Juvenile Books Author of the Month
17 May 1939 -- ???
Gary Paulsen was born on May 17, 1939 in Minneapolis, Minnesota to two first-generation Scandinavian parents. His father Oscar was a career Army officer who had served with General George Patton during World War II. While his father was serving on the European front, Paulsen lived with his mother Eunice in Chicago, where she was working at a munitions plant. The Paulsen family was reunited in 1946 at a military post in the Philippines. Paulsen has no memories of his father prior to that year.
When his family returned to the United States in 1949, Paulsen found his life full of unhappy experiences. As an "Army brat", he never really stayed at a school for longer than a few months before his father was restationed somewhere else. He was shy, incompetent at sports, and not as strong in his academic pursuits as his family and teachers would have liked.
Paulsen's problems at school were not the only ones he had to deal with in his youth. There were also personal problems between his parents which caused him to visit the homes and farms of his relatives in Northern Minnesota.
Paulsen believes that the library played a pivotal role in helping him escape his problems. It all started one freezing winter day in his early teen years when he was walking by the local library. He decided to duck in to warm up for a little while when the librarian offered him a library card so he could check out a book to help him pass the time. "When she handed me the card, she handed me the world. I can't even describe how liberating it was."  Paulsen read westerns, science fiction, and even the classics the librarian would slip in with her other recommendations. To this day, he doesn't remember that librarian's name, but he still appreciates her interest and her help.
It was during these early teen years that Paulsen's family life deteriorated into chaos and he was sent to permanently live with relatives. It was this extended family who provided a sense of stability in his life. He delivered papers and set up pins in the local bowling alley to earn spending money and pay for his clothes. He also worked on the relatives' farms, helping out with the chores.
Despite his love of reading, Paulsen still struggled with school. He never really seemed to keep up with his schoolmates largely because he never was in the same school long enough. By the ninth grade, he was skipping class so much that he missed half the year. He did graduate from high school on time, but he had one of the shakiest grade point averages in the school. The next year, he attended Bemidji State College in northern Minnesota. He paid for his tuition with money he earned trapping animals for the state.
In 1958, Paulsen decided he needed to turn his life around. At age 19, he quit school and joined the Army. He was assigned to missile duty. After his three-year tour of duty was completed in 1962, Paulsen took extension courses allowing him to receive a certificate in electronics engineering.
Paulsen found work in a number of maximum-security high-tech jobs. He was stationed in White Sands, New Mexico, tracking satellites at a government facility. He also worked in the aerospace departments at Bendix and Lockheed.
By 1966, Paulsen realized that his future lay elsewhere. He decided on an impulse to become a writer. He fabricated a resume and went looking for a job as a magazine editor. He landed in Hollywood, California, on the staff of a company that published about 20 magazines. There he learned to write copy, proofread, and design photo spreads. During that time, he lived on a sailboat in Ventura Harbor, worked as a film extra, and found time to indulge in a wood-carving hobby. At night, he would go home and write.
It was not long before Paulsen made another life change. He moved back to Minnesota, where he set himself up in a cabin and wrote. He was initially very successful at writing. He published his first book, The Special War in 1966. His first novel, Some Birds Don't Fly, was published in 1968, and his first young adult novel, Mr. Tucket, was published in 1969.
Even with his successful writing career, Paulsen faced the early 1970's with a great deal of personal difficulty, which peaked in 1977, when he was sued for libel by someone believing his novel Winterkill was based on their family. Paulsen ended up taking the case all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court. He won, but he also went bankrupt from the legal expenses. He moved once again to a remote cabin. He found work setting animal traps with the help of a team of huskies and an old sled given to him by an old friend.
By the 1980's, Paulsen's writing career was on the move again. His books were selling, and he was beginning to get serious notice. By 1983, he was given his first advance for a book by a publishing house. It was this same year that Paulsen added another adventure to his exciting life story by entering the Iditarod, an 18-day dog-sled race extending from Anchorage to Nome. Paulsen finish 42nd out of 73 teams, which was quite a respectable showing considering it was his first attempt.
Paulsen concentrated on his young adult novels throughout the 1980's, which led to a surge of works coming out in that time period. Many of his better know works, such as Hatchet and The Winter Room, were produced during this writing period.
