cover image RIDE LIKE THE WIND: A Tale of the Pony Express

RIDE LIKE THE WIND: A Tale of the Pony Express

Bernie Fuchs, . . Scholastic/Blue Sky, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-439-26645-1

With its brightly polished historical trappings, Fuchs's (Ragtime Tumpie ) story has the rough-riding excitement of an old-fashioned Lone Ranger episode even as his sun-drenched illustrations explode with color. Taking place in 1860 Nevada, the plot is essentially cowboys and Indians as Pony Express rider Johnny Free is pierced by a Paiute Indian arrow and saved by his horse JennySoo. When Johnny is injured, the exhausted JennySoo rides on to the next station, where she breaks away from the men holding her, "knowing she needed to be free. Johnny was in danger." Like Lassie or Rin Tin Tin, JennySoo searches until she finds Johnny and can "nuzzle, nibble, and push the boy, trying to bring him to life." On their journey home, Johnny and JennySoo are saved from Paiute warriors a second time by the intervention of the boy's Paiute friend, Little Grey. Although the implausibility of the plot harks back to 19th-century dime novels, Fuchs's impressionistic illustrations are stunning and keep pace with the story's action-packed thrills. Viewing the pictures, readers can almost hear the thundering of the horses' hooves as Johnny and Little Grey race together and almost smell the smoke from a burning Pony Express station. A note at the beginning explains the conflicts between the Paiute and the Pony Express, and an afterword separates the facts of the story from the fiction. Ages 4-up. (Mar.)