As Wild Bill Hickok “says” in his blurb: “Factual as far as it goes.” (glossary, further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 8-10)

WHAT IF YOU MET A COWBOY?

From the What If You Met… series

Following other books in the What if You Met…(a Pirate, 2004; a Knight, 2006) series, this title somewhat less successfully tackles the subject of cowboys.

The image of the handsome cowboy idealized in movies, “on the lookout for pretty schoolteachers and Indians on the warpath,” is shattered by Jacob McHugh Peavey, the “real deal,” unwashed and unshaven. Only careful readers will determine that Jake’s heyday was around 1860-1885. He’s white, although Adkins notes that “[a]bout half of [cowboys] are African-American, Indian, or Hispanic.” Cowgirls are dismissed in a side note. Given this limited perspective, youngsters interested in diversity in the Wild West will want to look elsewhere. Those not familiar with the history of Native Americans may require a source to understand potentially confusing descriptions of Franciscan missionaries who introduced horses in the Southwest as “relatively gentle and patient” conquerors who received an assist from European diseases or the “hostile native” tribes or youth that may on occasion pose a threat to Jake. (Source notes—a list of titles consulted—are provided, but there are no specific citations.) However, children enamored of cowboy gear and cattle drives will find a plethora of information about and detailed illustrations of saddles, guns, brands, the chuck wagon and more, each topic covered in one or two pages.

As Wild Bill Hickok “says” in his blurb: “Factual as far as it goes.” (glossary, further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59643-149-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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The story’s focus on Gabe, as cranky and independent as his human, makes for a surprisingly accessible introduction to the...

GABE

A STORY OF ME, MY DOG, AND THE 1970S

Just as Steinbeck took Charley on his travels, teenage Gill went with Gabe: “Home was where your friends were, so Gabe and I became each other’s home.”

More in search of a satisfactory place to settle down than some nebulous America, Gill recalls leaving home at 17 and meeting the blue merle husky mix that became her canine companion in a first aid tent at a 1972 Rainbow Tribe festival in Colorado. From there, the two hitchhiked to New Orleans, then onward across the country before fetching up, ultimately, in Alaska. As a late, glancing reference to marriage and divorce indicates, Gill leaves a lot out, but what she includes strings both simple adventures and emotionally complex moments one after another into an episodic but loving tribute. She describes living in the French Quarter, where “overdoses and pistol-whippings by the police were common,” losing her beloved dog and then being joyfully reunited, raising a litter of husky pups abandoned by their mother, and, in later years, running an Iditarod and finally holding Gabe in her arms as old age takes him. The tale is printed on full-bleed color paintings that add considerably to their vividness by centering on the author’s independent, confident-looking figure and on a dog that, as often as not, is posed with teeth bared in a feral snarl.

The story’s focus on Gabe, as cranky and independent as his human, makes for a surprisingly accessible introduction to the 1970s for middle graders. (afterword) (Graphic memoir. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-57091-354-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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Fine viewing, but more of an art exhibit than a systematic family history.

FEATHERED DINOSAURS

Recently discovered hints that most dinosaurs may have been feathered cap a gallery of prehistoric predecessors to today’s birds.

The presentation has more of a cobbled-together feel than Guiberson’s previous look at the deep past, The Greatest Dinosaur Ever (illustrated by Gennady Spirin, 2013). Despite the title, the book goes beyond feathers. Guiberson discusses how the colors of fossilized feathers can be deduced from the shapes of their microscopic melanosomes, but she also describes early appearances of other avian features such as wishbones and a two-legged stance. But that anatomical focus doesn’t extend to the illustrations, as in the dimly lit paintings, dinosaurs loom indistinctly, their colors muted and limbs tightly folded or otherwise angled so that structural details are hard to make out. Eoalulavis appears only as a few tiny figures winging past a pair of immense sauropods, and the towering ornithischian confronting a modern ostrich on the final spread isn’t identified at all. The portraits are arranged in rough chronological order, but there are no clues in text or pictures to the dinosaurs’ specific eras. Despite a reference to the “teeny wings” of Hesperornis and a few other breaks in tone, the author’s commentary is otherwise solid…until its grand but insupportable closing claim that birds now inhabit “every environment on Earth.”

Fine viewing, but more of an art exhibit than a systematic family history. (bibliography) (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9828-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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