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by Verla Kay & illustrated by Adam Gustavson

Age Range: 5 - 10

Pub Date: May 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-58246-184-7
Publisher: Tricycle

Charley Parkhurst was a legend in his own time—a taciturn but well-respected, fearless stagecoach driver whose professional services were much in demand (although personally, people found him odd). Perhaps then, Kay’s self-described “cryptic verse” is quite appropriate. Maybe its cadence is entirely intentional: The contracted rhyming text, with a twang writ’ right in, is sometimes a bit of a bumpy road, particularly for younger readers. Perhaps Charley’s lapse into what could be brogue (“Them’s me beauties / they go fast / How I loves ’em— / DRAT IT! BLAST!) isn’t accidental at all. Possibly the occasional odd turn of phrase (Six-horse stagecoach / Bounds along / Charley reins up / Flicks a thong) isn’t really near-doggerel. In any case, this true-life tale of a woman masquerading all her life as a man—working, voting, joining men’s associations and earning a reputation as the best at what s/he did—bears telling, and this offering may lead readers to Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Riding Freedom (1998), which tells it best, albeit for a little older audience. Gustavson’s well-paced, rich oil-painting illustrations and a concluding time line add life and depth to the clip-clop content. (Picture book/nonfiction. 5-10)