An uplifting look at a cowboy’s coming-of-age that will appeal to adventurous young readers.

READ REVIEW

THE PRACTICAL JOKERS

WESTERN NOVEL FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

In this short but sweet middle-grade Western, a gruff but good-hearted cowboy teaches an awkward kid how to handle the bullying he suffers at the hands of others.

On his way to Col. McFarlie’s remote ranch to look for work, tough cowboy Stace spends the night at the home of an older couple. Because of their kindness, he agrees to look in on their son, Rabbit, who works at a bar at the nearby train stop. Rabbit is abused by the men of a nearby ranch because he’s bucktoothed and clumsy. Skittish and easily frightened, he is incapable of standing up for himself. After one of the colonel’s men throws a giant bone at Rabbit, Stace steps in to defend him and accidentally kills the other cowboy in the process. Despite this incident, the colonel hires Stace for the winter season and, at Stace’s request, also brings on Rabbit to assist the ranch’s cook. At first Rabbit is subject to more pranks and insults from the ranch’s diverse group of eccentric characters, but Stace teaches him how to fight back the fun way with his own practical jokes. Eventually, both the experienced outsider and his young sidekick earn their way into the hearts of most of the men—though some take much longer to warm to them than others. However, there are other dangers afoot around the ranch besides bitter cowboys. Author Davis creates a Western setting with prose that feels authentic in its dusty details: “Except for the railroad and the fly-speck town, the flats below were as brown and empty as a miscolored sea. The plain seemed to shimmer with heat and melt into the brown horizon.” There are some scenes of gruesome violence that ring true for the time period and the genre but may be a bit much for younger readers. However, if they can stomach these less-than-savory moments, they will be rewarded with an entertaining tale about the importance of developing thick skin and a sense of humor—lessons that apply to the modern world just as well as to the Old West.

An uplifting look at a cowboy’s coming-of-age that will appeal to adventurous young readers.

Pub Date: July 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1499044928

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2014

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MORNING GIRL

Like the quiet lap of waves on the sand, the alternating introspections of two Bahamian island children in 1492. Morning Girl and her brother Star Boy are very different: she loves the hush of pre-dawn while he revels in night skies, noise, wind. In many ways they are antagonists, each too young and subjective to understand the other's perspective—in contrast to their mother's appreciation for her brother. In the course of these taut chapters concerning such pivotal events as their mother's losing a child, the arrival of a hurricane, or Star Boy's earning the right to his adult name, they grow closer. In the last, Morning Girl greets— with cordial innocence—a boat full of visitors, unaware that her beautifully balanced and textured life is about to be catalogued as ``very poor in everything,'' her island conquered by Europeans. This paradise is so intensely and believably imagined that the epilogue, quoted from Columbus's diary, sickens with its ominous significance. Subtly, Dorris draws parallels between the timeless chafings of sibs set on changing each other's temperaments and the intrusions of states questing new territory. Saddening, compelling—a novel to be cherished for its compassion and humanity. (Fiction. 8+)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 1992

ISBN: 1-56282-284-5

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1992

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An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some...

RALPH TELLS A STORY

With a little help from his audience, a young storyteller gets over a solid case of writer’s block in this engaging debut.

Despite the (sometimes creatively spelled) examples produced by all his classmates and the teacher’s assertion that “Stories are everywhere!” Ralph can’t get past putting his name at the top of his paper. One day, lying under the desk in despair, he remembers finding an inchworm in the park. That’s all he has, though, until his classmates’ questions—“Did it feel squishy?” “Did your mom let you keep it?” “Did you name it?”—open the floodgates for a rousing yarn featuring an interloping toddler, a broad comic turn and a dramatic rescue. Hanlon illustrates the episode with childlike scenes done in transparent colors, featuring friendly-looking children with big smiles and widely spaced button eyes. The narrative text is printed in standard type, but the children’s dialogue is rendered in hand-lettered printing within speech balloons. The episode is enhanced with a page of elementary writing tips and the tantalizing titles of his many subsequent stories (“When I Ate Too Much Spaghetti,” “The Scariest Hamster,” “When the Librarian Yelled Really Loud at Me,” etc.) on the back endpapers.

An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some budding young writers off and running. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0761461807

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Amazon Children's Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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