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Spur Awards
2012 (Western Short Novel)
Legacy of a Lawman: A Western Story
Click to search this book in our catalog   Johnny D. Boggs

Book list Boggs, one of the more interesting and exciting of today's western writers, nails another one with this story, based on true events, of a deputy marshal who offers to go round up a particularly dangerous fugitive, his own son. Bass Reeves is the marshal. He captures his son, Bennie, who killed his own wife, but before Bass can bring his boy to justice, Bennie is sprung free by Cherokee Bob Dozier, a train robber, murderer, and all-around bad guy. In what appears to Bass' friend, Dave, who serves as the book's narrator, to be bloody-minded stubbornness, Bass lights out after Cherokee Bob, apparently willing to risk his own life to capture his flesh and blood. Boggs, as usual, writes crisp, clean prose, using visually evocative turns of phrase at opportune moments ( His gut looked like a balloon, his hair thinning on top but with a salt-and-pepper beard thicker than the canebrakes that once dominated the banks of the Arkansas ). The story is compelling, with plenty of surprises and some adroit social commentary. A guaranteed winner for genre readers.--Pitt, David Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

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2012 (Western Long Novel)
Remember Ben Clayton
Click to search this book in our catalog   Stephen Harrigan

Book list *Starred Review* Like the statue at its center, Harrigan's novel is a stunning work of art resting on a solid base of heartbreak. The action ranges from the Texas plains to the devastated northern French landscape, with the presence of the violent Wild West strongly lingering. Wealthy rancher Lamar Clayton had raised his son alone after his much younger wife's death. Now Ben is dead, killed in WWI, and his taciturn father wants to memorialize him in bronze. Gi. Gilheaney, a brilliant, ambitious sculptor, accepts the commission. Gil's daughter Maureen, a talented artist herself, assists him while quietly pursuing her own dreams. To shape Ben's character into clay, they trace the dusty paths he once walked, but only his friend Arthur, a disfigured veteran, knows why Ben was so careless with his life. The story builds with determined momentum, providing a grimly vivid sense of place and deep insight into the creative process and family relationships. Harrigan's The Gates of the Alamo (2000) has become a modern classic, and his latest historical deserves similar acclaim.--Johnson, Sara. Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal Lamar Clayton, a hard-nosed rancher in west Texas with a violent past, hires a sculptor from San Antonio to create a bronze monument to Clayton's son Ben, who died fighting in World War I. Sculptor -Gilheany, sensing the opportunity to create a final masterpiece, uncovers a tragic family history of Comanche kidnappings, secrets, and guilt. Harrigan (The Gates of the Alamo) is adept at describing his territory, from a ruined mission in 1920s San Antonio to the plains of west Texas. He's also clearly at home with the process of bronze sculpture, and we closely follow the journey of Gilheany's piece from his Texas studio to a casting foundry in New York City. While ably exploring themes of artistic struggle, aging, and family conflict, the book is most riveting in the sometimes horrific chapters on war, from the Indian Wars of the late 1800s to World War I. VERDICT An engaging novel on family conflict and the artistic process; also a book that would do well with readers of Southwest history and fiction.-John R. Cecil, Austin, TX (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Harrigan's austere latest (after Challenger Park) explores, with a dry swagger, art, secrets, and family in post-WWI America. After accomplished sculptor Gil Gilheaney is commissioned by Texas rancher Lamar Clayton to sculpt a statue of his son, Ben, who died in a battle on French soil, Gil and his daughter/assistant Maureen-an artist in her own right, though with blunted ambitions-travel from New York to the Clayton ranch to research Ben's life and work on the piece. Gil picks up quickly that there's plenty Lamar isn't telling him and becomes intrigued by Lamar's past: Lamar and his sister were kidnapped and raised by Indians, and the family of Lamar's housekeeper was massacred by Indians. Maureen, meanwhile, battles her own needs for artistic expression and independence, and a young man who was with Ben when he was killed and suffered a disfiguring injury gets pulled into the ranch's orbit. Harrigan doesn't shy from the gristle-the harshness of death on the battlefield, a lynch mob's mindless lust for destruction, screwworm flies festering in a calf's castration wound-and the secrets each character holds are grim and heartbreaking. The narrative's crushing sense of despair would be impossible to endure in the hands of a lesser writer. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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2012 (Original Mass Market Paperback)
West Texas Kill
Click to search this book in our catalog   Johnny D. Boggs
 
2011 (Western Short Novel)
Snowbound
 Richard S. Wheeler

Book list John Charles Fremont (1813-90), the mathematics teacher, military man, presidential candidate, and explorer, lived a storied life. In this novel, Wheeler focuses on Fremont's fourth expedition to forge a railway route along the thirty-eighth parallel, connecting St. Louis with San Francisco. Wheeler, who notes that accounts of Fremont's life vary greatly, portrays the explorer as a deeply contradictory man: courageous but self-centered; remote but highly respected; reckless but methodical. Fremont's fourth expedition was his most disastrous (several members of his team died), and Wheeler's decision to concentrate on it, rather than an episode from Fremont's military or political career, makes perfect sense: it allows the author to show us the man in all his mercurial glory, the famed explorer who will risk everything, including his own life, to break new ground. Good reading both for western-genre fans and readers of historical fiction.--Pitt, David Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Six-time Spur Award-winner Wheeler takes on the charismatic, unpredictable, and enigmatic 19th-century explorer John Fremont in this rich if overstuffed survival tale. The story begins in 1847 with Fremont losing a court-martial for mutiny and disobedience, but Fremont isn't down for long: his senator father-in-law gets Fremont set up to conduct a survey for a proposed railroad line connecting St. Louis and San Francisco. A revolving cast of narrators-Fremont, other historical figures, and fictional characters-chronicle the expedition into the Colorado mountains as winter begins, and it becomes apparent that they are falling behind schedule and are ever closer to starvation or freezing to death. Wheeler skillfully depicts the extreme conditions ("King was gaunt and drawn, the flesh gone from his face, his eyes sunk in pits.... Williams had crawled inside himself. There were great icicles hanging from his beard"), though the attentions of many narrators can tend toward the redundant and slow down what is otherwise a dramatic and colorful epic that should hook even those who already know how everything turns out. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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2011 (Western Long Novel)
Last Train from Cuernavaca
 Lucia St. Clair Robson
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2011 (Original Mass Market Paperback)
Damnation Road
 Max McCoy
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2010 (Western Short Novel)
Far Bright Star
Click to search this book in our catalog   Robert Olmstead
2010 (Western Long Novel)
Echoes of Glory
Click to search this book in our catalog   Robert Flynn
2010 (Original Mass Market Paperback)
Stranger in Thunder Basin
Click to search this book in our catalog   John D. Nesbitt.
 
2009 (Western Short Novel)
Another mans moccasins
 Craig Johnson.
Library Journal : Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire (Kindness Goes Unpunished) flashes back to his Vietnam War experiences when a photograph of him is found in the purse of a murdered young Vietnamese woman. Johnson's engrossing tale offers a sympathetic view of young Americans in a foreign environment trying to do their jobs under difficult circumstances.

