Gary Paulsen, the author best known for Hatchet and other wilderness-based coming-of-age books, died yesterday at the age of 82.
Hatchet, which won him one of his three Newbery Honor awards, tells the story of a young teen boy who has to survive in the wilderness with just a hatchet following a plane crash. It was certainly his most celebrated and known work but Paulsen was an extremely proficient author, producing over 200 titles during his life, most written for teens and young adults.
After news of his death began to spread, countless fans of Paulsen paid tribute to the beloved author online, sharing how much his writing meant to them. Many spoke about how Paulsen’s writing helped them appreciate nature more and even made them want to explore the wilderness to escape the grind of modern life.
I know many mushers—myself included—who first fell in love with mushing through Gary Paulsen’s stories about his sled dogs. He changed lives in big ways; he wrote about wilderness, animals, fear, wonder with extraordinary grace. An incredible writer. May he rest in peace. https://t.co/YEtGDHKJdE
— Blair Braverman (@BlairBraverman) October 13, 2021
Some acknowledged that Paulsen may have made them a bit too overconfident in their ability to survive against the brutality of Mother Nature.
RIP Gary Paulsen, you made me believe i could survive alone in the woods as a child even though i certainly could not
— Thomas Moore Devlin (@reddevlin) October 13, 2021
A few people referenced the fact that Paulsen’s writing helped them feel less alone in the world, pointing to examples of his writing being inclusive and accepting to marginalized groups.
"Hell, boy, he's gay, he's not a pervert." A simple but important distinction that protected me through adolescence.
Thank you and rest in peace, Gary Paulsen. The first author to show that nothing was wrong with me, that there was space for me in this world.
The Car, 1993 pic.twitter.com/hb3UAOMqj0
— Tofu Vebab 🥓🍩 (@TofuVebab) October 14, 2021
Of course, many shared their favorite quotes or stories by the prolific writer, including him explaining what writing meant to him.
— Julia Glum (@SuperJulia) October 13, 2021
And those who were lucky enough to actually know Paulsen revealed his kind and generous nature.
We rarely know if our heroes are the people we hope them to be, but Gary Paulsen was truly the kindest, most gracious man and writer. It’s the honor of my career to have had even a small hand in publishing his stories. A monumental loss, yes—but what a monumental gift he was. https://t.co/2lb7y8yCXl
— Melissa Warten (she/her) (@melissa_warten) October 13, 2021