This author has not shown any signs of slowing down since the beginning of the 1990's. In the century's last decade, Paulsen published more than three dozen books. His total output is quickly approaching 175 in number and includes juvenile, young adult, adult, fiction, and non-fiction books.
Currently, Paulsen is living with his third wife, Ruth Ellen Wright. The two met by chance while standing in line in a Taos, New Mexico post office. They married on May 4, 1971, and have a son James. James is in his twenties and is an elementary school teacher. Ruth Wright Paulsen is a talented painter who has illustrated some of her husband's works. The Paulsens live in a 200-year-old adobe on their ranch in La Luz, New Mexico. They also own property in Minnesota, and sometimes live on their 44-foot sailboat, which is docked in a marina in California.
Paulsen has two children, Lance and Lynn, from his first marriage. Lance owns a construction firm in Atlanta, Georgia, and Lynn is a high-school teacher.
Living the simple life is very important to Paulsen, and his hobbies reflect it. He loves to work on his boat and spends a great deal of time reading for pleasure when he is not writing
Information for this bio raphy was taken from:
1) Biography Today Author Series, Volume 1; Omnigraphics, Inc.: Detroit, Mich., 1995
2) Tracy Chevalier (ed.). Twentieth Century Children's Writers; Saint James Press: Chicago, 1989
3) Anne Commire (ed.). Contemporary Authors, #22; Gale Research Company: Detroit, Mich., 1981.
4) "Gary Paulsen", The Internet Public Library; http://www.ipl.org/youth/AskAuthor/paulsen.html
5) "Gary Paulsen, 1939 -", Gale Literary Databases; Contemporary Authors; http://www.galenet.com
6) Brenda Hoffman and Inez Ramsey. Gary Paulsen; http://falcon.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/paulsen.htm
7) Jan Johnson [et al] Learning About Gary Paulsen; http://www.scils.rutgers.edu/special/kay/paulsen.html
J-P-PAU Amos and the Chameleon Caper (1996) -- She is a master of disguises and is wanted in five states. Dunc and Amos think they can crack the case wide open if they can just break into her apartment.
J-Paulsen Brian's Return (1999) -- After having survived alone in the wilderness, Brian finds that he can no longer live in the city but must return to the place where he really belongs.
J-P-PAU Captive! (1995) -- Roman and some classmates are being held hostage. Can he overcome the memory of his father's death and his fear in time to lead the boys in a desperate fight for freedom.
J-Paulsen The Case of the Dirty Bird (1992) -- Dunc Culpepper and his best friend Amos, acting on a tip from a pet shop parrot, set off in search of buried treasure.
J-P-PAU A Christmas Sonata (1992) -- When a little boy spends Christmas with a dying cousin, they discover that Santa really does exist.
J-Paulsen/J-P-PAU The Cookcamp (1991) -- During World War II, a little boy is sent to live with his grandmother, a cook in a camp for workers building a road through the wilderness.
J-P-PAU The Creature of Black Water Lake (1997) -- Ryan Swanner and his mom have just moved to a mountain resort. He is reassured that the tales about a fierce lake creature is untrue -- until he sees something that convinces him the creature really exists.
J-Paulsen/J-P-PAU Culpepper's Cannon (1992) -- Dunc Culpepper and his friend Amos go back in time to 1862 while researching the Civil War cannon in the town square.
J-P-PAU Dunc and Amos and the Red Tattoos (1993) -- While at camp, Dunc and Amos overhear a threat against the camp director and discover that camp funds have been stolen. Do the crimes have anything to do with the red flower tattoo that some of the counselors have?
J-Paulsen Dunc and Amos Hit the Big Top (1993) -- In order to impress Melissa, the girl of his dreams, Amos Binder decides to perform on the trapeze at the visiting circus.
J-Paulsen/J-P-PAU Dunc and the Flaming Ghost (1992) -- Dunc isn't afraid of ghosts so when he and Amos hear that the old Rambidge house is haunted by the ghost of Blackbeard the pirate, they are on the case.
J-Paulsen/J-P-PAU Dunc and the Scam Artists (1993) -- Some older residents in town have been scammed by con artists. Dunc and Amos are looking into the crimes.
J-Paulsen/J-P-PAU Dunc Breaks the Record (1992) -- Dunc and Amos crash in the wilderness while hang gliding, but things go from bad to worse when they are captured by a wild man.