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Publishers Weekly : Starred Review. At the start of Johnson's stellar fourth mystery to feature Wyoming sheriff Walt Longmire (after 2007's Kindness Goes Unpunished), Walt responds to a call that leads to the discovery of the body of a young Vietnamese woman, Ho Thi Paquet, along an Absaroka County highway. Squatting nearby with Paquet's purse is a massive Crow Indian later identified as Virgil White Buffalo. When Walt finds a photograph of himself and a Vietnamese barmaid taken in 1968 among the victim's belongings, Walt realizes that the murder isn't as clear-cut as it appears. With the help of his longtime friend, Cheyenne Indian Henry Standing Bear, Walt retraces Paquet's steps and uncovers disturbing links to a California human trafficking ring as well as to his own past as a military inspector in Vietnam. Vivid war flashbacks give a glimpse of a younger but no less determined Walt. Full of crackling dialogue, this absorbing tale demonstrates that Longmire is still the sheriff in town. 4-city author tour. (June)

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2009 (Western Long Novel)
Shavetail : a novel
 Thomas Cobb.
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2009 (Original Mass Market Paperback)
Trouble at the Redstone
 John D. Nesbitt.
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2009 (First Novel)
Gods thunderbolt : the vigilantes of Montana
Click to search this book in our catalog   by Carol Buchanan.
2008 (Western Nonfiction Biography)
Frontiersman: Daniel Boone and the Making of America
Click to search this book in our catalog   Meredith Mason Brown
2008 (Western Novel)
The God of Animals
Click to search this book in our catalog   Aryn Kyle
 
2009 (Western Nonfiction Historical)
Hunting the American West : the pursuit of big game for life, profit, and sport from 1800-1900
 Richard C. Rattenbury ; foreword by E. Norman Flayderman.
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2009 (Western Nonfiction Contemporary)
Full-court quest : the girls from Fort Shaw Indian School, basketball champions of the world
 Linda Peavy & Ursula Smith.
School Library Journal : Adult/High School—At the turn of the 20th century, an important aspect of the federal policy toward many American Indian tribes was assimilation through education. Boarding schools were established off reservation, as well as on, and government officials actively and aggressively recruited children to attend them. Among the students in the school established at Fort Shaw in Montana were a group of young women who would become famous in Montana, and a popular attraction at the 1904 World's Fair. Their story is told in this well-researched and well-documented book. Leaving their families and arriving at different ages for different reasons, they came together to play the new game of basketball and were quite successful. Peavy and Smith's book is a remarkably rosy picture of an Indian boarding school. While the authors mention that students ran away, that they were separated from their families for long periods of time, and that they were required to speak only English and leave behind traditional dress and culture, these factors seem not to have affected these talented athletes. It is not until the last few pages that the authors specifically, and briefly, address the cost of the success of the girls' team, and the federal Indian educational policy. Still, the book tells a story long forgotten about these "world champions."—Mary Ann Harlan, Arcata High School, CA

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2009 (Juvenile Fiction)
I am Apache
 Tanya Landman.
Publishers Weekly : On the shortlist for the 2008 Carnegie Medal, Landman's U.S. debut takes its inspiration from references to a woman warrior who fought alongside Geronimo. Landman's own heroine, the narrator Siki, is 14 when she witnesses Mexicans murder her younger brother and vows revenge. Proving herself a brave and cunning fighter, she is allowed to accompany the strongest men on raids against their ruthless enemies, who desecrate the earth by digging mines. The White Eyes, Siki knows, had no understanding that the bounty of Mother Earth was made for all to share.... They hoarded more than they needed, piling it all into a great heap that they defended like snarling dogs. Siki also experiences visions (or has the Power, as Landman puts it), and she faces test after test of her loyalty. Some readers may be put off by the deliberately exotic tone of Siki's voice: I could not see the face of [my enemy] Keste, but my presence was like a pebble dropped into a still pool: his ill humor rippled outward. Others, however, will relish her fiery spirit and feel the joy of her victories and, when ultimate defeat appears imminent, share the pain of her losses. Ages 12–up. (Aug.)

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School Library Journal: Gr 7 Up—At the end of the 19th century, 14-year-old Siki is a member of Arizona's (fictional) Black Mountain Apache, and an orphan who lost both parents in battles with Mexicans. When she witnesses the brutal slaying of her four-year-old brother, Tazhi, by Mexican raiders, she vows to avenge his death and earns an unusual place, through her skills and relentless training, as a warrior among the men of her tribe. In an overwrought, floridly poetic first-person narrative (e.g., "the wind flowed in [Tazhi's] veins, and the sun itself seemed to shine through his eyes when he smiled"), Landman takes readers on a complex adventure full of jealousy, romance, visions, dark family secrets, bloody battles, daring rescues, and painful dealings with Mexicans and double-crossing "White Eyes." Historical accuracy is questionable, despite research evident not only in an extensive bibliography, but also in Siki's copious explanations of tribal ways and customs. Landman states in a historical note that every tribe and place name is fictional, and that she's "made no attempt to produce an accurate historical novel." Despite some efforts to create complex, "real" human characters and interactions, readers will certainly take away a notion of the Apache as wronged but brutal, doomed, vengeful warriors, and 19th-century Mexicans as heartless villains. Exciting, but problematic, to say the least.—Riva Pollard, Prospect Sierra Middle School, El Cerrito, CA

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2009 (Juvenile Nonfiction)
The trial of Standing Bear
Click to search this book in our catalog   by Frank Keating, Paintings by Mike Wimmer.
2009 (Storyteller Award)
The wheat doll
Click to search this book in our catalog   Alison L. Randall ; illustrated by Bill Farnsworth.
2008 (Nonfiction Contemporary)
Lone Star Lawmen: The Second Century of the Texas Rangers
Click to search this book in our catalog   Robert M. Utley
Publishers Weekly: In this follow-up to Lone Star Justice, Utley tells how the Texas Rangers entered the 20th century as an effective if idiosyncratic law enforcement outfit and entered the 21st century as the investigative arm of the Texas Department of Public Safety. In a dry style, Utley describes the Rangers' various commanders, troopers and exploits. Through the first third of the 20th century, the Rangers operated in an extralegal fashion—their existence was at the whim of whoever occupied the governor's mansion in Austin. It wasn't until 1935 that the Rangers were made official and brought into the newly formed DPS. Utley is far too enamored of the Rangers for his book's good. While his precise if plodding prose doesn't hype the Rangers' exploits, and he acknowledges a "dark period" early in the 20th century when weak leaders failed to control their men, he treads so lightly on so many issues—prisoner treatment (brutal), racial integration (belated) and especially gender equality (a glaring problem Utley chalks up to "the lack of female applicants")—that it is hard to see this as the definitive account it aspires to be. 30 b&w illus. (Mar.)

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2008 (Young Readers)
Doubtful Canon
 Johnny D. Boggs
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2007 (Western Novel)
The Night Journal
 Elizabeth Crook
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2007 (Nonfiction Contemporary)
Copper Chorus: Mining, Politics and the Montana press
 Dennis L. Swibold
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2007 (Young Readers)
Geronimo
Click to search this book in our catalog   Joseph Bruchac
School Library Journal: Gr 5-10–Starting in 1886 with Geronimo's final surrender, this novel is told from the perspective of his adopted grandson Little Foot, and follows the Chiricahua Apaches from their home in Arizona to Florida. At Fort Marion, the group dwindles, losing children to the Carlisle Indian School, where those who contract tuberculosis are sent home to die and spread the disease. Little Foot escapes this fate and eventually joins the U.S. Infantry. Bruchac's narrative meanders and shifts, but he sprinkles the trail with excitement and humor. Little Foot himself points out, “I know that most White Eyes readers are less patient than Indians and prefer short stories that are easy to understand,” and some young people will find this one difficult. But fans of history, or of themes of survival and freedom, will find it fascinating–and certainly different from other fare about the man. The fictional Little Foot affords Bruchac the perfect point of view to observe and interpret Geronimo's life, explaining where the history books got it wrong, and offering insights that won't be found there. There is not enough explanation about how Bruchac constructed his story from his sources (listed at the end). Nonetheless, as the author develops a compelling picture of a people driven by universal and recognizable motives, readers may find this story more persuasive than the nonfiction sources available in most libraries.–Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA

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2006 (Western Novel - tie)
Camp Ford: A Western Story
Click to search this book in our catalog   Johnny D. Boggs
2006 (Western Novel - tie)
The Undertakers Wife
Click to search this book in our catalog   Loren D. Estleman
Publishers Weekly: The Master Executioner, his 2001 tour de force, Estleman picks an unpopular profession and draws from it two compelling characters, and a memorable love story as well. Circa 1900, retired undertaker Richard Connable is pressed back into service by a cabal of powerful men who want him to work his "invisible art" on the corpse of a major financier who has committed suicide (the men want to disguise the cause of death and thereby avert economic panic). In his absence, Richard's estimable wife, Lucy, sensing the approach of her own death, recalls their story: the adventures that took them toMichigan, San Francisco, Kansas, Montana and elsewhere; Richard's professional development and friendship with Wild Bill Hickock; and the death of Richard and Lucy's only child. Well researched and meticulously detailed, offering a vivid picture of Victorian America, the novel is also marked by moments of grace and wit. The last third of this bittersweet love story, though, is a truncated summary of the rest of the Connables' lives, and the last 30 pages are rushed, losing depth and quality. Even so, the novel offers a superlative love story and a fascinating look at a misunderstood vocation. (Aug.)

