Whatever Happened to the Pony Express?
Verla Kay, illus. by Kimberly Bulcken Root and Barry Root, Putnam, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-399-24483-4
Echoing the purposeful rhythms of a pony express rider, Kay's (Rough, Tough Charley) characteristically spare and cadenced verse sets a deliberate pace as she examines the history of information delivery in the U.S. "Letters, papers,/ ‘Must get through.'/ Lonely outpost,/ Rendezvous./ Stationmaster,/ Midnight sky./ Changing horses/ ‘On the fly.' " This catalogue of various delivery methods, from cumbersome stagecoaches and camels to the Pony Express and telegraph, is sandwiched within a brief, epistolary story of grown siblings who live across the country and share family news via these outlets; their colloquial notes and telegrams allow readers to glimpse their joys and hardships. Realistic ink, gouache, and watercolor illustrations by the Roots, in their first book together, burst with vigor, especially those of a Pony Express rider jetting across the page, dodging arrows as he flies. Subtle details in the layout (spurs form the corners of a border in several scenes) are gratifying. While the story may seem to end abruptly with the advent of the steam train, it packs more than a saddlebag's worth of information. Author notes and time line included. Ages 5–8. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/10/2010