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Poulsen, David A.

Edmonton, Plains Publishing, 1987. 186pp, paper. $9.95, ISBN 0-920985-20-3. CIP

Grades 5 to 8
Reviewed by Fran Newman

Volume 16 Number 3
1988 May

It's interesting that this very western book was sent to an ex-Albertan to review. I completely enjoyed the references to all the place names I know so well. My home was in die Rocky Mountains, hut I have attended enough stampedes and rodeos in my time to appreciate the authenticity of the settings and the plot.

The big question in my mind, however, is (be degree of interest this novel would have for my Ontario school kids, so I showed the cover to all the grade 5 and 6 students in my school and gave them a bil of a book talk. When I asked for a show of hands of interest, I am sorry to say that very few- four or five in each class—indicated interest. The protagonist himself is thirteen, nearer to a grade 7 or 8 level child, but I know ihe reading interests of my Intermediate kids, and their interest would be even slimmer. I am sure the western publishers thought of this but knew that prairie province kids would be really keen. I hope that occurs.

Clayton Findlay is sent from downtown Toronto to visit his aunt and uncle on their ranch for six months while his parents go on a "second honeymoon." He feels rejected and angry and is very rude and impatient with his two cousins-Josh, his age, and Jenny. Josh's twin. These people are pure westerners, and. ever so slowly, Clayton's resistance is worn down until, at the end, he is competing in the events along with his cousins.

There is a mystery woven through the story-unexplained happenings involving the stock of Uncle Roy (who supplies rodeos with horses and bulls) and the equipment and animals of the rodeo competitors. The three children are instrumental in solving the double mystery and all ends well. I especially liked the way Poulsen describes the taming of previously wild stallion Doc Halliday by the previously tenderfooted Clayton.

Clayton and Josh arc very much boys- having adventures and being manly. Jenny is written in as a scrappy tomboy-like girl who competes and rides as well as the two males. I'm not happy with the portrayal of Aunt Laura, in that she only ever cooks, embroiders and organizes family outings. True, the men make breakfast and clean upon Saturdays, but I wish she (Laura) had been more of a today woman. The whole book, in fact, seems a tale of yesterday, of a time when boys were men in training and had adventures to further their growth. I think Jenny, in sharing their challenges, will do far more different things in her life than her mother docs. Overall, a likeable book. Perhaps eastern teachers should read it to classes to promote a better understanding of that part of western life.

Fran Newman, Murray Centennial P.S., Trenton, Ont.

*Reviewed vol. XIII/2 March 1985, p. 86.
*Reviewed vol. XVI/I January 1987 p. 34.

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