David Ives, Author . HarperCollins $15.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-06-059841-9

With a deft hand, playwright and novelist Ives (Monsieur Eek ) sets this uproarious story in the lawless West in 1863. Moving at a mad-dash pace, the first-person narrative follows the tumultuous trail of Scrib, a 16-year-old who left home three years earlier and makes his living writing and delivering letters for "ill-letterates," for those whose hand is "ill-legilible" and "others... who hired me for my poetry and exalted style." Indeed, this narrator's exalted style accounts for much of the humor in this sometimes laugh-out-loud chronicle, in which comic misspellings and wordplay abound. One character tells the scribe that he "was born and breaded for words"; and Scrib underscores the importance of maintaining his clients' privacy in his "perfession... I figger a letter writer's like a priest under the trained seals of confession." But Ives's peripatetic plot includes ample action as well. As he travels by horseback making his letter-writing rounds, Scrib senses that he is being followed, and his customers notify him that a stranger has been inquiring about him. These two fellas—the first a villainous varmint and the second a kind-hearted African-American who is trying to deliver a letter to Scrib from his mother—provide, respectively, the novel's shoot-'em-up scenes and its poignant moments. Other appealing personalities add further dimension to the story, among them a ribald alleged outlaw and a wise Paiute Indian for whom Scrib writes letters to Abraham Lincoln, protesting the treatment of Native Americans. Scrib hints at a sequel, saying that he's sure another tale, "will get writ sometime," a statement readers of this gen-you-inely droll tale will cheer. Ages 10-up. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 03/28/2005
Release date: 00/00/0000
Genre: Children's
Library Binding - 188 pages - 978-0-06-059842-6
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