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  • How Angel Peterson Got His Name
  • Written by Gary Paulsen
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  • How Angel Peterson Got His Name
  • Written by Gary Paulsen
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307530998
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How Angel Peterson Got His Name

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List Price: $6.99


On Sale: December 30, 2008
Pages: 128 | ISBN: 978-0-307-53099-8
Published by : Yearling RH Childrens Books
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WHEN YOU GROW up in a small town in the north woods, you have to make your own excitement. High spirits, idiocy, and showing off for the girls inspire Gary Paulsen and his friends to attempt:

• Shooting waterfalls in a barrel

• The first skateboarding

• Breaking the world record for speed on skis by being towed behind a souped-up car, and then . . . hitting gravel

• Jumping three barrels like motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel, except they only have bikes

• Wrestling . . . a bear?

Extreme sports lead to extreme fun in new tales from Gary’s boyhood.

A New York Times Bestseller

From the Hardcover edition.



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.
Gary Paulsen

About Gary Paulsen

Gary Paulsen - How Angel Peterson Got His Name

Photo © Tim Keating

“We have been passive. We have been stupid. We have been lazy. We have done all the things we could do to destroy ourselves. If there is any hope at all for the human race, it has to come from young people. Not from adults.”—Gary Paulsen

A three-time Newbery Honor winner, Gary Paulsen is also winner of the 1997 Margaret A. Edwards Award, which honors an author’s lifetime contribution to writing books for teenagers.


Writing is so much a part of the way I live . . .

Writing is so much a part of the way I live that I would be lost without the discipline and routine. I write every day—every day—and it gives me balance and focus. Every day I wake up, usually at 4:30 a.m., with the sole purpose of sitting down to write with a cup of hot tea and a computer or a laptop or a pad of paper—it doesn’t matter. I’ve written whole books in my office, in a dog kennel with a headlamp, on more airplanes than I can remember, on the trampoline of my catamaran off the shores of Fiji—it never matters where I write, just where the writing takes me.

Everything else I do is just a path to get me to that moment when I start to work. Sometimes I’m lucky and the living part of life gets folded into the writing part, like with Dogsong and the Brian books and Caught by the Sea and How Angel Peterson Got His Name. Those books were based on personal inspection at zero altitude, I took experiences that I had and turned them into books. I’ve spent a great deal of time in the outdoors, but not with the specific goal of writing about it later. I’ll be honest, though, and tell you that I enjoyed writing about those times as much as, if not more than, I enjoyed living through those times in the first place. I didn’t start writing until I was 26 years old. I look back now and wonder what I thought I was supposed to be doing with my time before that.

I’ve experimented with different voices and styles . . .
Sometimes the way to tell a story is even more important than the story itself. I’ve experimented with different voices and styles and genres over the years. The Glass Café and Harris and Me were born of the voices of people I could not get out of my head. Tony was a boy I knew back when I lived in Hollywood and Harris was a cousin from my childhood. To honor their voices, I wrote the books in very different styles. Tony had a fast-paced, breathless speaking style and I had fun trying to capture that on paper. And the best way to paint a picture of Harris was to detail all those crazy stunts of his.

Nightjohn and Soldier’s Heart were the result of studying history. Sarny came from the research I did in the National Archives when I stumbled across the Slave Narratives. And I discovered Charley Goddard when reading a book about the Minnesota First Volunteers. I hadn’t expected to find characters for books of my own when I started reading, but I could not shake them until I tried to figure out on paper what their lives must have been like.

I am still amazed by the gifts that writing gives to me . . .
Even after all these years, I am still amazed by the gifts that writing gives to me. There is not only the satisfaction from the hard work—and even after all this time and all these books, it is still very hard work for me to make a book—and the way the hair rises on the back of my neck when a story works for me, but also the relationships I have made with the people who read my books.

The one true measure of success for me has always been the readers . . .
People ask me about the kind of money I make and how many awards I’ve received, but the one true measure of success for me
has always been the readers. I give the checks to my wife and my agent keeps the awards for me. The only thing I have in my office, other than junk and work and research, is a framed letter from one of my readers. That means more to me than just about anything else, the letters
I get from the people who read my books.

Thank you for reading my books and for writing to me. Read like a wolf eats. Read.


Born May 17, 1939, Gary Paulsen is one of America’s most popular writers for young people. Although he was never a dedicated student, Paulsen developed a passion for reading at an early age. After a librarian gave him a book to read—along with his own library card—he was hooked. He began spending hours alone in the basement of his apartment building, reading one book after another.

