cover image Bo & Mzzz Mad

Bo & Mzzz Mad

Sid Fleischman. Greenwillow Books, $14.99 (112pp) ISBN 978-0-06-029397-0

Take one orphaned boy, send him to relatives with whom his family has been feuding for generations, add a long-lost gold mine and a pair of no-good, low-down dirty rascals and voil the stage is set for a classic Fleischman (Bandit's Moon) tale. In his contemporary western, 12-year-old Bo Gamage's arrival in Queen of Sheba, Calif. ""the jumping-off place to nowhere"" is less than auspicious. Bo and his smart-mouthed cousin Madeleine Martinka (she goes by Mzzz Mad) take an instant dislike to each other, and grumpy Paw Paw, Mad's ex-cowboy movie star grandpa, is equally unwelcoming. Only Aunt Juna, an artist who inveigles Bo into a scheme to rekindle Paw Paw's interest in life with a fake treasure map, shows him any kindness. A couple on a crime spree throw a monkey wrench into Bo's plans to move on, however, and he soon finds himself handcuffed to Mzzz Mad and in fairly desperate straits. Fleischman, who can spin a yarn like nobody's business, is in top form here, delivering a thumping good page-turner spiced with humor, snappy descriptions (""The front door stood wide open, as if the building were gasping for air""; Mzzz Mad says Paw Paw feels ""older'n greasewood"") and a lickety-split plot. Readers can just sit back, relax and watch a master at work. Ages 8-up. (Apr.)