The 100 Most Popular Young Adult Authors: Biographical Sketches and Bibliographies

By Bernard A. Drew | Go to book overview
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Gary Paulsen

Outdoor drama

Minneapolis, Minnesota
May 17, 1939

The Hatchet

As an army veteran, self-educated, working at a deep-space tracking station in California, Gary Paulsen told Publishers Weekly that he “just kind of freaked. I thought, 'God, what am I doing?' I just hated it. I decided to be a writer, pretty much that night. I drove to Hollywood. If I'd been in the East I would have gone to New York. I needed to find writers.” Paulsen did indeed become a writer. He is best known for his tales of adventure and endurance.

The son of an officer on General George Patton's staff, Paulsen did not meet his father until World War II had ended. His mother lived in Chicago and worked in a munitions factory, as Paulsen relates in his autobiography, Eastern Sun, Winter Moon. A recurring theme throughout Paulsen's books is that of a boy being raised by a mother and sent to stay with relatives in the country. It shows up in A Christmas Sonata, for example, when a boy and his mother spend Yule 1943 with relatives in Minnesota while his father is off fighting. It shows up in Popcorn Days and Buttermilk Nights when city-smart David comes under the spell of his hardworking Uncle David. It also shows up in The Cookcamp and Harris and Me.

Paulsen also relates in his autobiography that his mother led a rather promiscuous life while her husband was away. In The Hatchet, the character Brian struggles with a guilty secret: He has seen his mother with another man.

Toward the war's end, Paulsen's father sent for the family, and they went by ship to the Philippines. Along the way, they witnessed an airplane crash. Sailors on the ship were unable to rescue the

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