Gary Paulsen is best known for his adventure and survival books for older children and young adults. These novels are riveting tales of dangerous escapades where the main characters rely on themselves to navigate through harrowing situations to reach safety. These novels appeal strongly to boys and are great for reluctant readers, but also are enjoyed by girls with an adventurous spirit. Paulsen has also written other realistic fiction, a few picture books for younger readers, and even some autobiographical works that follow the adventures of his own life. Any of Paulsen’s books are appropriate for independent reading or as family read alouds. This list is just a sampling of the variety of works created by this award- winning author. Which one was a surprise favorite for your family?
This award-winning contemporary classic is the survival story with which all others are compared—and a page-turning, heart-stopping adventure. Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson is on his way to visit his father when the single-engine plane in which he is flying crashes. Suddenly, Brian finds himself alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but a tattered Windbreaker and the hatchet his mother gave him as a present—and the dreadful secret that has been tearing him apart since his parent’s divorce. But now Brian has no time for anger, self pity, or despair—it will take all his know-how and determination, and more courage than he knew he possessed, to survive. Appropriate ages: 10-14
The Tortilla Factory
In clear and eloquent language, Gary Paulsen pays tribute to a cycle of life — from seed to plant to tortilla. Workers till the black soil, operate the clanking machinery of the factory, and drive the trucks that deliver the tortillas back into the hands that will plant the yellow seeds.
With Ruth Wright Paulsen’s expressive paintings, “The Tortilla Factory” brings forth the poetry and beauty of a simple way of life. Appropriate ages: 4-8
A young hunter must confront the value of life as he faces the loss of his grandfather.
For John Borne’s family, hunting has nothing to do with sport or manliness. It’s a matter of survival. Every fall John and his grandfather go off into the woods to shoot the deer that puts meat on the table over the long Minnesota winter.
But this year John’s grandfather is dying, and John must hunt alone. John tracks a doe for two days, but as he closes in on his prey, he realizes he cannot shoot her. For John, the hunt is no longer about killing, but about life. Appropriate ages: 10-14
Gary Paulsen has had a life as exciting as fiction!
Gary Paulsen, three-time Newbery Honor author, is no stranger to adventure. He has flown off the back of a dogsled and down a frozen waterfall to near disaster, and waited for a giant bear to seal his fate with one slap of a claw. He has led a team of sled dogs toward the Alaskan Mountain Range in an Iditarod — the grueling, 1,180-mile dogsled race — hallucinating from lack of sleep, but he determined to finish.
Here, in vivid detail, Paulsen recounts several of the remarkable experiences that shaped his life and inspired his award-winning writing. Appropriate ages: 12-14
Fourteen-year-old John Barron is asked, like his father and grandfather before him, to spend the summer taking care of their sheep in the haymeadow. Six thousand sheep. John will be alone, except for two horses, four dogs, and all those sheep.
John doesn’t feel up to the task, but he hopes that if he can accomplish it, he will finally please his father. But John finds that the adage “things just to sheep” is true when the river floods, coyotes attack, and one dog’s feet get cut. Through it all he must rely on his own resourcefulness, ingenuity, and talents to survive this summer in the haymeadow. Appropriate ages: 11-15
One day I was 12 years old and broke. Then Grandma gave me Grandpa’s old riding lawnmower. I set out to mow some lawns. More people wanted me to mow their lawns. And more and more. . . . One client was Arnold the stockbroker, who offered to teach me about “the beauty of capitalism. Supply and Demand. Diversify labor. Distribute the wealth.” “Wealth?” I said. “It’s groovy, man,” said Arnold.
If I’d known what was coming, I might have climbed on my mower and putted all the way home to hide in my room. But the lawn business grew and grew. So did my profits, which Arnold invested in many things. And one of them was Joey Pow the prizefighter. That’s when my 12th summer got really interesting. Appropriate ages: 8-12
Molly McGinty has a Really Good Day
Learned her wacky grandma was coming to spend the day at school with her;
Lost her Notebook with Everything that Matters in it, including her homework;
Got a black eye.
Tore her skirt.
And it’s only 9 a.m.
Could things get any worse?
Appropriate ages: 8-12
Opening this book is like sitting down in a canoe, taking up a paddle, and gliding out into the summer beauty of a hidden lake. In this picture book that is as refreshing and inviting as a perfect canoe day, a fawn peeks out from the trees as ducklings fan out behind their mother. Butterflies pause and fish laze beneath the lily pads. Ruth Wright Paulsen’s sunlit paintings and Gary Paulsen’s poetic text capture all the peace and pleasure of a day when water and sky are one. Appropriate ages: 4-8
The Winter Room
Following the turn of the seasons, eleven year old Eldon traces the daily routines of his life on a farm and his relationship with his older brother Wayne. During the winter, with little work to be done on the farm, Eldon and Wayne spend the quiet hours with their family, listening to their Uncle David’s stories. But Eldon soon learns that, although he has lived on the same farm, in the same house with his uncle for eleven springs, summers, and winters, he hardly knows him. Appropriate ages: 8-12
Popcorn Days and Buttermilk Nights
Carley would rather be anywhere that in this poverty-stricken Minnesota farm town. Still, staying with his Uncle David’s family is better than reform school–which is where Carley was headed. Appropriate ages: 12-14