Stagecoach Sal

Deborah Hopkinson, Author, Carson Ellis, Illustrator , illus. by Carson Ellis. Disney-Hyperion $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4231-1149-8

A healthy dose of pioneer sass helps young Stagecoach Sal nab a notorious thief without firing a shot—she takes Poetic Pete (“the most polite bandit in all of California”) onto the seat beside her, sings him to sleep and delivers him to jail. Hopkinson’s (Home on the Range ) winner of a tale is inspired by a historical figure (whose biography is supplied in an afterword), but the story of Sal’s all-night singing marathon is Hopkinson’s own. Ellis’s (The Composer Is Dead ) artwork forms an unexpected but effective counterpoint to Hopkinson’s rambunctious prose. Delicate watercolors make the spreads light and limpid, and precise brown ink lines keep the doll-like figures of Sal, her parents and the pioneer landscape under firm control, the kind of restraint seen in embroidered samplers. It’s a counterweight to Sal’s bombast: “Why, I’m a gal who can plug a nickel from as far as I can see it, and shoot out a rattler’s rattles if I care to.” Loving parents give Sal lots of freedom, and she runs—make that rides—with it; she’s a charismatic role model of American pluck. Ages 4–7. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 08/10/2009
Release date: 09/01/2009
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