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OFF LIKE THE WIND! by Michael P. Spradlin


The First Ride of the Pony Express

by Michael P. Spradlin & illustrated by Layne Johnson

Age Range: 7 - 10

Pub Date: March 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-8027-9652-3
Publisher: Bloomsbury

In this rousing, as-historically-accurate-as-possible recreation of the Pony Express’s first ride, Spradlin introduces readers to the crazy-wild brainchild of three businessmen to expedite mail over the near-2,000 miles from St. Joseph, Mo., to Sacramento, Calif. Accompanied by Johnson’s artwork, which has the energy of rolling thunder and the colors of a sunset, and with an engaging sense of drama and urgency, the author follows the riders over the varied landscapes they covered, through the heavy weather they encountered and past the occasional hostile reception they received from Native Americans (though his bell-clear author’s note clarifies that hostilities were rare). When he can introduce factual material—the names of riders, the number and character of station stops, the price of $5 for ½ ounce—he does so with a light hand to keep the pedagogy at a distance. For all its iconic status, the Pony Express lasted for only a year and a half before the transcontinental telegraph drew a sleeve across its windpipe, but it was an inventive enterprise full of bodacious frontier spirit, which this book plays to the hilt. (bibliography, further reading, map, timeline) (Informational picture book. 7-10)