COWBOY GHOST

A disastrous cattle drive turns a boy into a man in this ripsnorter, set in Florida where, Peck (Soup Ahoy, 1994, etc.) avers, “the American cowboy originated.” Slight of figure, especially next to his huge, gentle older brother Micah, Titus MacRobertson never skirts a challenge, so when he’s drafted at 16 to help drive his father’s cattle over several hundred miles to the stockyards at Homestead, he looks on it as a golden opportunity to prove himself. Those miles turn out to be rough ones, filled with filthy, exhausting work, with Seminoles and cowdiggers (rustlers) lying in wait, and tragedy too; after a wild storm leaves both Micah and the drive’s foreman dead, Titus has to take charge, a task made considerably more difficult after he takes a bullet in the belly. The author adds substance to the story with a thoughtful subplot involving Titus, Micah, and their tough, grieving father; readers who delight in the colorful language and robust characters—from aptly named cowhands Spout, Vinegar, Hoofrot, and Bug Eye, to the housekeeper Mrs. Krickitt, with her “temper that could spit upwind and bust a window”—have one more reason to find Titus’s coming of age a particularly memorable one. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: March 31, 1999

ISBN: 0-06-028168-5

Page Count: 210

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1998

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Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last.

THE STARS BELOW

From the Vega Jane series , Vol. 4

The rebellion against an evil archmage and his bowler-topped minions wends its way to a climax.

Dispatching five baddies on the first two pages alone, wand-waving villain-exterminator Vega Jane gathers a motley army of fellow magicals, ghosts, and muggles—sorry, “Wugmorts”—for a final assault on Necro and his natty Maladons. As Necro repeatedly proves to be both smarter and more powerful than Vega Jane, things generally go badly for the rebels, who end up losing their hidden refuge, many of their best fighters, and even the final battle. Baldacci is plainly up on his ancient Greek theatrical conventions, however; just as all hope is lost, a divinity literally descends from the ceiling to referee a winner-take-all duel, and thanks to an earlier ritual that (she and readers learn) gives her a do-over if she’s killed (a second deus ex machina!), Vega Jane comes away with a win…not to mention an engagement ring to go with the magic one that makes her invisible and a new dog, just like the one that died heroically. Measuring up to the plot’s low bar, the narrative too reads like low-grade fanfic, being laden with references to past events, characters who only supposedly died, and such lines as “a spurt of blood shot out from my forehead,” “they started falling at a rapid number,” and “[h]is statement struck me on a number of levels.”

Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last. (glossary) (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-26393-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

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GUTS

THE TRUE STORIES BEHIND HATCHET AND THE BRIAN BOOKS

Paulsen recalls personal experiences that he incorporated into Hatchet (1987) and its three sequels, from savage attacks by moose and mosquitoes to watching helplessly as a heart-attack victim dies. As usual, his real adventures are every bit as vivid and hair-raising as those in his fiction, and he relates them with relish—discoursing on “The Fine Art of Wilderness Nutrition,” for instance: “Something that you would never consider eating, something completely repulsive and ugly and disgusting, something so gross it would make you vomit just looking at it, becomes absolutely delicious if you’re starving.” Specific examples follow, to prove that he knows whereof he writes. The author adds incidents from his Iditarod races, describes how he made, then learned to hunt with, bow and arrow, then closes with methods of cooking outdoors sans pots or pans. It’s a patchwork, but an entertaining one, and as likely to win him new fans as to answer questions from his old ones. (Autobiography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-32650-5

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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