Review: Away West

“Everett had been wandering around for almost an hour. His body ached from the cold, and he had no idea where to go.” page 19

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Away West (Scraps of Time 1879) by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Gordon James.
Puffin Books, Penguin Young Readers Group, New York, 2006.
Elementary historical fiction, 121 pages.
Lexile:  510L  .
AR Level:  3.4 (worth 1.0)  .

The Scraps of Time series is built around the idea of a grandmother and three grandchildren building a scrapbook about their family from items kept in their grandmother’s attic.  One of the children finds something and asks Gee about it, and then the story proper begins as she tells them the story behind that item.

Scraps of Time 1879 Away West resized
Scraps of Time 1879 Away West by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Gordon C. James.

In this case the item is a Civil War army medal, although the story does not deal directly with the Civil War.  Instead, Gee tells them about her grandfather, Everett Turner.  The youngest of three brothers, he was determined to find his place in the West.

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Review: Black Cowboy, Wild Horses

“Bob had been a slave and had never learned to read words. But he could look at the ground and read what animals had walked on it, their size and weight, when they had passed by, and where they were going.” page 7

Black Cowboy, Wild Horses: A True Story by Julius Lester, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.
Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin, New York, 1998.
Picture book nonfiction, 40 pages.
Lexile:  710L  .
AR Level:  4.5 (worth 0.5 points)  .

One expedition of a cowboy named Bob Lemmons, famed for his ability to bring in herds of wild mustangs solo.

Black Cowboy Wild Horses
Black Cowboy, Wild Horses: A True Story by Julius Lester, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.

As a young reader I acquired a childish interest in the West.  Actually, I’m pretty sure it was from Laura Ignalls Wilder (and yes, I now know how problematic that was, and our kids read Louise Erdrich instead).  In adult life, I’ve been learning just how very much was wrong, or omitted, from my early education.  Even so, it was surprising to learn that the common all-white image of cowboys were actually roughly a third Hispanic and that one in four cowboys was African-American.

Luckily there are several diverse books about this, so I can share a much more accurate and sensitive culturally appropriate portrayal of the West with our kids.  Since we love Jerry Pinkney, of course this was our first title.

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