Everyone knows Lexie is the best wrangler west of the Mississippi—best word wrangler, that is.
Outfitted in a tall hat and fancy boots, the freckle-faced white girl can ride, twirl a lariat, and herd cantankerous cattle. Besides that, she can tie words together, like “corn” and “bread” to make “cornbread.” In the spring she watches the baby letters grow into words that she can herd into sentences and then make into messages. Everyone agrees that Lexie is a champion word wrangler, except for one rascal who starts messing with her words. “Dogies” become “doggies,” a “bandana” becomes a “banana,” and a twinkling “star” is turned into several “rats.” “Ain’t no fun sleeping out under the rats,” says Lexie in a colossal understatement. Yep, it’s a word rustler at work. Lexie sets off to find the culprit and bring him to justice. In a sundown ambush, she lassoes the scoundrel: it’s a black kid named Russell. All he wants is to work with words like Lexie. So Russell the word rustler—make that wrestler—joins Lexie the word wrangler, and a rootin’ tootin’ team is hitched up. Hartland’s quirky gouache illustrations, reminiscent of Maira Kalman’s work, play up the Western-style humor. The last page has a dictionary of wrangler words.
Here’s hoping Van Slyke and Hartland will round up some more nifty yarns, as this is clever wordplay to share with kids. (Picture book. 5-8)