J-Paulsen Dunc's Doll (1992) -- Dunc and Amos are after a band of doll thieves when a doll that once belonged to Charles Dickens' daughter is stolen from an exhibit at the local mall.
J-P-PAU Dunc's Dump (1993) -- Dunc wants to find out who is polluting the dump with toxic waste, and Amos just wants to impress Melissa. Will they both get what they want by solving the mystery?
J-P-PAU Dunc's Halloween (1992) -- Dunc and Amos have planned the route to get the most candy out of trick or treating, but things go awry when Amos is bitten by a werewolf.
J-P-PAU Escape From Fire Mountain (1995) -- Nikki Roberts races into a forest fire to rescue two trapped children, but she has to fight more than just the flames.
J-Paulsen Harris and Me: A Summer Remembered (1993) -- Sent to live with relatives on their farm because of his unhappy home life, an 11-year-old city boy meets his distant cousin Harris and is given an introduction to a whole new world.
J-PAU/J-LPeD-PAU/J-P-PAU Hatchet (1987) -- After a plane crash, 13-year-old Brian spends 45 days in the wilderness. At first, he has to survive with only a hatchet given to him by his mother, but then he also must learn to deal with his parent's divorce.
J-Paulsen The Monument (1991) -- Thirteen-year-old Rocky, self-conscious about the braces on her leg, has her life changed by the artist who has come to her town to design a war memorial.
J-P-PAU Project: A Perfect World (1996) -- When Jim Stanton moves to Folsum, New Mexico, things just seem a little too perfect. When he meets a mysterious girl living in the mountains, she reveals the shocking secret.
J-P-PAU The River (1991) -- Because of his success surviving 45 days alone in the wilderness, 15-year-old Brian is asked to undergo a similar experience to help a scientist learn more about the psychology of survival. This is the sequel to Hatchet.
J-P-PAU Rodomonte's Revenge (1994) -- Brett Wilder and Tom Houston think the new game "Rodomonte's Revenge" is awesome -- until it takes over their minds. Now the game is dangerously real, and one wrong move could be their last!
J-P-PAU The Seventh Crystal (1996) -- Chris Masters received a mysterious computer game in the mail one day, and it is the most challenging game he has ever played. The problem is that the game is starting to take over his life.
J-P-PAU Skydive! (1996) -- JesseRodriguez can't wait to turn 16 so he can make his first skydive. Things become interesting when the event finally does happen because he and his friend Robin find themselves in the middle of a dangerous international situation.
J-PAU The Voyage of the Frog (1989) -- When David goes out on his sailboat to scatter his uncle's ashes, he is caught in a fierce storm and must survive many days on his own as he sorts through his feelings about his uncle's death.
J-PAU/J-P-PAU The Winter Room (1989) -- A young boy growing up on a small farm in Minnesota describes the scenes around him and recounts his old Norwegian uncle's tales of his logging past.
J-92-Paulsen My Life in Dog Years (1998) -- Paulsen describes some of the dogs that have had a special place in his life, including his first dog Snowball; Dirk, who protected him from bullies; and Cookie, who saved his life.
Movies Based on Paulsen's Books
J-VID Hatchet Hatchet (1989) -- After a plane crash, 13-year-old Brian spends 45 days in the wilderness. At first, he has to survive with only a hatchet given to him by his mother, but then he also must learn to deal with his parentís divorce.
Gary Paulsen (http://falcon.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/paulsen.htm) -- This brief biography provides a quick overview of Paulsen's life as well as linking to a number of on-line review sources for his works.
"Gary Paulsen", The Internet Public Library (http://www.ipl.org/youth/AskAuthor/paulsen.html) -- A very brief biography of the popular author.
"Gary Paulsen, 1939 -", Gale Literary Databases; Contemporary Authors (http://www.galenet.com) -- Along with a brief biography, this site provides an overview of many of Paulsen's more popular works.
Gary Paulsen's Website (http://www.randomhouse.com/features/garypaulsen/) -- The author maintains this site for his readers to keep up on his books and to provide some personal information about himself.
Learning About Gary Paulsen (http://www.scils.rutgers.edu/special/kay/paulsen.html) -- This teachers' guide to Gary Paulsen provides information about the author and a number of his works.
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