OLD CRUMP: The True Story of a Trip West

Laurie Lawlor, Author, John Winch, Illustrator , illus. by John Winch. Holiday $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8234-1608-0

Lawlor's (Helen Keller: Rebellious Spirit) historical account is at once a chronicle of a punishing pioneer trek and an encomium to a faithful ox. A child recalls his family's trip across Death Valley, where the bitterly cold nights compel the family to burn their wagon for firewood. Unlike the other oxen, which buck off their riders, Old Crump carries the narrator and his three siblings on its back, moving "slow and steady. Never a stumble or a fall." When the family finally reaches California, the father lets Old Crump roam the pasture, in gratitude for the ox's steadfastness. The narrative pays as much attention to the trek's forbidding circumstances as it does the ox's importance. Lawlor, working from period diaries, focuses on the journey's hardships, making this a solid introduction to the historic journey to the West: "Ma crumbled bits of sugar for us to hold in our mouths so we wouldn't think so much about our thirst or empty stomachs." Winch's (The Old Woman Who Loved to Read) mixed-media illustrations foreground the ox and children in only one of the spreads. Elsewhere, he plays up the drama of nature's perils, favoring a predator's-eye view and thus subtly emphasizing the desert's dangers. The illustrations set the artist's characteristic folk-art–style figures against photographs of the Valley's lunar rocks and sands. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 02/11/2002
Release date: 03/01/2002
Genre: Children's
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