VOICES OF THE WESTERN FRONTIER

A wide-angled overview of the settling of the American West in first-person, free-verse poems.

As the title implies, the era is regarded, even by the few non-Anglo witnesses, from a decidedly Eurocentric point of view. Garland opens with statements from Sacagawea (the only Native American), trapper Jedediah Smith, and George Catlin, but all of her other “voices” are anonymous ones ("I am a girl walking along the Oregon Trail") until Annie Oakley steps in toward the end. The observations are largely likewise generic—“Since the Louisiana Purchase twenty-two years ago, / trappers have been depleting the beaver everywhere,” complains Smith. They are occasionally cringe-inducing: the Chinese railroad worker is proud to have earned “respect from our bosses for a job well-done,” and the “Buffalo Soldier” identifies himself as “a former slave / who joined this all-Negro regiment in 1866.” A long historical note displays similar lack of sensitivity, capped by a claim that the Indian Wars were started by “renegades” out for payback for the slaughter of the buffalo. Depicted in period dress and settings, most of the improbably clean, largely light-skinned figures in Buckner’s painted portraits look directly at readers. The chronologically arranged entries end with a modern child at a rodeo, observing that “today the Indians wear boots and hats and jeans. / But for a little while, in front of cheering crowds, / the old Wild West lives once again.”

Painfully parochial. (glossary, map, bibliographies) (Informational picture book/poetry. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4556-1961-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Pelican

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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Despite the book’s clarity, many young listeners still may not understand the enormity of the enterprise or its importance...

HENRY AND THE CANNONS

AN EXTRAORDINARY TRUE STORY OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

Brown brings to life a complex undertaking that had important repercussions, though his early-elementary audience may not be quite ready for it.

The book’s trajectory is clearly laid out: A simple map traces an almost-300-mile path through the wilderness from Fort Ticonderoga in New York to Boston. The first line draws readers firmly into the past—“It was the winter of 1775”—and defines the problem: British soldiers occupy Boston, and the Americans have no way to dislodge them. Despite the seeming impossibility of transporting heavy cannons over snowy roads, across icy lakes and through forbidding forests, young Henry Knox, a bookseller and militia member, volunteered to get the job done. As he has in other informational picture books, Brown uses a variety of page layouts, including some sequential panels, to convey the action. Cool blues and icy whites evoke the wintry landscape; figures and faces are loosely drawn but ably express emotion and determination. Likewise, the brief text employs lyrical language to both get the basic facts across and communicate the feelings and experiences of Henry and his band of hardy helpers. Children intrigued by Brown’s succinct summary will want to follow up with Anita Silvey’s Henry Knox: Bookseller, Solider, Patriot, illustrated by Wendell Minor (2010).

Despite the book’s clarity, many young listeners still may not understand the enormity of the enterprise or its importance in U.S. history (bibliography) (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59643-266-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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A different take on women’s prowess and accomplishments that equine lovers will find appealing.

TAD LUCAS

TRICK-RIDING RODEO COWGIRL

A daredevil woman wins fame on the 20th-century rodeo circuit.

The county fair, full of colors, vegetables, and animals, is in Nebraska, and a 14-year-old white girl named Tad rides in on a great white horse ready to race. A different challenge soon presents itself as she joins in the contest for steer riding and wins it. So begins this tale of Barbara “Tad” Barnes, who was born in Nebraska at the beginning of the 20th century. Surrounded by horses, she grew up loving to race and performed in rodeos all across the United States and Mexico, specializing in daredevil moves and trick riding, all to great acclaim and popularity. Trophies followed until an accident at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair that should have sidelined her permanently but did not. She received many honors, and her daughter established an award in her name “to honor women who excel in any field related to Western heritage.” Edge writes in a breezy style that brims with admiration for her subject. Ford’s colorful if stiff illustrations depict cowboys and cowgirls, almost all white, and horses galore. A lariat serves to surround and highlight text.

A different take on women’s prowess and accomplishments that equine lovers will find appealing. (author’s note, photograph) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4556-2277-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Pelican

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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