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2006 (Novel of the West)
High Country: A Novel
 Willard Wyman
Library Journal: Wyman's first novel tells the tale of Ty Hardin, a quiet young man who becomes a kind of legend in the Montana mountains. Readers are treated to the significant parts of Ty's life—how he learns to be a packer who can guide mule trains into any wilderness, his outdoor adventures, the people he knows and loves, how he flourishes, and how he dies. Having been a wrangler, guide, and packer, Wyman knows the West, the mountains and the high country, and their inhabitants so that readers come to know them, too. Solid, powerful, realistic writing makes for an exciting debut. Highly recommended for regional collections about the West and larger fiction collections.—Ken St. Andre, Phoenix P.L.

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2006 (Young Readers)
Black Storm Comin
 Diane Lee Wilson
School Library Journal: Gr 6-10 –In 1860, Colton Wescott, 12, is determined to keep his Sacramento-bound family alive and heading west. His distraught white father abandons the family after accidentally shooting his son; the wagon master has ordered the mixed-race family to leave the wagon train; his freed-slave mother is sick from childbirth; and his two sisters cling to Colton in hopes of survival. When they finally arrive in Chinatown, 12 miles outside Carson City, NV, a sign for Pony Express riders captivates Colton, who lies about his age, passes for white, demonstrates his horse-handling skill, and is hired for the dangerous ride over the mountains. When he is injured in a fall, he loses his job but decides to take matters into his own hands. Eschewing the superintendent's orders and Pony Express protocol, he grabs the mail, rides his own temperamental horse, and heads for Sacramento, knowing he might be carrying news of two subversive plots “to blow up some forts and steal some ammunition” and to assassinate Presidential candidate Lincoln. Heroically, Colton delivers the mail, finds his mother's runaway sister, and gives her precious legal papers proving her freedom. Colton is determined, reflective, and courageous in his vivid, vernacular descriptions of moral dilemmas, treacherous trails, and exhaustion. Based on historical facts and footnotes, this fictional account offers an appealing, energetic, and provocative look at racial issues across America, the remarkable but short-lived scheme of Pony Express service, the fortitude of its riders, and the courage of one boy who stands up for family, himself, and his beliefs.–Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC

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2005 (Western Novel)
Buy the Chief a Cadillac
 Rick Steber
Publishers Weekly : In 1954, the U.S. government, under the Indian Termination Act, "incorporated" a great deal of Indian land on the Pacific coast and revoked the status of a number of tribes. Compensation came in 1961, in the form of $43,000 payments per tribe member. Spur Award–winner Steber focuses, in his 27th novel, on how three Klamath brothers react to the loss and the money as they prepare to receive the latter. Rollin, called Chief, is the eldest brother; he's a violent alcoholic who puts the money straight into the bottle. Creek is a vulnerable college student who covets a red Corvette and can see little beyond that. Half-brother Pokey, who is half-white, doesn't want the money at all. As termination day nears, the liquor flows, and the local deputy sheriff gets nervous, especially after he discovers a hit list nailed to a bridge. The few whites who live on the reservation (including a vengeful storekeeper, a brutally opportunistic tavern owner and a redneck cattle rancher whose visiting daughter is writing a college paper about termination) don't help matters. There's no happy ending, just Steber's powerful, depressing portrayal of government duplicity and reservation poverty, alcoholism, anger and despair. (Jan. 10)

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2005 (Novel of the West)
People of the Raven
Click to search this book in our catalog   Michael Gear
Publishers Weekly : The Gears' 12th entry (after 2003's People of the Owl) in their richly imagined series of novels about the peoples who populated North America in the distant past follows a familiar pattern. Using their archeological backgrounds and talent for research, they have incorporated recent evidence that "there were Caucasoids-traditionally described as light-skinned people-in North America between 9,000 and 11,000 years ago" into this tale of rival cultures in the Pacific Northwest at a time of momentous change. The dominant North Wind People and the various villages of the Raven People are increasingly intermixed, but also increasingly at odds. The leaders-warriors, matrons, healers, holy men and elders-of both groups face tremendous pressures and decisions as dwindling resources and increased competition drive them toward war. There's nothing primitive about the powerful mix of intrigue and ambition, statesmanship and strategizing, betrayal and self-sacrifice that the principals demonstrate. One can quibble with the Gears' tendency to use capitalization in odd ways and to describe two major female characters in physical terms geared to modern tastes. Overall, however, they succeed in blending a great deal of information about how these hunter-gatherers lived (food, lodging, weapons, etc.) together with the universal search for love, power and wisdom. It's a combination that will surely satisfy readers addicted to the series.

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2005 (Young Readers)
Fire in the Hole
Click to search this book in our catalog   Mary Cronk Farrell
School Library Journal : Gr 4-8–An adventure based on an incident that took place in Idaho in 1899. Mick is adamant that he won't work in the mines like his father. At first, he simply tries to keep his chances going for further education, but then the friction between the workers and the mine owners becomes more urgent and the escalating violence in the community leaves Mick more and more critical to the survival of his family. Characters seem somewhat stock at first with the domineering dad; the loving but ineffectual mother; the evil foreman; and the kindly newspaper editor. The realities of the labor dispute include the power of the government support of the mine owner juxtaposed with the cocky stridence of the workers and their mistakes along the way. Not quite up to the standard of Kristine L. Franklin's Grape Thief (Candlewick, 2003) in terms of historical richness and character detail, this novel is still a gripping tale of survival that uses its historical background to add depth and drama.–Carol A. Edwards, Douglas County Libraries, Castle Rock, CO

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2004 (Western Novel)
I Should Be Extremely Happy In Your Company
Click to search this book in our catalog   Brian Hall
Library Journal : At first glance, one might question the need for yet another book about intrepid American explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. But as one delves into this book, one realizes that it is less about the adventure and more about the psychic forces that drove the participants to undertake the journey and eventually led to Lewis's untimely death. Hall (The Saskiad) has taken the record as he found it and filled in the gaps, imagining character traits and unrecorded incidents that would seem to provide plausible explanations for some puzzling historical questions. The story is told through four narrative voices-Lewis's, Clark's, Sacajawea's, and that of her fur-trading husband, Toussaint Charbonneau. In each case, Hall tries to capture their unique language and vision and create a real feel for the cultural collision that was occurring. Thus, spellings, grammar, and punctuation vary and names frequently change-reflecting the Native American tendency toward ad hoc descriptives. The result is a compelling if sometimes difficult-to-follow tale that can be well recommended to all fans of serious historical fiction. It is particularly suitable for public libraries, though as a word of caution, it should be pointed out that these Native Americans are not bashful about using graphic terminology to describe natural functions.-David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, FL

