I howled. It's the funniest book I've read in a long, long time. I read the funny parts (most of the book, really) out loud to Josh as I read and we were both in hysterics. Teary-eyed-gasping hysterics.
In How Angel Peterson Got His Name, Gary Paulsen writes about being a thirteen-year-old boy in Minnesota in the 1950's. More importantly, he writes about the stupid, stupid things he did at that age. Like his attempt to ride over a waterfall in a barrel:
And so I found an old wooden pickle barrel with oak staves, and after carefully reinforcing it by wrapping it with about two hundred feet of clothesline and miles of electrical tape (this was before duct tape) I lined the inside of it with an old quilt, set it on the bank near the top of the spillway, climbed into the barrel, wedged the lid in place over my head and threw myself back and forth inside until the barrel wobbled off the bank.
I'm not exactly sure what I expected. I might have had a thought that the barrel was made of wood, which floats. Therefore the whole craft would float, bobbing to the edge of the spillway and then over to drop to the water below, and would lead me to everlasting fame as the first boy to go over the Eighth Street dam in a barrel.
Instead the barrel sank. Like a stone. Straight to the bottom, which was about six feet down, where it bumped around a bit while I panicked. To my horror, I discovered that the lid had swelled enough with the water to be sealed in place, that the barrel was fast filling up with water, that pickle barrels were amazingly strong and you could not kick them apart from the inside, and that I would gain fame only as the first kid stupid enough to drown himself in a barrel.
Obviously (also surprisingly and thankfully) he survived his thirteenth year. Barely.
This book has been challenged a number of times. My assumption is that parents are worried that it'll give kids ideas. If anything, this book might make the kids cross a couple of amazingly idiotic things OFF of their lists of Things To Do. On the other hand, if it does give 'em ideas, is that so bad? So what if they end up getting dragged halfway across town (above the tree line, mind you) by a WWII target kite? At least they'd be off their butts and outside.
I haven't read a ton of Gary Paulsen. I've read Hatchet, of course, and some of the Tucket books (which I loved), but I don't tend to go in for the wilderness/survival genre very much. I hadn't realized that the man was so damn funny. If Harris and Me is available, I'm totally taking it home tonight.