Paulsen, Gary. 2003.
HOW ANGEL PETERSON GOT HIS NAME.
New York: Wendy Lamb Books. ISBN: 00-385-72949-9
How Angel Peterson
Got His Name is an example of a partial autobiography.
It has five chapters that are detailed descriptions of events that the author, Paulsen, lived through as an adolescent
boy, in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
The setting is described in a small town in northwestern Minnesota, where Paulsen grew up. The author relives
his childhood memories of when he and his friends attempted dare devil stunts on bikes, homemade skateboards, and tried to
break a world record for speeding on skis.
Although there is a lot
of detail given, the story’s structure is balanced well. The plot of each
event (chapter) unfolds in a timely manner. Within the unfolding process, there
are historical snips added – teaching the reader about the time period and at the same time, providing a setting for
There are historical
facts such as about how much a movie costs and what the average salary was during the 1940s and 1950s. Paulsen does a great job of giving the reader some understanding of why and how people did certain things
in the past. For example, he explained the fact that before televisions were
popular, the radio was the only form of media, and how phone calls were placed, depending upon the type of line that a person
had. These two aspects could be good introductions to discuss the inventions
and progressions of things such as televisions and telephones.
The only physical illustration
provided in the books is on the cover. While reading about Angel Peterson’s
attempt to break the world’s record on skis, I found myself looking back several times at the book cover to identify
the things like his mitten with the thumb sticking straight up, and the race car that was used to pull him.
The author is very talented
in using many adjectives and figurative language. The writing I so descriptive,
the reader will enjoy imagining the scenes and outrageous events exhibited in the book.
It is written in first person form, making it all the more interesting because it gives the reader a sense that the
events are real – which makes it that more hilarious!
The story does, in fact,
make the historical period come to life. Paulsen recreates all aspects, including
the environment, the clothes they wore, the characters (his friends), and even the popular people during the era. It is of course, more interesting to young readers, because it is told from the memories of young Paulsen. This allows the reader to relate to the story.
How Angel Peterson
Got His Name could be used to introduce the lifestyle history of those who lived in the
late 1940s to early 1950s. Reading this book aloud allows the reader to ask questions
and make comments about the historical tidbits featured. There are definitely
good stopping points within the story for having discussions about things such as why and how the value of a dollar has changed.