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Publishers Weekly : Though it joins a crowded field of Lewis and Clark narratives, this formidable third novel by Hall (The Saskiad) is not to be dismissed. Narrated in multiple distinct voices, this retelling of the story of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark's legendary expedition is less a historical blow-by-blow than an engaging character study of the two men. Hall focuses on a few significant episodes in the journey-such as the hunting accident that wounds Lewis and causes him to sink into his famous depression-as seen through the eyes of Lewis, Sacagawea, Clark and Toussaint Charbonneau, Sacagawea's French fur trader husband. The result is a memorable portrait of the expedition leaders. Lewis is melancholy but ambitious and erudite, worried that he doesn't have the literary skill to render their adventures and discoveries. The sunnier Clark has the sensibility of an artist and the courage of a soldier, but he lacks the fortitude and discipline to build on his advantages. Hall is especially interested in the encounters between Native Americans and white explorers, and he details the violent struggles with Blackfeet Indians and others. Some readers may become frustrated with Sacagawea's stream-of-consciousness narration, in which proper nouns are not capitalized ("she remembered the raids in her own time, the one near beaver's head on blue crow's camp by the blackshoes when two bears' older brother (this one's bigfather), wolf tooth, was killed along with his son, chalk"), but the lyrical and precise prose will reward those who stick with it. In any case, such distractions are minor when measured against the rest of Hall's vivid, enthralling tableau.

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2004 (Novel of the West)
So Wild A Dream
 Win Blevins
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2004 (Young Readers)
In The Eye of the Storm: The Adventures of Young Buffalo Bill
 Cody Kimmel
School Library Journal : Gr 3-7-When the Codys arrived in Kansas Territory in 1854, they settled in a land violently divided over slavery. Storm, the third title in the series, chronicles the family's struggles, focusing on young Bill, and an intriguing glimpse into history emerges. His father, Isaac, stabbed by a pro-slavery man, and in a weakened condition, is forced to hide, leaving his wife and children alone on their Kansas claim. Nine-year-old Bill must assume a huge workload, and he faces more than his share of dangers from the border ruffians. In one tense scene, Bill helps foil the murderous intentions of a mob of ruffians circling his cabin. The prose is generously seasoned with easy dialogue, and employs occasional dream scenes that enrich readers' understanding of Bill's character. The plot develops at a good pace and has excitement enough to lure reluctant readers. The afterword grounds the story in history, establishing, for example, that Isaac Cody shed the first blood in Kansas, and confirming the historical existence of several of the characters in the story. This book, along with the others in the series, has the potential to draw an appreciative audience of frontier-adventure-loving children, particularly those who are attracted to Gary Paulsen's "Mr. Tucket" books (Delacorte).-Lee Bock, Glenbrook Elementary School, Pulaski, WI

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2003 (Western Novel)
The Chili Queen
 Sandra Dallas
Publishers Weekly : A whorehouse madam, a bank robber, a mail-order bride and a former slave romp around 1860s New Mexico in this fifth novel from the author of The Persian Pickle Club. As she has before, Dallas weaves a beguiling plot and creates engaging characters and dialogue. The first part of the book is narrated by Addie French, a madam at the Chili Queen whorehouse, whose language is salted with colorful metaphors. "Some men liked scrawny women," she explains, "just as some men picked chicken wings over drumsticks." In the second section, the central figure is Ned Partner, a hunky bank robber and would-be rancher whose emotional innocence contrasts with his smooth ways in the bedroom and behind a gun. Next, there is Emma Roby, a mail-order bride with a secret past who is temporarily boarding at the Chili Queen, and finally Welcome, a former slave turned whorehouse cook. Because Emma and Welcome are not as well drawn, the closing chapters lose momentum; they are also glutted with backstory. When Dallas tries to cover subjects like sexual abuse and other types of violence, her light tone can't support the heavier themes. Still, the zesty, offbeat charm of life among these undesirables in the seedy West keeps this tale moving smartly. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book club alternate.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

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2003 (Novel of the West)
Perma Red
Click to search this book in our catalog   Debra Magpie Earling
Library Journal : In this beautiful first novel, set on the Flathead Reservation of Montana in the 1940s, Earling traces the youth and young adulthood of Louise White Elk and the men who try to win her heart and soul. A red-headed, mixed-blood temptress, Louise always has a man or two, none of whom is any good for her. Throughout, a third-person narrative alternates with a first-person account by Charlie Kicking Woman, the police officer who tracked down Louise when she ran away repeatedly as a child but whose interest in the woman is less than professional. Louise is also entangled with Baptiste Yellow Knife, who adheres to the old ways and resists all contact with whites and authorities. The abject poverty is keenly felt, as is the pride that allows one to prevail and the resignation that keeps one from aspiring to more. This novel will stand proudly among its peers in Native American literature and should have strong appeal to fans of Louise Erdrich. Debbie Bogenschutz, Cincinnati State Technical & Community Coll.

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Publishers Weekly : Earling follows the literary trail blazed by Louise Erdrich in her poignant if familiar debut novel, which explores life in the tiny town of Perma, Mont., through the adventures of the restless Louise White Elk as she struggles with a problematic passion for irresistible bad boy Baptiste Yellow Knife. The tempestuous duo's love-hate relationship is complicated by Charlie Kicking Woman, the local police officer who admires Louise from afar even as she breaks up his marriage. The other romantic subplots are less captivating - Louise's affair with the reservation's white real estate mogul, Harvey Stoner, is contrived and stilted, and Baptiste's attempts to arouse Louise's jealousy are even more forgettable. Narrated alternately by Louise, Baptiste and Charlie, the plot veers between hallucinatory, poetic descriptions of reservation life and tumultuous romantic encounters as Louise and Baptiste conduct their erotic duel, until the passions finally give way to murder. When Harvey decides to attack Baptiste, Louise and Charlie are left to make their own pivotal choices. Earling offers first-rate characterizations, and she does an equally fine job portraying tribal life in the Flatland Nation. The predictable and disorganized plot makes this book less memorable than it might have been, but there's little doubt that Earling has considerable potential.

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2003 (Young Readers)
The Big Burn
Click to search this book in our catalog   Jeanette Ingold
Publishers Weekly : Ingold (Pictures, 1918) captures the momentum of a wildfire in this historical novel about "the big burn" that scorched millions of acres across Idaho and Montana in 1910. Against the atmospheric backdrop of beauty and devastation, each of three teens bravely battles the fire. As a member of the all-black infantry sent to help, Seth conquers his own insecurities; Jarrett, younger brother of a forest ranger, chooses to combat the blaze with the rough-and-tumble, ill-equipped hired crews; while Lizbeth and her guardian cousin reluctantly abandon their homestead, only to face the danger in town. Ingold intersperses the intersecting stories of the teenagers with "field notes" recorded by a ranger and a university professor; these slow the pace but offer illuminating background, including the contrast between the Indian tradition of setting controlled fires annually versus the government's belief that "the only safe way to control fire was to not let it burn in the first place." The narrative flags a bit a romance between Jarrett and Lizabeth never becomes as compelling as their individual struggles but on balance, the triumphs and casualties recounted here will heighten appreciation for the courage and sacrifice of firefighters and settlers; the book may be especially timely in light of this summer's runaway fires in the West. Ages 12-up.

