    This is part of the "Trumpet Video Visits" series. These are video recordings of live interviews with the author.

SUGGESTED READING LIST
ABOUT GARY PAULSEN

Books

  • Savner, Gary M. Presenting Gary Paulsen. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1996.
    Part of a series, "Twayne's United States Author Series"

Biographical Encyclopedias and Indexes


Beware of occasional discrepancies in "factual" data (e. g., whether Paulsen's current wife is his second or third, and whether a source lists his current or some previous agent).
  • Authors of Books for Young People. Martha E. Ward, et al. Third edition. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1990.

  • Biography Index. New York: H. W. Wilson Co.

  • Biography Master Index, 1980-1994 Gale Research Inc., 1994. Dialog file #287, item #7435208: "Gary Paulsen" BR>
  • Children's Literature Review. Volume 19. Detroit: Gale Research, 1990.

  • Contemporary Authors. New Revision Series, Volume 30. Detroit: Gale Research, 1990. pp. 321-322.

  • Sixth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1989 ed., p.219.

  • Something About the Author. Volume 79. Detroit: Gale Research, 1995. pp. 159-165.

  • Twentieth-Century Children's Writers. Gary Paulsen entry by Suzanne Rahn. 4th ed. Detroit: St. James Press, 1995. pp. 745-747.

Book Reviews


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.
Book Review Index. Beverly Baer, (Ed.). Detroit: Gale Research. Also available as Dialog File #137.

REFERENCES

Bantam Doubleday Dell presents "Gary Paulsen" (1995, April).
Bock, L. (1994, January). School Library Journal, v. 40, #1, p.132.
C. H. (1985, April). Booklist, v. 81, p.1114.
Chatton, B. (1987, December). School Library Journal, v. 34, p. 103.
Handy, A. E. (1991). "An interview with Gary Paulsen"The Book Report, v. 10, #1, pp.28-31.
Handy, A. E. (1992). "An Interview with Gary Paulsen"Author Profile Collection. Worthington, OH: Linworth Publishing Inc.
Hile, K. S., (Ed.). (1995). Something About the Author, v. 79, pp. 159-165. Detroit: Gale Research, Inc.
K. L. D. (1994, November). English Journal, v. 83, #7, pp. 101-102.
Kirkus Reviews, v. 61, #20, p. 1334. (1993, October 15).
Kirkus Reviews, v. 63, #22, p. 1638. (1995, November 15).
Lesesne, T. S. (1996). "Gary Paulsen" (1939- ). M. D. Kutzer (Ed.). In Writers of Multicultural Fiction for Young Adults: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook, pp. 333-343. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Publishers Weekly, v. 242, #51, p.55. (1995, December 18).
Smith, L. (1992). Children's Book Awards International. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company Inc.
Ward, N. (1985, December). Voice of Youth Advocates, v, 8, p. 321.
Wilson, E. (1998, February). Voice of Youth Advocates, v. 10, #6, p. 283.
Zvirin, S. (1993, December 1). Booklist, v. 90, #7, p. 685.

 

 

Return to Vandergrift's Author Page
Return to Vandergrift's Children's Literature Page
Return to Vandergrift's Young Adult Literature Page

To send mail to Kay E. Vandergrift

Created March 22, 1996; Last revised October 30, 1996