A robust lead-in to Cheryl Harness’ They’re Off! (2002) and other more detailed histories.

RIDE ON, WILL CODY!

A LEGEND OF THE PONY EXPRESS

Horses and rider tackle time, distance, and the elements in this tribute to a legendary Pony Express gallop.

As Rose freely admits, “legendary” may be just the word for Cody’s claim to have been a Pony Express rider. Nonetheless, in galloping rhyme she sends him on his way across Wyoming and back in a dawn-to-dawn dash that Lillington illustrates with scenes of the teenager pounding along past buttes and buffalo, through heavy rain, beneath orange and star-speckled skies in turn. It’s a horsey sort of episode, as both words and pictures specify breeds or types with each change of mount along the trail: “Trade a Mustang for a Morgan, / ’Loosa for a Thoroughbred. / Racing, flying, / ever riding, / hurry, hurry on ahead.” A double-page spread that presents eight separate vignettes of Cody on eight different horses as the sky darkens provides effective visual counterpoint to the verse. A final view of the horse and rider wearily finishing their long route as the sun begins to rise once again gives way to a painted portrait of the grown Buffalo Bill resplendent in his buckskins. The author fills in the historical details in an afterword with period illustrations. Human figures in all the pictures are white.

A robust lead-in to Cheryl Harness’ They’re Off! (2002) and other more detailed histories. (afterword) (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8075-7068-5

Page Count: 37

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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THE RIDE

THE LEGEND OF BETSY DOWDY

It’s 1775 and the people of North Carolina want freedom from England’s rule, but “[w]hen sixteen-year-old Betsy Dowdy heard Papa talk about war approaching, she felt as helpless as a ghost crab skittering along the sand.” The legendary Betsy of Currituck (her existence has never been proven) isn’t helpless, though. She promptly saddles up her pony Bess and rides all night—50 miles over hill and dale—to warn General Skinner’s militia about the incoming redcoats. In what may be the most Fauvist depiction of colonial America ever, Priceman’s splendidly untamed gouache-and-ink spreads reflect the menacing inevitability of war with fiery oranges and the red-cloaked Betsy’s phantasmagorical nighttime ride in deep blues and purples. Perspectives are distorted, buildings topsy-turvy, eyes of human and beast are wild and wide—even the sharp-toothed river fish look agitated, as in a crazy nightmare. The muddled story—more odd, atmospheric drama than history lesson—may just end up unsettling readers, though, despite the trumpeting clarity of its made-for-radio-voice refrain: “She couldn’t fight as a soldier. But she could ride.” (stylized map, author’s note) (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4169-2816-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2010

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Hair today, gone tomorrow.

GET UP, ELIZABETH!

Nearly buried beneath fantastically abundant billows of red hair, a small, yawning princess is pulled from bed.

She submits with relative meekness (“No, I’m sorry Elizabeth, / No mouse in your skirt!”) to having her stockings tied on, her teeth rubbed with soot, sleeves and ruff attached to a gown over her wide petticoat, and finally her hair wrestled into shape—all just in time to be presented with a regal bow to an all-white crowd of likewise bowing retainers. Mouse aside, the whole procedure has a stilted formality that is only intensified by the elegantly restrained details of Tudor-style dress and interiors visible in the illustrations. Though its rhyming and scansion could use work, Bridges’ verse captures a chivvying tone that seems appropriate considering how the princess is being respectfully but briskly hustled along by her seldom-seen lady’s maid. But the scene-stealing hair seems to have all the character here, as the stiff, silent child’s face is either hidden or largely expressionless. In lieu of source notes the author offers a few scattered observations about Elizabethan fashion and behavior at the end, and Marley’s interiors are evidently likewise generic rather than based on those of Hatfield House, where Elizabeth I grew up. Readers might take up the implied invitation to compare their own morning toilettes or perhaps imagine enjoying the royal routine themselves. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9.5-by-19-inch double-page spreads viewed at 79% of actual size.)

Hair today, gone tomorrow. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-944903-94-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Cameron + Company

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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