When I was in seventh grade, our teacher introduced us to a fresh new voice. His name is Gary Paulsen. (No, not Robert Paulsen, Fight Club freaks.) His work falls mainly in fictional outdoor survival stories. I've always been drawn to those kinds of stories because the bulk of the survival strategies are true. It gives more weight to the story. The first book I read of him was called Hatchet. It was exquisite. It was about this boy named Brian Robeson who, while on a plane to visit his recently divorced dad, crash lands in the Canadian wilderness and needs to survive on his own. His only tools are the survival kit inside the plane and a Hatchet - a gift from his father. I fell in love with this 208 page book. Over the years, I've rediscovered it, dusted it off and found myself slipping back into the pages. I must have read that book three times in my life.
Then came The River, the slim sequel to Hatchet. It nearly surpassed the original. I was happy to see that Mr. Paulsen did not lose his touch.
Recently, I have read two more Paulsen books: Brian's Winter, an alternative look of the main character trying to survive in the winter, and The Island, a completely separate story about a teenager who moves to a new place, discovers a small island that brings him peace and decides to dwell there.
While doing some searching, I found that there were two more sequels to the river: Brian's Return and Brian's Hunt.
What I like the most is that the character continues to grow and that Mr. Paulsen has not lost his voice. Since the first reading of Hatchet, I have been a loyal fan of his work. So when I found out that he was doing a reading in Naperville, just 30 minutes away from me, I had to see him. On February 13th I brought Hatchet and The River with me to hopefully be signed by my childhood hero. I even brought my dad along to join in the experience. We lost our way a couple of times, mainly due to the GPS which kept directing us to every frickin' tollbooth known to man on the way there. At one point my father shouted, "What the hell! It's like a government conspiracy! Turn that thing off before I throw it out the window! I know the way. Don't need any techno piece of junk telling me otherwise."
Finally, we arrived. He parked while I bolted through the bookstore, searching for the author setup. To my dismay, I found none. And we were ten minutes late, too. I walked up to the counter and asked, "Excuse me, isn't Gary Paulsen supposed to be here?"
To the best of my knowledge it was the correct date and time. Gary was on tour promoting his new book Dogsong.
The woman came back with the schedule. I had the right time but the wrong day. I was a full TWO MONTHS early. This has always been a thing with me. My family has always been horribly late to any wedding, funeral, engagement party, etc. I would be so embarrassed that my ears would practically line up with my shoulders in shame. So, as I grew older, in order to compensate this horrible tradition, I would show up to things early. I would show up anywhere between 30 minutes up to 2 hours early, sometimes reading a book to pass the time. But this was way too early even for me. It was a historical fail. But that's what I get for not checking up on everything. The date I was going off of came from Goodreads. The true date was on a site called Booktour.com
This has happened to me before. When I was on my way to see Monica Ali do an interview for her new book In The Kitchen in the city, I found that Goodreads had screwed up and put the wrong address down. So I had to jog five to six blocks to a different place only to be late. Sadly, April 13th, the real date when Gary Paulsen would be in Naperville has long since passed, but I've definitely learned my lesson. That will be the last time I go on a Gary goose chase.