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School Library Journal : Gr 7 Up-This exciting survival/adventure story is told ensemble-style. Bumbling Private Seth Brown of the all-black 25th infantry wonders if the Army will be as good to him as it was to his father. Lizbeth, 16, wants to stay on the homestead claimed by her 26-year-old aunt Celia, but Celia can't wait to return East. Jarrett Logan, 16, tossed out on his own by his gruff and demanding father, finds that being reunited with his older brother, a forest ranger, isn't much smoother. These threads become plausibly entwined as each short chapter gradually builds toward the climactic "perfect storm" of forest fires that raged in Idaho and surrounding states during the summer of 1910 and is known as the Big Burn. The author's frequent foreshadowing seems heavy-handed. Periodic "Field Notes" give authorial voice to background material that, while relevant, is clearly shown in the plot. Stereotyping the bad guy as having a scar and a crossed eye seems unnecessary. Excellent period vocabulary may send some readers to the dictionary. The round-robin plot construction keeps the pace moving effectively through the climactic scenes and the mostly predictable, satisfying resolutions that follow. An afterword notes that evidence of this fire remains visible today. The "Sources and Suggestions for Further Reading" section is excellent, subdivided by subject and including books, newspapers, and Internet resources.-Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA

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2002 (Best Western)
The Way of the Coyote
Click to search this book in our catalog   Elmer Kelton
Publishers Weekly : As gratifying as a McMurtry side plot and with more gritty excitement than just about any Hollywood cowboy flick, this outing highlights the post-Civil War limbo suffered by the Texas Rangers. Andy Pickard, a 10-year-old half-wild captive of the Comanches, is forced from the tribe for killing a bully and is rescued by former Texas Ranger Rusty Shannon, who "adopts" Andy when his only relative refuses to take him in. The Rangers, formed before the Civil War, were exempt from service; they were scorned by the men who chose the Confederate cause and distrusted by the corrupt carpetbag Union government that disbanded them. Working hard, and with the help of a small network of friends, Rusty has made a go of his hardscrabble ranch in an area ravaged by carpetbagger greed, corrupt Unionist state police, war-born malice and poverty, and fierce, frequent Indian raids. Rusty's unstable life with Andy teeters on the brink of collapse when his old nemeses, the Oldham Brothers, local thugs in league with a corrupt judge, steal his ranch and burn out a freed slave, Shanty, a friend under Rusty and Andy's protection. Events reach dynamite levels when the Comanches kidnap the son of Rusty's old love, and teenage Andy must try for a rescue when Rusty is wounded and out of action. Kelton covers a wide swath of history with aplomb, illuminating a little-known period in Western history. California is still Mexican, Indians are a real threat and outlaws rule the land in this rough-riding adventure tale. Author tour. (Dec.)Forecast: After 37 novels, Kelton's third entry (after Badger Boy) in the Texas Rangers series could cross genre lines and expand his already substantial fan base.

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2002 (Novel of the West)
The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint
 Brady Udall
Library Journal : "If I could tell you only one thing about my life it would be this: when I was seven years old the mailman ran over my head." With these words, Udall (Letting Loose the Hounds: Stories) begins the story of the life of Edgar Mint. It's amazing that Edgar made it even to seven. Born to an alcoholic Navaho woman and a cowboy wannabe from Connecticut who fled when he learned of the pregnancy, Edgar is left pretty much to his own devices. After the accident, Edgar's mother doesn't stick around long enough to learn that a young doctor, Barry Pinkley, has brought her son back to life. When Edgar finally wakes up in a hospital room with three broken-down men, he devotes his life to filling pages with words. After a stint in an Indian boarding school, where the staff turns a blind eye as the students torture one another, and a later attempt at normalcy with his Mormon foster family, Edgar decides that his purpose in life is to track down the mailman and offer his forgiveness. An engaging, well-told story that will appeal to fans of Western fiction and the quirky picaresque. Debbie Bogenschutz, Cincinnati State Technical & Community Coll.

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Publishers Weekly : Reminiscent of another debut Ken Kesey's One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest this powerful first novel by short story writer Udall (Letting Loose the Hounds) is constructed around grotesque set pieces; black humor drives the plot. Set in the late '60s, Udall's story begins when seven-year-old Edgar Mint, the half-Apache, half-white narrator, is run over by the mailman's car, his head crushed. Abandoned by his grandmother and alcoholic mother after his remarkable recovery, the boy begins an odyssey through various institutions and homes, starting with St. Divine's hospital in Globe, Ariz., where he recuperates, through Willie Sherman's, a horrific school for Indian children, ending up placed with a dysfunctional Mormon family in Richland, Utah. The novel's long middle section, describing Edgar's brutalization at the Indian school by the other kids, captures the effect of what seems like endless bullying on a child's consciousness. Against this hostility, Edgar concocts a homemade magic, which consists mainly of typing on a clunky Hermes typewriter given to him by a fellow St. Divine's patient, Art Crozier, a middle-aged man who has lost his family in a car wreck. One of Udall's best touches is to make the doctor who saved Edgar, Barry Pinkley, into a mysterious and menacing figure, perpetually lurking on the sidelines, rather like Clare Quilty in Lolita. While Pinkley strives maniacally to be Edgar's guardian angel, the boy views him with ambivalent loathing. When Pinkley, disguised as a Mormon missionary, seduces Lana Madsen, the wife in the Mormon family that takes Edgar in, he sets off the final catastrophe in the boy's life. Udall's style is reminiscent of the '60s black humorists, but he doesn't share their easy cruelty or inveterate superciliousness, making this not only an accomplished novel, but a wise one.

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School Library Journal : Adult/High School-With Dickensian flair and mastery, Udall gives readers an underdog child protagonist, surrounds him with a cast of half-funny and half-tragic characters, and immerses them all in a plot full of staggering setbacks and occasional, hard-won moments of peace. When his head is crushed by a mail truck at age seven, Edgar is left for dead by his alcoholic, disinterested mother, who doesn't stick around to learn that he is later "brought back" by a shady doctor and whisked away to a hospital to recuperate. Some months and several delightfully cantankerous roommates later, Edgar regains all functions but the ability to write, which is more than solved when a fellow patient gets him a typewriter. Typing soothes the boy and becomes necessary therapy when he is released to an Indian school where other students punish him horrifically for being a "half-breed" (Apache and white). He is saved, literally and figuratively, by a pair of missionaries who recruit and place him with a Mormon family in a Utah suburb. Now that he feels relatively safe, the protagonist finds himself with a new purpose: to track down the devastated mailman who feels responsible for his death and let him know that he's alive and fine. Yet his sense of safety remains merely relative, as the disbarred doctor surfaces repeatedly in his life, full of menacing, disturbing love and determined to raise Edgar as his own son. This novel is a wonderful, wise debut, with a strong story told in language that teens will find easy to embrace.-Emily Lloyd, Fairfax County Public Library, VA

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2002 (Best Juvenile)
Rockbuster
 Gloria Skurzynski,
Publishers Weekly : Skurzynski's (Spider's Voice) taut historical novel examines the plight and maturation of a boy caught in the crossfire of the early labor movement. Spanning eight years, the novel opens in 1907, when 10-year-old Tommy travels with his charming Uncle Jim from their Utah coal mine home to Boise, Idaho, to secretly deliver funds to help with union leader Big Bill Haywood's trial. However, when Tommy inadvertently reveals his uncle's identity (he's prominent in the union) to Pinkerton detectives, Jim is hustled off the train and later found dead. Tommy blames himself for Jim's death: "He would keep the terrible truth locked inside himself until the day they lowered him into his own grave." Tommy leaves school to work in the mines and help support himself and his mother, and in his relatively protected job as trapper boy he practices guitar, a talent which ultimately earns extra money and some fame. As Tom progresses from trapper to rockbuster, boy to man, Skurzynski effectively portrays the conflict, acrimony and even hypocrisy of the early union movement. When Wobbly songster Joe Hill, sentenced to death on a trumped-up murder charge, asks Tom to play at his funeral and take up his role in the movement, Tom must decide how he can best make a difference and how it will affect his romance with the mine owner's daughter. Readers will admire Tom for finding his own path to help ameliorate inequity and injustice. Ages 12-up.

