Reading the West 7-6-09 |

Reading the West 7-6-09

I met Peggy Sundberg on a wagon train several years ago and know she knows and understands horses. Her newest children’s book, “Okey-Dokey Oakie,” is about the new horse on Cowgirl Peg’s ranch. And it has a message for children beyond entertainment value. This horse is nervous about making friends, but gets good advice from Wise Guy, one of the older ranch horses. He offers wise advice on how Oakie must deal with the troubling antics of Red.

Rather than a story of children the characters are the horses who must learn from mistakes and deal with consequences when they don’t make the best choices. And they must learn to make friends, deal with the pressure of peers, and stay out of trouble.

Peggy bases these stories on real horses (who may not have all these exact traits), and the book is illustrated in a way that will keep younger children engaged in the story as they learn some important life lessons.

A new historical series being launched by Bright Sky Press, the “Texas Heroes for Young Readers’ Series” begins with the story of Sam Houston, the state’s first governor and a man still revered in the Lone Star State. This book will be followed by biographies of other people important in Texas history such as Davy Crockett and Stephen F. Austin. The series will have books written at different reading levels (primary for children ages five to seven, and elementary for children ages nine to 12. Mary Wade Dodson wrote “Sam Houston: Standing Firm,” the first book in the series. Be sure to watch for these books as they will engage, entertain, and even educate young readers about important people in the development of Texas and the West.

The books of Melodie Cuate also tell Texas stories. Her “Journey to Gonzales” takes Nick Taylor back in time to the period when the Mexican-American war began. In his time traveling, Taylor meets a young man named Johnny. This boy lived in early-day Texas and actually died at the Alamo. But Nick becomes obsessed with further time travel and uses Mr. Barrington’s magical trunk to transport himself back to Gonzales in an even earlier time. Taking the trip with him are his sister Hannah and her friend Jackie. Cuate, a winner of the Western Heritage Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum has found a clever way to introduce history to young readers.

I may have written about Nancy Plain and her book “Sagebrush and Paintbrush: The Story of Charlie Russell, The Cowboy Artist,” before, but I had a chance to see Nancy recently at the Western Writers of America Convention and she informs me her next book will be a children’s story about Chief Joseph, the Nez Perce leader. If she handles that book as she did “Sagebrush and Paintbrush,” you are in for a treat. The book will be released this fall. In the meantime, if you haven’t read “Sagebrush and Paintbrush,” I highly recommend you get a copy. It is for children, but I assure you adults can enjoy the story as well as it is well-told, and marvelously illustrated.

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