Sam Patch: Daredevil Jumper

Julie Cummins, Author, Michael Allen Austin, Illustrator , illus. by Michael Allen Austin. Holiday $16.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-8234-1741-4

Once again bringing the high jinks of a lesser-known daredevil to light, Cummins (Women Daredevils: Thrills, Chills, and Frills ) chronicles the short life of early-19th-century stuntman Sam Patch. “Folks say that when he was born, he jumped right into his mother's arms,” the author invitingly opens. The conversational style briskly moves the tale from Sam's childhood jumping exploits to the showstopping stunts of his brief but world-famous career. Austin's (The Horned Toad Prince ) sepia-infused acrylics set a tone alternating between whimsical and haunting. The dynamic illustrations make exaggerated use of light and perspective. In one spread, readers look up at the soles of Sam's boots as he plummets from a ship's masthead; in another, Sam steps from a cliff ledge right out of the picture and into the pages' white space. A long black scarf (Sam's trademark) partially borders each illustration, while the darkening palette portends the abrupt ending to the book (and Sam's life). Ages 4–8. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 01/12/2009
Release date: 03/01/2009
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