Gary Paulsen and Northwind

In the middle grade novel Northwind, Gary Paulsen hearkens back to the ancient times of seafaring and tells the story of Leif’s solo canoe journey north along the seacoast of Norway and its fjords. Those who love Brian and Hatchet will surely find a place in their hearts for orphan Leif and Northwind. Paulsen’s language is rich and powerful in this classic story of a boy-man fighting the wild forces of nature, while at the same time finding his place in nature. The wilderness adventures and scenes painted by Paulsen are stunning. I’m grateful for this final entry, published posthumously in 2022, into Paulsen’s catalog of stories. Years ago, at my very first SCBWI Conference, I had the honor of hearing Mr. Paulsen’s keynote address. I listened to him, mesmerized, talk about his life experiences, journeys, and explorations. He also talked about the importance of a person’s name, his last name having been often misspelled. At the book signing that followed, when it was finally my turn, we chatted as he signed my book, the 20th Anniversary Edition of Hatchet. He stopped mid-sentence and looked up at me in horror. He had misspelled my name. He was truly distraught and wanted to get another book for me. I insisted it was okay. I was charmed by the whole experience and knew I wanted the inscription just as he had penned it while we talked. That signed edition of Hatchet will always have a special spot on my bookshelf and in my heart. As will Northwind, his last memorable contribution to the literary world.

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