cover image Covered Wagons, Bumpy Trails

Covered Wagons, Bumpy Trails

Verla Kay. Putnam Publishing Group, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-399-22928-2

Plying the same peppy format that powered their Gold Fever, Kay and Schindler once again head West: ""Mother, Father,/ Baby John,/ Bouncing, jouncing,/ Moving on."" The volume explores life on a wagon train headed for California through the eyes of one family. Kay packs a motherlode of information into brisk quatrains, whether describing a packing list (""Fodder, water,/ Guns and tools./ Clothes and blankets,/ Stubborn mules""), the itinerary (""Rocky Mountains,/ Massive, steep./ Rugged trail,/ Wagons creep""), or homesteading (""Building cabins,/ Clearing lands./ Rustic timbers,/ Helping hands""). Occasionally the format necessitates a surface treatment of the events (e.g., when the families have to lighten their loads on a steep slope: ""Dumping, tossing,/ Trinkets, trunk./ Cookstove, treasuresD/ Now they're junk""), but for the most part her sound bites entertain as well as instruct. Schindler uses marbleized paper for his watercolor and gouache illustrations, creating a parchment effect that gives the pages the look of an old diary. From close-ups of the characters to sweeping landscapes of the rugged terrain, his vignettes and spreads brim with details. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)