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WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE PONY EXPRESS? by Verla Kay

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE PONY EXPRESS?

by Verla Kay, illustrated by Kimberly Bulcken Root, Barry Root

Age Range: 4 - 7

Pub Date: May 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-399-24483-4
Publisher: Putnam

In her characteristic stripped-down verse, Kay fashions the attributes and enterprise of the Pony Express, which is celebrating its sesquicentennial. The Express was only active for a year and a half—laid to rest by the telegraph and railroad—but its romance and color have never faded in the American iconography. Kay picks out the salient features in her compact verse, showing a nice hand with mood and landscape: “Letters, papers, / ‘Must get through.’ / Lonely outpost, / Rendezvous. // Stationmaster, / Midnight sky. / Changing horses / ‘On the fly.’ ” To the verse add the Roots’ visual pizzazz, with artwork like posters for a John Ford movie. Though the author’s telegraphic verse is effective, she adds human interest to the story’s bones by working a correspondence between an Eastern sister and transplanted Western brother into the mix. The letters are a testament to the life-changing importance of the swift completion of the mail’s rounds. A worthy companion for younger readers to Michael Spradlin’s recent Off Like the Wind!, illustrated by Layne Johnson (2010). (Picture book. 4-7)