Celebrated children's author Gary Paulsen, whose adventure novels captured the imaginations of teens across the world, has died at age 82.
Paulsen's publishing company, Penguin Random House, confirmed that the writer died Wednesday but did not provide further details.
Over the course of his decades-long career, Paulsen penned over 200 books as well as 200 articles and short stories, according to CNN. In 1986, he published one of his most prolific works, "Hatchet," which became a mainstay of required reading in American schools.
The year prior he released "Dogsong," and in 1989 published "The Winter Room." For these three books, he received the Newbery Medal, awarded to the best American children's books. He was also granted the Margaret A. Edwards Award for his lifetime contribution to young adult literature in 1997.
Paulsen grew up in a turbulent home environment. His parents were alcoholics and he would often run away to the woods — and eventually the library — to escape. In an interview with NPR, he revealed that the library became a "sanctuary."
"The librarian — she watched me for a while. I was kind of this urchin, you know, a street urchin," he said. "Then she finally said, 'You want something?' I said, 'Nah I'm OK'. And she gave me a card and ... it is hard to talk about it. It was a card with my name on it. And, God, nobody had given me anything like that. Nobody gave me anything."
Then one day the librarian gave Paulsen a notebook and pencils — a move that changed his life forever.
"She said, you should write down some of your thought pictures, which I called them, you know. I said, 'Who — for who?'" he recalled. "And she said, 'Me.' None of this would have happened except for that."
Paulsen was a keen adventurer who used his life experiences to inspire his works. He has competed in the Alaskan trail dog sled race, the Iditarod, and worked in construction, on a ranch, and as a sailor, CNN noted. He also served in the U.S. Army in his mid-20s before becoming an aerospace engineer in California, according to The Associated Press. He abruptly left the job to write.
"The need to write hit me like a brick. I had a career and a family and a house and a retirement plan and I did all the things that responsible grown-ups do until suddenly, irrevocably, I knew had to write," he explained in the introduction to the "Hatchet" anniversary edition.
"I edited a grubby men's magazine and, every night, I slaved over short stories and articles for two editors who ripped me to shreds every morning," he continued. "They didn't leave a single sentence unscathed, but they taught me to write clean and fast. And the dance with words gave me a joy and a purpose I had been looking for my entire life."
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