Paulsen once again reaches back to his northern Minnesota boyhood to recount his and his pals' attempt to pull off stunts that live up to their billing as "outrageous" and "extreme," even by today's standards. According to PW, "This collection will likely hook adults as much as young readers." Ages 10-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Humor comes to short novels in Paulsen's book, which is dedicated to "all boys in their thirteenth year; the miracle is that we live through it." In his prologue he remembers a conversation with his son after the boy has experimented with peeing on electric fences. When his son asks if he'll ever stop doing things like this, Paulsen shakes his head and answers, "It's the way we are." These are stories of the early days of extreme sports which he notes were different because "we were quite a bit dumber then" and "there wasn't any safety gear." With rollicking good humor we hear stories of boys who dare. There's Carl Peterson, determined to set a speed skiing record behind a fast-moving '39 Ford sedan. Armed with WWII gear from the army surplus store, he zooms through too much snow until at last he hits a ditch and his buddies find him with snow "packed into every opening and crevice of his clothes and his body." Shy Orvis Orvisen loses his senses impressing a girl and is determined to remain in a wrestling ring with an enormous bear! Paulsen's stories show that boys will always be boys because hormones will always be hormones. Thank goodness they can count on Paulsen for humor and reassurance about the prevalence of this condition! 2003, Random House, Ages 10 up.
This quick read features nostalgic true stories about Paulsen at the age of thirteen, as he and his friends undertake a series of ill-advised stunts, insisting that they are driven by a "thirst for scientific knowledge." This thirst is more accurately described as the recklessness and sense of immortality common to many thirteen-year-old boys. The title story documents their attempt to break the world record for speed on skis, while being towed behind a souped-up car driven by the toughest kid in town. They later inadvertently hang glide with Army surplus target kites, and the unfortunately named Orvis Orvison wrestles a live bear at a carnival, driven by that powerful force in a young boy's life-showing off for girls. These true stories are appealing, if brief and light. They would make excellent read-alouds or serve as the basis for introducing storytelling. This book is an excellent companion to Paulsen's several recent autobiographies for young adults, particularly Guts: The True Stories Behind Hatchet and the Brian Books (Random House, 2001/VOYA June 2001) and My Life in Dog Years (Delacorte, 1998/VOYA April 1998). Although the book is set in the early fifties, the experiences are so universal to teen boys that they do not seem dated. The promise of the subtitle is delivered in a rollicking and memorable fashion. This book would appeal to reluctant readers, both in its brevity and the exciting content. VOYA Codes: 3Q 3P M J S (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 160p,
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Paulsen accounts for his 13th year "of wonderful madness" when he and his friends tried to shoot a waterfall in a barrel, break the world record for speed on skis, hang glide with an Army surplus parachute, and perform other daredevilish stunts. Readers will be drawn to the term "extreme sports" but the story is more accurately one generation's version of homemade fun in the days following the Korean War when "radio was king" and the great outdoors served as the playground. Like much of his autobiographical fiction, these sketches are more episodic than plot driven. Paulsen exhibits a wry sense of humor and storytelling ability as if he were sitting on a country porch with eager listeners at his knee. In one chapter, a friend borrowed a quarter to wrestle a bear at the carnival to get the attention of a girl, only to be swept out of the ring by a giant paw, like "a hockey puck with legs." The stories are fresh and lively and will especially appeal to reluctant middle-grade readers.-Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Dedicated to all 13-year-old boys ("The miracle is that we live through it"), Paulsen’s latest collection of possibly autobiographical anecdotes, his most hilarious yet, celebrates that innate impulse to try really stupid stunts, just to see what happens. What sort of bad ideas can a group of lads in a small Minnesota town come up with? "Angel" Peterson ties himself, on skis, to a fast car, earning his sobriquet after claiming to hear angels singing "Your Cheatin’ Heart" when the attempt goes disastrously awry. Because some girls are watching, Orvis Orvisen goes toe to toe with a live sideshow bear; others try various primitive, ill-considered forms of hang-gliding, bicycle-jumping, and skateboarding, capped by a sidesplitting outtake from the author’s Harris and Me (1993), featuring a wildly misguided attempt at bungee-jumping. Related with the author’s customary matter-of-fact tone and keen comic timing, these episodes will not only keep young readers, of both sexes, in stitches, they’re made to order for reading aloud. (Biography. 10-12)
From the Publisher
“These episodes will not only keep young readers, of both sexes, in stitches, they’re made to order for reading aloud.”—Kirkus Reviews, Starred
“The stories are fresh and lively and will especially appeal to reluctant middle-grade readers.”—School Library Journal, Starred
“This collection will likely hook adults as much as young readers.”—Publishers Weekly
Read an Excerpt
How Angel Peterson
Got His Name
He is as old as me and that means he has had a life, has raised children and made a career and succeeded and maybe failed a few times and can look back on things, on old memories.
Carl Peterson--that's the name his mother and father gave him, but from the age of thirteen and for the rest of his life not a soul, not his wife or children or any friend has ever known him by that name.
He is always called Angel.
Angel Peterson, and I was there when he got his name.
