OFF LIKE THE WIND!

THE FIRST RIDE OF THE PONY EXPRESS

In this rousing, as-historically-accurate-as-possible recreation of the Pony Express’s first ride, Spradlin introduces readers to the crazy-wild brainchild of three businessmen to expedite mail over the near-2,000 miles from St. Joseph, Mo., to Sacramento, Calif. Accompanied by Johnson’s artwork, which has the energy of rolling thunder and the colors of a sunset, and with an engaging sense of drama and urgency, the author follows the riders over the varied landscapes they covered, through the heavy weather they encountered and past the occasional hostile reception they received from Native Americans (though his bell-clear author’s note clarifies that hostilities were rare). When he can introduce factual material—the names of riders, the number and character of station stops, the price of $5 for ½ ounce—he does so with a light hand to keep the pedagogy at a distance. For all its iconic status, the Pony Express lasted for only a year and a half before the transcontinental telegraph drew a sleeve across its windpipe, but it was an inventive enterprise full of bodacious frontier spirit, which this book plays to the hilt. (bibliography, further reading, map, timeline) (Informational picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8027-9652-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2010

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TWENTY-ONE ELEPHANTS AND STILL STANDING

Strong rhythms and occasional full or partial rhymes give this account of P.T. Barnum’s 1884 elephant parade across the newly opened Brooklyn Bridge an incantatory tone. Catching a whiff of public concern about the new bridge’s sturdiness, Barnum seizes the moment: “’I will stage an event / that will calm every fear, erase every worry, / about that remarkable bridge. / My display will amuse, inform / and astound some. / Or else my name isn’t Barnum!’” Using a rich palette of glowing golds and browns, Roca imbues the pachyderms with a calm solidity, sending them ambling past equally solid-looking buildings and over a truly monumental bridge—which soars over a striped Big Top tent in the final scene. A stately rendition of the episode, less exuberant, but also less fictionalized, than Phil Bildner’s Twenty-One Elephants (2004), illustrated by LeUyen Pham. (author’s note, resource list) (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2005

ISBN: 0-618-44887-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

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THE STORY OF EASTER

First published in 1968 and newly illustrated by Vitale, this is a history of the Christian celebration of Easter that, after briefly recounting the story of the Resurrection, links the holiday to other spring festivals, covers the ancient custom of giving the gift of an egg (a symbol of the new life of spring), and includes contemporary customs, such as the fashionable stroll down New York City's Fifth Avenue after church on that day. Also included are instructions for egg decoration and a recipe for hot cross buns. Even the recipe demonstrates the clear, informative prose of Fisher, whose expert organization leads from topic to topic. Vitale's illustrations are a marvel; each full-page picture is filled with details that reflect the times, the flora, and the culture of the era shown, colored with a range of appropriate earth tones. Every element of design makes this an inviting addition to the holiday shelf, even for those already owning the original book with Ati Forberg's illustrations. (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 1997

ISBN: 0-06-027296-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1996

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