L. J. Hunt, Author, Laura Jones Hunt, Author . HarperCollins $15.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-06-440953-7

Hunt's debut novel, based on a true story, focuses on two young brothers who, in the summer of 1909, set off on horseback to explore the untamed "caprock" (also known as the "Great American Desert") from their home in Oklahoma. Bud and Temple Abernathy, nine and five, respectively, have inherited the larger-than-life adventurous spirit of their father (none other than President Theodore Roosevelt came to watch their dad, a U.S. Marshal, demonstrate his famous gift for catching wolves barehanded). Wavering at first between an expository tone ("The beginning of the twentieth century was a very good time to be alive if you were an adventurer. Daring acts were in general cheered") and deft storytelling strokes ("Sam was as fine a horse as he could imagine, and Bud wished he could be with him every tick-tocking minute of the day"), the author doesn't immediately hit her stride. But her understanding of the characters' passion for the wilderness and her ability to make a scarcely plausible (if factual) tale seem real to the audience will propel readers past the first section into a journey filled with colorful characters, hair-raising tests of grit and encounters with wolves in sheep's clothing. Sure to captivate many readers' imaginations, the subject is very well served. Ages 8-12. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 02/02/2004
Release date: 02/01/2004
Library Binding - 199 pages - 978-0-06-029259-1
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