cover image Ten-Gallon Bart

Ten-Gallon Bart

Susan Stevens Crummel. Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, $16.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-7614-5246-1

Even with Crummel's (Plaidypus Lost) snappy wordplay and Donohue's (All in One Hour) elaborate collages, this Wild West parody never stirs up much excitement. Bart, the sheriff of Dog City, is all set to retire when word arrives that a ravenous goat named Billy the Kid is heading to town. ""He'll munch our flowers! He'll chomp our trees!"" Miss Kitty pleads, eventually convincing the peace-keeping canine to postpone his retirement. A nasty fight ensues-with Miss Kitty getting in some impressive licks of her own-and Bart inadervently discovers what ails Billy and saves the day (all the villain needed was the equivalent of some Heimlich Manuevers; he had indigestion). Crummel combines Western-style cadences with playful puns (Billy says to Bart, ""I see this place is goin' to the dogs,"" to which Bart responds, ""You gotta bone to pick?""), but readers may find the narrative bogs down in the extended joke set-up that takes Bart around town recruiting deputies (""We'll be there. We'll do our part. We're behind you, Sheriff Bart!""), only to have them vanish the minute the villain hits town. Donohue clearly knows Westerns well enough to spoof them, and there's an impressive level of detail at work here (e.g., Billy's and Bart's bristly fur is composed of hundreds of tiny angular shapes). But ultimately, the tale unfortunately feels inert and unfocused. Ages 5-8.