cover image Alice Rose & Sam: Alice Rose and Sam

Alice Rose & Sam: Alice Rose and Sam

Kathryn Lasky, Theresa Flavin. Hyperion Books, $15.95 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-0336-1

Unlike most other residents of Virginia City, Nev., in the 1860s, feisty 12-year-old Alice Rose does not give a hoot about silver mining or striking it rich. ""This is no place for a child!"" she protests, and the grittiness of the opening scenes proves her point: while her father works late at the newspaper, Alice Rose sneaks off to the cemetery to protect her mother's and infant sister's fresh graves from coyotes. She sets about earning enough money to return to Boston and join her cousins at a proper ladies' seminary, but in the meantime she consorts with an eclectic collection of friends: the hurdy-gurdy girls, for whom she sews dresses; kindly Hop Sing, who lays track for the railroad; rich Miss Eilley; and the not-yet-famous Samuel Clemens, who helps Alice Rose expose the nefarious deeds of a band of Confederate vigilantes called the Society of Seven. Alice Rose's frustrations with the West contrast with Sam's recognition of its beauty (""You look down into the throat of that cactus blossom, Alice Rose, and you tell me if you have ever seen anything prettier""), but both enjoy a good yarn and are suspicious of the town's hypocritical Christians. Lasky's (True North) picturesque dialogue and precise, energetic characterizations more than make up for the book's choppy flow. A view of American history teeming with adventure and local color. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)