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)
- Stranded (1995)
- Countdown (1996)
- Petey (1998)
- Touching Spirit Bear (2001)
- Red Midnight (2002)
- Tree Girl (2004)
- Ghost of Spirit Bear (2008)
- Jungle of Bones (2014)
Awards and honors
- 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
- Hobbs, Bonnie (9 Jul 2012). "'Words . . . More Hurtful Than Fists'". Connection Newspapers. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
- Cortés, Carlos E. (3 September 2013). Multicultural America: A Multimedia Encyclopedia, Volume 1. SAGE Publications. p. 380. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
- Malernee, Jamie (23 Feb 2002). "Author: Don't Be Afraid To Be Different". Sun Sentinel. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
- Olp, Susan (2 Apr 2002). "Bozeman writer's head full of stories". Retrieved 10 December 2014.
- Miller, Wanda J. (1998). Teaching U.S. History Through Children's Literature: Post-World War II. Libraries Unlimited. p. 99. ISBN 9781563085819. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
- Bauer, Jennifer (24 Apr 2013). "Ben Mikaelsen draws from the events of his own extraordinary life to bring to life his books for young adults". Inland360. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
- Mikaelsen, Ben. "Ben Mikaelsen Biography". Scholastic Inc. Retrieved 2010-12-16.
- "Spur Awards Past Winners". Western Writers of America. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
- "IRA Children's and Young Adults' Book Awards". International Reading Association. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
- "Best Fiction for Young Adults". American Library Association. Retrieved 10 December 2014.