We lived in northwestern Minnesota, up near the Canadian border and not far from the eastern border of North Dakota. The area is mostly cleared now and almost all farmland, but in the late forties and early fifties it was thickly forested and covered with small lakes and was perhaps the best hunting and fishing country in the world, absolutely crawling with fish and game. My friends and I spent most of our time in the woods, hunting, fishing or just camping, but we lived in town and had town lives as well.
Because the area was so remote, many farms still did not have electricity, nearly none had phones and the rare ones that did were on party lines, with all users on the same line so that anybody could listen in to anybody else (called rubbernecking.) Individual phones were identified by the rings: two longs and a short ring would be one farm, two shorts and a long another farm and so forth. You would call somebody on a separate line by hand cranking a ringer on the side of your phone for the operator--one very long ring--and when she came on (it was always a woman) you would ask her to place your call, as in "Alice, I would like to talk to the Sunveldt farm over by Middle River," and the operator would ring them for you. Anybody on your own party line you would call by simply cranking their ring (my grandmother was a short, a long and a short).
In town we had private phones, with a clunky dial system that didn't always work, and that was about it.
There was--this is important--no television. There were just two channels in the major cities on the East and West Coasts. Almost nobody in town had a set. A TV set at that time was a huge buzzing, hissing black-and-white monster that had the added benefit of being dangerous. The coating on the inside of the picture tube required no less than forty-two thousand volts to operate, an amount that could easily kill fifteen or twenty horses. When television finally did come to the small towns up in Minnesota many a cat was turned into something close to a six-hundred-watt lightbulb by sticking his nose back in the power supply area of a console television set, trying to investigate the little crackling sounds and blue glow that came out of the ventilation holes. On his twelfth birthday, my pal Wayne Halverson licked the end of his finger and stuck it near the ventilation panel on his family's new RCA set. (Even though there was no television station programming to watch for nearly two more years they used it for a conversation piece and a place to put their bowling trophies, but my grandmother said the Halversons had always put on airs ever since Dewey, who was Wayne's great-great-grandfather, was kicked in the head by a workhorse and found that he could do accounting.)
Wayne never actually touched the top of the main rectifier tube and so didn't get the full jolt, which would have cooked him on the spot, but it arced over to his finger and a lesser charge, say enough to light two or three single-family dwellings for a week or so, slammed him back into the wall and left him unconscious for several minutes. He later claimed that the incident was what made him the only one in our group who could actually talk to girls.
Radio was king and every Sunday night we would go to the Texaco station where Archie Swenson worked and listen to Gunsmoke on the radio. Matt Dillon (played by William Conrad in the radio version) would say things like "I'm marshal of Dodge City, Kansas. It's a chancy kind of job and makes a man watchful and a little bit lonely but somebody has to do it." Archie let us buy bottles of Coca-Cola for a nickel and bags of peanuts to put in the Cokes for another nickel and sit and listen to the radio as long as we didn't bother him at work and most especially if we didn't bother him if any older high school girls came by for gas or just to flirt with him. We were all twelve and thirteen and in Archie's world not quite human.
Archie was very, very cool. He was sixteen and had a perfect ducktail haircut and worked at the Texaco station full-time because he'd dropped out of school. He wore Levi's pulled so low that if he hadn't worn a T-shirt tucked in you would have seen the crack in his butt. He smoked and kept a pack of cigarettes rolled into the sleeve of his T-shirt and as boys we worshiped him, and also, much more important for the story of Angel Peterson, Archie had a car.
For the times, it was a very hot car. It was a '39 Ford sedan with an original V-8 engine and even though it was well over ten years old, with years of rough use during the Second World War, when small-town cars had to double as trucks and sometimes even tractors, even so it was a fast car. But more, Archie had "done things" to the car to make it faster. We were too ignorant to know how, but we were sure he had chopped this or enlarged that or channeled here and ported there to make it more powerful, and V-8 Fords were known for their speed. Some could do well over eighty miles an hour. We had read about some hot rods that would do a hundred miles an hour but dizzying speeds like that were usually only achieved on racetracks. Archie's car was also cool because he had a knob on the steering wheel that was made of clear Plexiglas and had a picture of a partially nude woman imbedded in it.
Two more things have to be understood about those long-ago times before the stage is finally set for Angel.
First, that part of northern Minnesota is completely and unbelievably flat. During successive ice ages, it was scoured flat by glaciers bulldozing their way south. When the glaciers melted, the land became an enormous inland freshwater sea called Lake Agassiz, which later receded to form the Great Lakes.
The land is so flat that if you cut down the trees and paved the area, you could probably roll a bowling ball from northern Minnesota to Montana without half trying.
Second, without television the only news, outside newspapers, came once a week at the theater matinee, when we would watch something called newsreels, short black-and-white film clips of the week's events.
And so in mid-January of 1954, when the Minnesota winter had settled its icy hand on the north country, it came to pass that four of us, all thirteen years old, went to a Saturday matinee showing of a really interesting and informative film about how radiation from nuclear testing (known then simply as A-Bomb experiments) had caused a species of common ant to mutate and grow to be huge, forty-foot-tall monsters. The radiation also made the ants develop an overwhelming need to eat human flesh. The movie was called Them! and we all agreed it was well worth the fifteen cents' admission and the extra dime for popcorn and another nickel for a box of Dots.
From the Hardcover edition.