Gary Paulsen—prolific adventure author best known for the Newbery Medal-winning Hatchet and its sequels—has died, as confirmed in a tweet by Publishers Weekly. A cause of death has not been released, though he did notably live a private life that befitted his work’s fascination with the wilderness (USA Today says he died “suddenly”). Paulsen was 82.
Born in Minnesota in 1939, Paulsen detailed a lot of his young life in various autobiographical books like Guts: The True Stories Behind Hatched And The Brian Books and Gone To The Woods: Surviving A Lost Childhood (which was published earlier this year).
He’s written about issues with his parents, including his mother’s alcoholism and her infidelity to his father, as well as various traumatic experiences like plane crashes that went on to inspire his work. It also led to him developing a commitment to self-reliance that turned him into a voracious reader and taught him about woodland survival.
Hatchet, his most famous book, was published in 1986 and concerns a boy named Brian flying from New York to Canada to visit his father. When the pilot of his plane has a heart attack and the plane crashes, Brian has to use a hatchet that his mother had given him to figure out how to survive. As noted above, the book won the Newbery Medal, which honors children’s literature, and it has gone on to become an important book for teaching kids about experiencing the world around them.
The first sequel, The River, was published in 1991 and is about Brian trying to teach a government psychologist survival skills. After that was Brian’s Winter, an alternate retelling of Hatchet’s ending, and two books—Brian’s Return and Brian’s Hunt—in which Brian realizes that he’s more comfortable in the wilderness than in modern society.
Though the Hatchet books are his most iconic, Paulsen did write upwards of 200 other books and hundreds of short stories primarily aimed at a young audience. His other books include Dogsong, The Winter Room, and Harris And Me, as well as Woodsong and Winterdance about the famous Iditarod sled dog race in Alaska (which he competed in multiple times).
Paulsen’s final novel, Northwind, will be published early next year. He is survived by his wife, illustrator Ruth Wright Paulsen, and their son.