Ghost Towns of the American West

Raymond Bial, Author, Raymond Bial, Illustrator, Bial, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $16 (48p) ISBN 978-0-618-06557-8
Bial's latest photo-essay delves into the mystery of abandoned Western towns and offers insight into the region's boom-and-bust legacy but ultimately disappoints. The volume begins by posing the questions ""What sad and joyous events happened within the tumbledown walls and wind-blown streets?"" and ""Why did people settle in these lonesome places?"" Unfortunately, the real draw of the ghost towns was the larger-than-life characters who came through them, and the sense of immediacy and the human cast that made Bial's The Underground Railroad so successful goes missing here. The author's solid research incorporates some primary source quotes and touches on some of the Wild West's best-known incidents (the shoot-out at the OK Corral; Wild Bill Hickock getting shot in the back during a poker game), but never fully captures the flavor of these colorful legends. (Fans of these dark heroes would do better with Andrew Glass's recent Bad Guys.) The best of Bial's photographs zoom in on telling details: a metal sculpture of a prospector, aged to a gray that blends with a cloudy sky; a saloon's windowsill filled with liquor bottles, overtaken by cobwebs and dust, filtering sunlight through plum and moss glass. But a few photos feature the same subjects, and several captions repeat nearly identical wording. Still, for aficionados of the Gold Rush or westward expansion, the photos here are worth a look. Ages 8-12. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/2001
Release date: 02/01/2001
Ebook - 48 pages - 978-0-547-76924-0
Open Ebook - 48 pages - 978-0-547-56189-9
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