Thursday, June 9, 2011

How Angel Peterson Got His Name: an audibook review

Paulsen, Gary. 2011. How Angel Peterson Got His Name: And other outrageous tales about extreme sports. Read by Patrick Lawlor. Brilliance Audio.
(2 hours, 10 minutes)

Now here's a book of which we don't see too many.  Looking for an available audiobook to download, I came upon this one and chose it merely because it was written by Gary Paulsen, author of last year's Woods Runner.  From the cover art, it looks to be a juvenile chapter book - but it's not.

Think of all the America's Funniest Videos shows that you've seen featuring crazy stunts performed by teenage boys. Imagine similarly crazy stunts performed in the wilds of 1950s and 1960s Minnesota (Bungee jumping anyone? All you need is a barn roof, a pulley and a truck tube!) Now imagine those stunts in the printed or spoken word. And finally, imagine them with a long and humorous "set-up" by the funny and talented Gary Paulsen. Now you've got the gist of How Angel Peterson Got His Name.

First published in 2003, released this year in audiobook, How Angel Peterson Got His Name is a young adult book and a memoir of sorts.  I say "of sorts," because in it, Paulsen shares stories of his boyhood (and a wild and reckless boyhood it was!), but in each of the hilarious anecdotes, Paulsen is not the star player, but a member of the supporting cast.  He is the one waxing the skis for the skiing speed record attempt (Who needs a hill when you've got a V-8 engine to assist?).  He is the one hoisting the WWII surplus parachute into the air for what could arguably have been the first hang-gliding attempt. He is the one who is not(?) peeking under the canvas flap to see the circus "hoochie coochie" women. 

Award-winning narrator, Patrick Lawlor, does a superb reading of How Angel Peterson Got His Name.  Despite being many years younger than Paulsen, listening to Lawlor is like sitting at the foot of a beloved uncle (dads don't tell these kinds of stories) while he spins yarns about the past.

At 72 years young, Gary Paulsen has seen many changes in his life.  Listeners may find a few tidbits from the book to be shocking, such as the accidental electrocution of many a curious cat, when televisions, with their super-charged vacuum tubes were first introduced.  Or young boys using "live pucks" for hockey practice. (Paulsen mentions cats or chickens)  While the past sometimes seems more glamorous or exciting, these are the smaller things that remind us that progress is good. However, some things never seem to change.  I am reminded of the old adage, "boys will be boys." May it ever be so.

Read about Gary Paulsen here.  He's an American treasure.

Note: My gmail account was hacked today. (My apologies if I sent you an email in broken English entreating you to buy a computer!)  When "my" emails were reported as spam, Google shut down my blog for a short time. (Thanks, Google, for giving it back!)  Moral of the story: Always back up your blog and change your password often!


  1. Sounds like a great book, thanks for sharing.

  2. How fitting that after I post this with the comment “Boys will be boys. May it ever be so,” my son breaks the garage window - again!


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