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School Library Journal : Gr 6-10-After the deaths of his father and uncle, Tommy Quinlan goes to work in the coal mines to help support his mother and himself. Since his job as a trapper involves periodic activity, he uses the quiet time to teach himself the guitar. He eventually becomes a laborer and after years of practicing his instrument, the teen begins to play at local gatherings to supplement the family's income. It is at one of these that he meets the mine owner's daughter, and they begin a stolen romance. Though Tommy loves Eugenie, he finds himself resentful of their class differences. His friends among the union supporters urge him to take a more active part and they call upon him to perform the rousing songs of the labor movement. When Joe Hill, the beloved union songwriter who has been unjustly convicted of murder and condemned to death, calls upon Tommy to become his successor, the boy must decide where his loyalties lie. This finely crafted and richly detailed coming-of-age story is made both distinctive and universal as readers follow Tommy's maturation. Skurzynski's research into the lives of Utah miners in the early 20th century and the efforts of workers to organize becomes evident in her convincing portrayal of their world, their cares, and their struggles. Rockbuster is an engaging story of self-discovery that teens will relate to on many levels.-Heather Dieffenbach, Lexington Public Library, KY

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2001 (Western Novel)
Summer of Pearls
 Mike Blakley
Publishers Weekly : Homespun western charm flavors Blakely's slim historical fiction about one of the many "pearl rushes" that occurred between 1850 and 1910. Ben Crowell is 14 when his riverboat town of Port Caddo, Tex., erupts with pearl fever the summer of 1874, a season that also experiences a mysterious murder and the town's inevitable decline. Ben's tale begins when a riverboat explodes and a heroic stranger named Billy Treat saves Ben's life. Billy then settles into town, as does Judd Kelso, the cruel captain of the steamship whose engine blew. Suave Billy and vulgar Judd join young Ben in being infatuated with lovely Carol Anne "Pearl" Cobb, so nick-named because she trades sexual favors for the irregular and discolored pearls found in local freshwater mussels. No one guesses they are worth anything until Billy, a one-time pearl trader, introduces Pearl to Captain Trevor Brigginshaw, a burly international gem buyer who sets off a rush when he purchases her collection for $3,000. Treasure hunters barrage Caddo Lake, bringing business to an old-fashioned town and attracting the notice of a Pinkerton detective. Accused of skimming off the top, Brigginshaw goes to prison, only to be freed by a flood that literally sweeps him and Billy out of town. Pearl, heartbroken for Billy, now needs protection from Judd, and Ben is just the lovesick boy for the job. When Judd ends up with a knife in his chest, Port Caddo is left to ponder who killed him. Seven decades later, the nostalgic Ben, now an old man, treats readers to the romantic but perfectly pat answer--a less suspenseful but dependable denouement. Blakely (Too Long at the Dance; Comanche Dawn) offers an easy, sentimental read, though some of his ambitious 19th-century gem seekers lack the luster of their best finds. (Sept.)

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2001 (Novel of the West)
The Gates of the Alamo
Click to search this book in our catalog   Stephen Harrigan
Publishers Weekly : Settling his fictional cast firmly at the heart of 19th-century Texas, novelist Harrigan (Jacob's Well) retells the story of the Alamo with consummate skill, weaving a wealth of historical detail into a tight, moving human drama. Mary Mott, honest widow and frontier innkeeper near the Gulf Coast; her 16-year-old son, Terrell; an itinerant, fiercely independent botanist named Edmund McGowan; and a small collection of soldiers in Santa Anna's army are among those whose lives are disrupted as factions within the rebellious Mexican state unite in the common cause of independence. In a serpentine plot that never runs dull, Harrigan traces the growing war fever, beginning in 1835, neatly avoiding political debate by presenting the various arguments plainly from each point of view. When Terrell runs away after an emotionally disturbed girl, who is pregnant with his child, commits suicide, his mother and McGowan follow after him. All three wind up in the Alamo and are caught in the futile and ill-conceived 1836 battle on the outskirts of San Antonio de B xar. Faced with the formidable chore of handling such monumental legends as William Travis, James Bowie, David Crockett, Sam Houston and, of course, Santa Anna, Harrigan takes a judicious middle path, treating them respectfully but not smoothing over their flaws. Strict traditionalists may bridle at the deft ease with which Harrigan manipulates the bloody siege to allow a sentimental conclusion to his novel, and exacting historians may note his glossing of Mexican tactics in the final storming of the old mission, though the gore and guts of 19th-century combat are faithfully rendered. Yet Harrigan has crafted a compulsively readable historical drama on a grand scale, peopled with highly believable frontier personalities--Mexican as well as American--and suffused with period authenticity. 100,000 first printing; 11-city author tour. (Mar.)

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School Library Journal : YA-In a 90-minute predawn battle on March 6, 1836, some 2000 Mexican Army soldiers stormed the Alamo, killing all of the defenders (they numbered fewer than 200). Americans have been remembering the Alamo ever since, perhaps not always accurately. Harrigan has produced a novel that is more concerned with history than myth. The result is a readable, evenhanded story that blends real and fictional personages, both American and Mexican, to convey a balanced rendition of the conflict. The diverse cast includes Joe, William Travis's slave; Blas Montoya, the caring, capable commander of a Mexican rifle company; Edmund McGowan, a botanist employed by the Mexican government; Lt. Villasenor, Santa Anna's mapmaker; the main character, 16-year-old "Texian" Terrell Mott; and his mother. Through their experiences, readers witness the inevitable consequences when governments, ethnic groups, and individuals cannot or will not understand one another. The novel begins and ends in 1911 with 91-year-old Terrell's participation in San Antonio's Battle of the Flowers parade. The narrative flows smoothly even as it reveals an impressive amount of historical research. Dialogue and story line convey such an abundance of detail that even a neophyte to Texas history will feel connected to the plot. Some YAs may find the length daunting, but those willing to give Harrigan's novel the time it deserves will be glad they did.-Dori DeSpain, Herndon Fortnightly Library, Fairfax County, VA

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2001 (Best Juvenile)
The Midnight Train Home
Click to search this book in our catalog   Erika Tamar
School Library Journal : Gr 5-7-Deirdre O'Rourke, 11, doesn't understand what's happening when she and her brothers, Sean and Jimmy, are bundled off on an orphan train in 1927 to find new families west of New York City. They're not orphans, but their mum says she can no longer support them. Reality sinks in when little Jimmy is chosen by a strange couple, and a furious Deirdre can't do anything to stop them. Then she ends up with Reverend Gansworthy and his stern, unaffectionate wife, who take her in only as an act of charity, and she is determined to find her brothers. Once she learns that Sean is in Texas, she runs away and joins a traveling vaudeville troupe in order to reach him. She discovers that singing is her main love in life, and that a troupe of actors can become as important a family as her brothers. Tamar does a wonderful job of incorporating the historical attitudes and realities of life for the poor during the late `20s. It's interesting to read about the ongoing tradition of orphan trains, so often connected only to the 1880s. The characters of the vaudeville troupe are convincing as a surrogate family for Deirdre, and the descriptions of her performance anxieties are real enough to appeal to any would-be performer. In spite of some inconsistencies in the protagonist's character, this book is a useful addition to the canon of orphan-train fiction.-Linda Bindner, formerly at Athens Clarke County Library, GA

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2000 (Western Novel)
Masterson
Click to search this book in our catalog   Richard S. Wheeler
 
2000 (Novel of the West)
Prophet Annie
 Ellen Recknor
Publishers Weekly : Spur Award-winner Recknor (Leaving Missouri) offers a daffy, highly original western told in the voice of a sassy and bewildered heroine whose unlikely and hilarious adventures skewer the conventions of the traditional Wild West tale. In 1881, at age 22, Annie Pinkerton Boone Newcastle is already twice a widow. Born in Sycamore, Iowa, which she fled only briefly at 17 to marry a gandy dancer who was promptly kicked in the head by a mule, she is promised in marriage by her dying mother to Jonas Newcastle, a prosperous "old geezer" 54 years her senior. Jonas dies in bed on their wedding night (shouting, "Freedom!"), and that's the good news for Annie. The bad news is that Jonas's ghost inhabits Annie's body, talking to her, demanding conjugal visits and giving speeches through her to audiences eager to hear Jonas's visions of the future. As a circus oddity, she becomes Prophet Annie, sort of a Psychic Network of the 1880s. Traveling with P.T. Barnum and her gourmet chef Navajo pal, Sam Two Trees, Annie feeds shortcake to her pet African cheetah in the Arizona desert while dead birds fall on her head and Jonas spouts predictions about baseball, automobiles, electricity, WWI and Jack Benny. Annie's notoriety brings her fame, fortune and the unwelcome attentions of an inept gang of outlaws whose meanness is only outmatched by their odor. Here Recknor's tale bogs down in sappy predictability as Annie falls in love with the outlaw leader in a typical good-girl-loves-bad-boy scenario. The earlier charm of Annie's blunt-spoken narrative eventually loses its magic, skidding into a too-cute conclusion. When Jonas's ghost departs, the reader will wish for an encore by the "dirty-minded old coot."

