Candy Moulton: Reading the West 1-17-11
Candace Manley. Mark that name down because I predict over the next six or seven decades you will be seeing it in print a lot.
This Texas teenager has written her first novel, “Skeeter’s Dream.” Not only written it, but now it has been published by La Frontera Publishing. It’s a dandy book with a fast-paced story that will appeal to young adults, or even younger children if a parent or grandparent will take the time to read it to them. And, parents or grandparents, if you do read this book, I predict that you will like the action, too.
Skeeter Tates and his best friend Ben are both having trouble at home. Skeeter doesn’t get along with his stepbrothers and his Yankee stepfather, while Ben and his alcoholic father are coming to blows more often than not.
Skeeter wants to carry on the dream of his father, who died on the Confederate battlefield during the Civil War. Just the idea that his mother has remarried is bad enough, but the fact that her new husband is a Yankee is more than Skeeter can handle. A bit of a smart aleck, he doesn’t always keep his mouth shut when he ought to, but then he wouldn’t be in trouble so often if his stepsister weren’t such a tattle-tale.
When his stepfather makes a deal to sell off the horse herd Skeeter’s dad had built up, there is no stopping this youngster from leaving Arkansas and heading for Texas, where he figures he will at least have some adventures and be out from under the control of his stepfather.
When Ben decides he’s had enough of his own father, the two boys cross the Red River headed for new lives. It doesn’t take them long to find another side-kick, this one a feisty girl who may be more adventurous then either of the boys. The three are soon scrambling to stay out of the way of adults, and perhaps bring some robbers to justice.
Like all adventure books for young people, there is plenty of action, animal companions – horses and a hound dog – and adults who seem determined not to let youngsters make any decisions that could get them into trouble. But where there is a will, there is a way, and when you have three willful teenagers together, the way can be quite an escapade.
Could it be that those adults are really not as ogre-ish as the kids believe? Could it be that the adults want only what is best for the youngsters? Could it be even the adults with bad habits might change? Could it be that a 13-year-old doesn’t really know it all?
Candace writes with a fresh voice and brings us a story that is as well developed and well told as one written by someone many years her senior. Her characters are certainly some I’d like to see in future books … especially Miss April MacDonald!
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