Leroy Ninker dreams of being an honest-to-goodness cowboy as he watches Western movies while working at the concession stand at the drive-in theater.
He has some of the lingo down pat, and he knows he will need boots, a hat and a lasso. But his co-worker points out that he is missing the most important element of all: a horse. Providentially, there is a horse for sale. Though she is swaybacked and almost toothless, it is love at first sight when Leroy sees Maybelline. Leroy is given some unusual instructions; he must sweet-talk and compliment the horse, feed her plenty of grub and never leave her alone for more than a few moments. So there he is with a horse that won’t fit through his door, gobbles up potfuls of spaghetti and needs constant attention. Adventures and misadventures abound, and both horse and cowboy become lost in a scary storm. But with a little help from some old friends who have appeared in the author-illustrator team’s earlier works, it all comes together with the expected happy ending. DiCamillo’s quirky, eccentric characters speak in flowery sentiments and employ charming wordplay. Along with Van Dusen’s well-matched illustrations, there’s a sweet, retro innocence reminiscent of McCloskey’s classic Homer Price. Despite the old-fashioned accent, the absurdities will easily appeal to a modern audience.
Filled with love and kindness and glorious sweet-talk: “Yippee-i-oh.” (Fiction. 6-9)