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2000 (Best Juvenile)
Wrango
 Brian Burks
Library Journal : Gr 4-8-A fictionalized biography of black cowboy George McJunkin's first cattle drive at age 16, Wrango is an affecting history lesson. Wrangling being the closest thing to an equal-opportunity vocation following the Civil War, it attracts George, who joins his mentor, Senor Valarde, on the Chisholm Trail herding cattle from Comanche, TX, to the rail yards in Abilene, KS. Racism surfaces-an ironically fortuitous run-in with the Klan in his south Texas hometown provides the catalyst George needs to cut the apron strings and begin his career as a cowboy; a jealous cowpuncher questions his place on the trail-but the rigors of the cattle drive generally supersede, or at least postpone, individual confrontations. Burks hints at McJunkin's intellectual potential through his desire to learn to read combined with an archaeological curiosity that would lead many years later to his discovery of the skeleton of "Folsom Man" in New Mexico. Indians, horse thieves, cholera, harsh weather, erratic terrain, and even herds of buffalo provide unifying adversaries for this mix of cowboys and vaqueros. Addenda include a frontispiece portrait of McJunkin on his horse taken when he was about 60-years-old, a map of the Chisholm Trail, and a brief glossary of cowboy/vaquero lingo. Fans of Denise Lewis Patrick's The Adventures of Midnight Son (Holt, 1995) will want to read this absorbing chronicle of a slightly older, equally introspective, although perhaps a bit cooler-headed, former slave who is determined to be his own man, proud and free.-John Sigwald, Unger Memorial Library, Plainview, TX

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1999 (Western Novel)
Journey of the Dead
 Loren Estleman
School Library Journal : YA-In this elegantly conceived western, Billy the Kid's death haunts his killer until such time as Pat Garrett, the murderer, is assassinated-by Billy's ghost. Estleman presents this tale through the testimonial manuscript of an ancient Spaniard, Francisco de la Zaragoza, of Durango, Mexico, already into his second century when he meets Pat Garrett soon after Billy's death. In spite of these character oddities and plot spins, Estleman's book makes quick and absorbing reading, carrying readers straight into the Southwest of the late 19th century, where men necessarily feared for their lives even in the company of their closest buddies and women were relegated-here quite literally-to the roles of whore or mother. Teens who haven't had the opportunity to become acquainted with this uniquely American genre can get an excellent first taste of it here. However, in keeping with our contemporary mores, Estleman allows his character to be shown in sexual congress, something Zane Grey would never have done.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA

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1999 (Novel of the West)
The All-True Travels and Adventures of Liddie Newton
Click to search this book in our catalog   Jane Smiley
Library Journal : A woman whose abolitionist husband is murdered in 1850s Kansas cuts her hair and tracks his killers to Missouri. A 200,000-copy first printing.

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Publishers Weekly : An immensely appealing heroine, a historical setting conveyed with impressive fidelity and a charming and poignant love story make Smiley's (A Thousand Acres) new novel a sure candidate for bestseller longevity. Lidie Harkness, a spinster at 20, is an anomaly in 1850s Illinois. She has an independent mind, a sharp tongue and a backbone; she prefers to swim, shoot, ride and fish rather than spend a minute over the stove or with a darning needle. That makes her the perfect bride for Bostonian abolitionist Thomas Newton, who courts and marries her in a few days while enroute to Lawrence, K.T. (Kansas Territory), with a box of Sharps rifles. As the newlyweds gingerly come to know each other, they are plunged into the turmoil between pro-slavery Border Ruffians from Missouri and K.T. Free Staters, an increasingly savage conflict that presages the Civil War. Smiley evokes antebellum life with a depth of detail that easily equals Russell Banks's exploration of the same terrain in Cloudsplitter (Forecasts, Dec. 1, 1997). Her scenes of quotidian domesticity on the prairie are as engrossing as her evocation of riverboat travel on the Mississippi. Through an exquisite delineation of physical and social differences, she distinguishes and animates settings as diverse as Lawrence, Kansas City, St. Louis and New Orleans. As Lidie and Thomas experience privation, danger and the growing pleasures of emotional intimacy, and as tragedy strikes and Lidie pursues a perilous revenge, Smiley explores the complex moral issues of the time, paying acute attention to inbred attitudes on both sides of the slavery question. Propelled by Lidie's spirited voice, this narrative is packed with drama, irony, historical incident, moral ambiguities and the perception of human frailty. Much of its suspenseful momentum derives from Smiley's adherence to plausible reality: this is not a novel in which things necessarily turn out right for the heroine, for women in general, for blacks or for the righteous. Lidie's character deepens as she gains insight into the ambiguous and complex forces that propel men and women into love and compassion, hatred and violence. In the end, this novel performs all the functions of superior fiction: in reading one woman's moving story, we understand an historical epoch, the social and political conditions that produced it and the psychological, moral and economic motivations of the people who incited and endured its violent confrontations. 200,000 first printing; Random House audio.

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1999 (Best Juvenile)
Petey
Click to search this book in our catalog   Ben Mikaelson
Publishers Weekly : A writer admired for fast-paced adventure stories like Stranded and Sparrow Hawk Red takes on a more serious topic in this novel about the relationship between a teenager and a man mistakenly institutionalized for much of his life. Part one of the novel relates Petey's "backstory": in 1922, at the age of two, his distraught parents commit him to the state's insane asylum, unaware that their son is actually suffering from severe cerebral palsy. Petey avoids withdrawal and depression despite the horrific conditions in his new "home" and, over the course of 60 years, a string of caretakers befriends but then leaves him. The point of view in part two shifts from Petey to Trevor, an eighth-grader suffering from both lack of friends and lack of parental attention after a series of moves. Trevor finds the answer to his needs in an unlikely friendship with the 70-year-old Petey, who has moved to a nursing home. Mikaelson capably highlights the abuses and prejudices suffered by those stricken with cerebral palsy, but teeters dangerously over the line between poignancy and sentimentality. At its best, the third-person narration makes readers privy to the thoughts of the two protagonists, but more often it keeps them at bay ("As people escaped civilization to enjoy the solitude of a mountain peak, so also did many of the patients' minds escape existence and find solitude beyond the reaches of the ward"). As a result, the characters never really come to life beyond their roles as symbols--Petey that of the power of the human spirit, Trevor that of the tolerant, unprejudiced do-gooder. A novel that never meets the promise of its compelling premise. Ages 10-up.

