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THE RIDE by Kitty Griffin

THE RIDE

The Legend of Betsy Dowdy

By Kitty Griffin (Author) , Marjorie Priceman (Illustrator)

Age Range: 6 - 8

Pub Date: Aug. 31st, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4169-2816-4
Publisher: Atheneum

It’s 1775 and the people of North Carolina want freedom from England’s rule, but “[w]hen sixteen-year-old Betsy Dowdy heard Papa talk about war approaching, she felt as helpless as a ghost crab skittering along the sand.” The legendary Betsy of Currituck (her existence has never been proven) isn’t helpless, though. She promptly saddles up her pony Bess and rides all night--50 miles over hill and dale--to warn General Skinner’s militia about the incoming redcoats. In what may be the most Fauvist depiction of colonial America ever, Priceman’s splendidly untamed gouache-and-ink spreads reflect the menacing inevitability of war with fiery oranges and the red-cloaked Betsy’s phantasmagorical nighttime ride in deep blues and purples. Perspectives are distorted, buildings topsy-turvy, eyes of human and beast are wild and wide--even the sharp-toothed river fish look agitated, as in a crazy nightmare. The muddled story--more odd, atmospheric drama than history lesson--may just end up unsettling readers, though, despite the trumpeting clarity of its made-for-radio-voice refrain: “She couldn’t fight as a soldier. But she could ride.” (stylized map, author’s note) (Picture book. 6-8)