WRANGO by Brian Burks


Age Range: 11 - 13
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From Burks (Walks Alone, 1998, etc.), the fact-based story of an ex-slave turned cowboy; the historical details are riveting but the characterizations and plotting are not. George McJunkin, a teenager recently freed from slavery, and trained to ride horses and rope by Senor Valarde, joins a cattle drive from Comanche, Texas, to Abilene, Kansas. Along the way he encounters prejudice, saves the life of one of his fellow drivers, is bitten by a rattlesnake, sees a lynching, begins to learn to read, and survives storm, stampede, and possibly hostile Indians to win the respect of his boss and crew. The particulars of life on the trail and the hardships of the job are fascinating; Burks paints a vivid picture of the tension, adventure, and tedium that are all part of the cowboy’s lot. The motives ascribed to the characters, however, don’t always make sense. Senor Valarde threatens to quit unless the trail boss, who already has a full crew, hires George; the trail boss not only has no hard feelings, but then fires the wrangler—or wrango—for drunkenness and gives the inexperienced George the job. A mean-spirited bigot, Charley, becomes abruptly faithful and kind after George saves his life, just one of the several instances in which the veracity in the setting and details is not matched by credible characters or plotting. (b&w photos, map, glossary, bibliography) (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-15-201815-8
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1999