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School Library Journal : Gr 7 Up-This ambitious book succeeds on a number of levels. It is based on a true, tragic situation in which Petey, born with cerebral palsy in 1920, is misdiagnosed as mentally retarded. Unable to care for him at home, his parents relinquish him to the care of the state, where he languishes in a mental institution for the next five decades. Step by institutional step, readers see how this tragedy could happen. More importantly, readers feel Petey's pain, boredom, hope, fear, and occasional joy. A handful of people grow to know and love him over the course of his long and mostly difficult life, but few are able to effect much change. In 1977, statewide reorganization and a new, correct diagnosis result in Petey being moved to a local nursing home. There, the final, triumphant chapters of his life are entwined with an eighth-grade student named Trevor, who finds his own life transformed by love and caring in ways he never could have imagined. Mikaelsen successfully conveys Petey's strangled attempts to communicate. He captures the slow passage of time, the historical landscape encompassed. He brings emotions to the surface and tears to readers' eyes as time and again Petey suffers the loss of friends he has grown to love. Yet, this book is much more than a tearjerker. Its messages-that all people deserve respect; that one person can make a difference; that changing times require new attitudes-transcend simplistic labels. Give this book to anyone who has ever shouted "retard" at another. Give it to any student who "has" to do community service. Give it to anyone who needs a good book to read.-Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Jr. High School, Iowa City, IA

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1998 (Western Novel)
The Kiowa Verdict
Click to search this book in our catalog   Cynthia Haseloff
Publishers Weekly : Mining a critical but little-known event in the history of relations between Native Americans and whites, Haseloff (Man Without Medicine) has produced a gripping narrative. In 1871, Kiowa chief Satanta leads a raiding party into Texas, torturing and killing a group of white freighters. William Tecumseh Sherman, in Texas investigating "Indian depredations," orders the U.S. Army out in pursuit. The trail leads straight back to the Kiowa reservation in Oklahoma. When confronted, Satanta does not deny the raid but boasts of his leadership and is ordered arrested (along with other leaders of the foray). As Satanta is put on trial for murder, the events test President Grant's new Peace Policy, which replaces the military with civilian, Christian missionaries in Indian affairs. Satanta is found guilty, but closed-door testimony by the enigmatic Adrienne Chastain, a one-time captive of the chief, saves him from execution. Haseloff refuses to whitewash Satanta's brutality, and she uses gripping detail to fill gaps in the historical record, making her characters come alive with a human ambiguity too often lacking in the genre. (Nov.) FYI: Warner TV has bought the rights to The Kiowa Verdict and to an as yet unwritten prequel, titled Satanta's Woman, for a miniseries.

Copyright 1997 Cahners Business Information, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

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1998 (Novel of the West)
Comanche Moon
 Larry McMurtry
Library Journal : This prequel to the classic Lonesome Dove (LJ 7/85) follows Woodrow Call and Augustus McCrae through their years as Texas Rangers as they create legends for themselves fighting the Comanche to open west Texas for settlement. For 15 years, the Rangers play cat-and-mouse games with Buffalo Hump, Kicking Wolf, and other chiefs as they pursue, attack, and retaliate their way through the Comanche wars. Ironically, Blue Duck, Gus McCrae's nemesis in Lonesome Dove, is Buffalo Hump's son, carrying on the tradition started by his father, even though father and son hated one another. Considered together, Dead Man's Walk (LJ 4/15/95), Comanche Moon, and Lonesome Dove create a monumental work that has few equals in current literature. Essential for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/97; a Comanche Moon mini-series is in the works.]--Thomas L. Kilpatrick, Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale

Copyright 1997 Cahners Business Information, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

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1998 (Best Juvenile)
Danger Along the Ohio
 Patricia Willis
School Library Journal : Gr 4-7--Willis combines the suspense of a page-turner, the danger level of a thriller, the fascination of a survival story, and the ease of a hi/lo vocabulary. In 1793, three siblings (Amos, 13; Clara, 12; Jonathan, 7) are separated from their father during their immigration, via flatboat, down the Ohio River from their Pennsylvania home to a new beginning in the Ohio wilderness. After an Indian attack, the three are left with no adult support, scant supplies, no transportation, and a cow in tow to journey along the dangerous Shawnee side of the Ohio to the safety of the Marietta settlement. Readers will recognize the breathless pace they've loved in action movies, defined by the eruption of a new crisis on the heels of each crisis resolution, as the siblings struggle against the odds: scavenging food; stealing fire from the Indians; whittling tools for catching supper; rescuing a young Shawnee from drowning; and treating wounds with chickweed and birch leaves. The author's sturdy plot advances distinctly and chronologically, resulting in pure suspense. She keeps her vocabulary action-oriented and her dialogue straightforward. The young Shawnee's presence raises intriguing philosophical questions regarding the nature of communication and the components of true friendship. After all of this, who could complain about a contrived happy ending?--Liza Bliss, Worcester Public Library, MA

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1996 (Western Novel)
Blood of Texas
 Will Camp
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1996 (Novel of the West)
Sierra
Click to search this book in our catalog   Richard Wheeler
Library Journal : Ulysses McQueen leaves his wife on the family farm in Iowa to seek his fortune in the California gold rush just as Steven Jarvis is mustered out of the army in booming Monterey. After a grueling cross-country trek, McQueen sets about grubbing in the dust near Sutter's Mill, while Jarvis turns to the mercantile trade. McQueen pines for his wife but postpones writing her until his fortune is assured, while Jarvis becomes a workaholic after he is denied the love of his life. Their paths cross in the frenzy of gold fever as the destitute McQueen proposes farming on Jarvis's land to provide fresh produce for the starving miners. Love finds both men as well. Wheeler has a long list of novels of the West to his credit (e.g., Goldfield, Forge, 1995) and is a real master at capturing the history, atmosphere, and romance of 1850s California. This will appeal to readers of Westerns and general fiction alike. Recommended.

Susan Gene Clifford, Palos Verdes Library District, Cal. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

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1996 (Best Juvenile)
Far North
Click to search this book in our catalog   Will Hobbs
Publisher's Weekly : Those insatiable fans of Hatchet are the likeliest audience for this winter survival tale, which weds its adventure-seeking thrills to education about Dene Indian culture. Fifteen-year-old Gabe, a Texan, enrolls in a boarding school in Canada's Northwest Territories to be near his father, whose love of the wilderness has become infectious. But Gabe gets more than he bargained for when an airplane accident leaves him and his roommate Raymond, a Dene, stranded near the fierce Nahanni River at the start of a long winter. Guided by their fellow survivor Johnny Raven, a Dene elder, Gabe and Raymond learn to hunt beavers, trap rabbits and make snowshoes and mittens from animal hide. More significantly, they learn respect for ancient Dene beliefs. When Raven dies of the cold, the two boys must struggle out of Deadmen Valley on their own. Predictably sentimental, Hobbs's (Beardance) fast-moving tale nonetheless delivers breathless action and an inspiring sense of Canada's vast landscape. Ages 10-up.

Copyright 1996 Cahners Business Information, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

School Library Journal : Gr 5 Up--From the compelling cover illustration to the terrifying and plausible details, this survival adventure clearly demonstrates the author's love for and familiarity with the northern wilderness. Gabe, 15, formerly of San Antonio, enrolls in a boarding school in Canada's Northwest Territories to be closer to his father, an oil field worker. Gabe's likable but depressed roommate, Raymond, is an Athapascan Indian. A map helps readers follow along as circumstances involving a plane crash leave the teens and Johnny Raven, an elder from Raymond's village, stranded with minimal supplies as winter hardens. The plotting is fast paced and action filled as the teens' cultures clash, and as they struggle against the cold, blizzards, isolation, starvation, injury, a wolverine, grizzly bear, and Johnny's death before finally reaching safety. The weakest elements of the book may be the sermonlike "testament" the boys find in Johnny's pocket after his death, and the thread of mythic raven lore that is mentioned, then given up before becoming a major element again. Quibbles aside, with echoes as old as Jean Craighead George's classic My Side of the Mountain (Dutton, 1988) and reverberations from Paulsen and Phleger, this satisfying tale will engage YAs' hearts and minds.

Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Jr. High School, Iowa City, IA Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

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