cover image Mr. Tucket

Mr. Tucket

Gary Paulsen. Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, $15.95 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-385-31169-4

Here's a real knock 'em, sock 'em, ripsnorter guaranteed to keep any boy (and any girl who doesn't mind a dearth of female characters) enthralled from first page through last. In 1848, a 14-year-old boy is captured from an Oregon-bound wagon train by Pawnee Indians and saved by one-armed mountain man Mr. Grimes. Paulsen ( Hatchet ) throws in enough ridin', wrasslin' and shootin' (along with plenty of dead bodies, white and Indian) to satiate the most action-loving reader. But his book is more than an impeccably detailed homage to the Saturday-afternoon horse opera. Although Braid, a Pawnee warrior, is without question the bad guy here, Paulsen makes it clear that, by settling on the Indians' land, even the most peaceable white farmers--such as protagonist Francis Alphonse Tucket's family--disqualify themselves as good guys. And the author plants doubts as to whether Grimes, who trades ammunition with the Pawnee in exchange for trapping on their land, really does ``ride right down the middle'' between the white and Indian worlds, as he claims. Superb characterizations, splendidly evoked setting and thrill-a-minute plot make this book a joy to gallop through. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)