cover image DADDY SAYS


Ntozake Shange, . . S&S, $16 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-689-83081-5

This novel set in Texas offers an insider's view of the African-American rodeo scene, with mixed success. Shange (for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf) vividly conveys the excitement and danger of trick riding and ably expresses the void felt by Cowboy "Tie-Down" and his two daughters, 12-year-old Lucie-Marie and 14-year-old Annie Sharon, after his rodeo-star wife is killed by a temperamental horse. However, at times the author strains too hard to evoke emotions and local color; often her characters' dialogue comes off as clichéd ("Well, you two are Daddy's rough, tough ridin' cutie-pies, that's for sure. And I love you way down deep in my soul"), especially in contrast with the sisters' more serious exchanges. Tension mounts within the family when Annie Sharon suspects that Tie-Down's new girlfriend, Cassie Caruthers ("a slip of a woman, not much bigger than a minute") is trying to fill her mother's boots. Hoping to draw her father's attention back to his family and his renowned late wife, Annie Sharon takes ill-conceived risks on horseback. As might be expected, the results prove disastrous. Annie Sharon realizes that she has gone too far only after her father becomes seriously injured while trying to save her life. The story provides enough action to keep pages turning, but the heart-felt moments are too few. Ages 10-14. (Jan.)