cover image Call Me Francis Tucket

Call Me Francis Tucket

Gary Paulsen. Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, $15.95 (112pp) ISBN 978-0-385-32116-7

The hero of this stallion-swift adventure tale, the followup to Mr. Tucket, could be the adolescent prefiguration of the archetypal western good guy-Gary Cooper or Clint Eastwood with a voice that's just begun to crack. Francis Tucket is 14 or 15-he's no longer sure of how much time has passed since a Pawnee raid on an Oregon-bound wagon train separated him from his family-but he can take care of himself. Hooking up with another wagon party, he volunteers to ``ride wide'' and hunt; he shoots a buffalo, causes a stampede, shoots again, gets robbed of all his possessions and then bests the thieves, all in the first few chapters. A cool-headed survivor in the mold of Hatchet's protagonist, Francis also cares about doing what's right, and so, when he meets two abandoned children, he assumes responsibility for them at some personal cost. Paulsen stumbles only once, in characterizing one of the children as a garrulous girl who has ``a place in me full of words and when I open the door to that place they just start coming...'' Elsewhere, he weaves in a wealth of information about pioneer travel, adding historical value to this heartstopping good read. Ages 10-up. (June)