Mikaelsen was born in December 8, 1952 in La Paz, Bolivia. The son of missionary parents of Danish descent, he wasn't sent to school until the fourth grade where he was bullied for his race. Mikaelsen moved to the United States with his family shortly before entering the seventh grade, where he encountered further bullying because of his spoken English skills. As a teen in Minnesota, he taught himself to swim and dive, and took flight and skydiving lessons. Mikaelsen attended Concordia College and Bemidji State University.
Mikaelsen owned a male American black bear named Buffy for 26 years until the bear's death in 2010. Mikaelsen considered Buffy a "750-pound member of my family." He has been writing full-time since 1984 and currently lives around Bozeman, Montana with his wife, Connie.
Rescue Josh McGuire (1991)
Sparrow Hawk Red (1993)
Touching Spirit Bear (2001)
Red Midnight (2002)
Tree Girl (2004)
Ghost of Spirit Bear (2008)
Jungle of Bones (2014)
Awards and honors
Mikaelson's work has won many state youth literature awards, including the California Young Reader Medal and Wyoming's Indian Paintbrush Book Award.
1991: Golden Spur, Juvenile Fiction, Rescue Josh McGuire
1992: International Reading Association Children's Book Award, Older Reader Category, Rescue Josh McGuire
1999: ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults, Petey
1999: Golden Spur, Juvenile Fiction, Petey
2002: ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults, Touching Spirit Bear