Running away from home at the age of 14 and traveling with a carnival, Paulsen acquired a taste for adventure. A youthful summer of rigorous chores on a farm; jobs as an engineer, construction worker, ranch hand, truck driver, and sailor; and two rounds of the 1,180-mile Alaskan dogsled race, the Iditarod; have provided ample material from which he creates his powerful stories.

Paulsen’s realization that he would become a writer came suddenly when he was working as a satellite technician for an aerospace firm in California. One night he walked off the job, never to return. He spent the next year in Hollywood as a magazine proofreader, working on his own writing every night. Then he left California and drove to northern Minnesota where he rented a cabin on a lake; by the end of the winter, he had completed his first novel.

Living in the remote Minnesota woods, Paulsen eventually turned to the sport of dogsled racing, and entered the 1983 Iditarod. In 1985, after running the Iditarod for the second time, he suffered an attack of angina and was forced to give up his dogs. “I started to focus on writing with the same energies and efforts that I was using with dogs. So we’re talking 18-, 19-, 20-hour days completely committed to work. Totally, viciously, obsessively committed to work, the way I’d run dogs. . . . I still work that way, completely, all the time. I just work. I don’t drink, I don’t fool around, I’m just this way. . . . The end result is there’s a lot of books out there.”

It is Paulsen’s overwhelming belief in young people that drives him to write. His intense desire to tap deeply into the human spirit and to encourage readers to observe and care about the world around them has brought him both enormous popularity with young people and critical acclaim from the children’s book community. Paulsen is a master storyteller who has written more than 175 books and some 200 articles and short stories for children and adults. He is one of the most important writers of young adult literature today, and three of his novels—Hatchet, Dogsong, and The Winter Room—are Newbery Honor Books. His books frequently appear on the best books lists of the American Library Association.

Paulsen has received many letters from readers (as many as 200 a day) telling him they felt Brian Robeson’s story in Hatchet was left unfinished by his early rescue, before the winter came and made things really tough. They wanted to know what would happen if Brian were not rescued, if he had to survive in the winter. Paulsen says, “I researched and wrote Brian’s Winter, showing what could and perhaps would have happened had Brian not been rescued.”

In Paulsen’s book, Guts: The True Stories Behind Hatchet and the Brian Books, Paulsen shares his own adventures in the wild, which are often hilarious and always amazing: moose attacks, heart attacks, near-misses in planes, and looking death in the eye.

Paulsen has written a time-travel novel, The Transall Saga, which was named an ALA Quick Pick. And in the heartwrenching story Soldier’s Heart, Paulsen brings the Civil War to life battle by battle, as readers see the horror of combat and its devastating results through the eyes of 15-year-old Charley Goddard.

Paulsen and his wife Ruth Wright Paulsen, an artist who has illustrated several of his books, divide their time between a home in New Mexico and a boat in the Pacific. For more information about Gary Paulsen, visit www.garypaulsen.com


“Readers will want to savor this stirring book.”—Starred, Kirkus Reviews

“The ultimate coming-of-age story. . . . Exceptional and so heartbreakingly real.”—Starred, Booklist

“Paulsen crafts a companion/sequel to Hatchet containing many of its same pleasures. . . . Read together, the two books make his finest tale of survival yet.”—Starred, Kirkus Reviews

“These episodes will not only keep young readers, of both sexes, in stitches, they’re made to order for reading aloud.”—Starred, Kirkus Reviews

“Superb characterizations, splendidly evoked setting, and thrill-a-minute plot make this book a joy to gallop through.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

“A treat to make Paulsen fans sit up and beg for more. . . . His writing percolates with energetic love.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

A Life Remembered
“A satisfying sequel. . . . It is a great read, with characters both to hate and to cherish, and a rich sense of what it really was like then.”—Starred, Booklist

“The novel’s spare, simple language and vivid visual images of brutality and death on the battlefield make it accessible and memorable to young people.”—Starred, Booklist

“A riveting science fiction adventure. . . . Captivating.”—Starred, Booklist
Praise | Awards


“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


WINNER 2004 Texas Lone Star Reading List
WINNER 2004 ALA Best Books for Young Adults
WINNER 2004 Kentucky Bluegrass Master List

  • How Angel Peterson Got His Name by Gary Paulsen
  • August 10, 2004
  • Juvenile Fiction; Humor
  • Yearling
  • $6.99
  • 9780440229353

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