cover image Boss of the Plains

Boss of the Plains

Laurie Winn Carlson, DK Publishing. DK Publishing (Dorling Kindersley), $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7894-2479-2

This picture book, a mix of storytelling and brand-name placement, makes a legend of John Batterson Stetson and takes its title from a trademark cowboy hat. Stetson, the son of a New Jersey hatmaker, goes west in the 1850s. Although disappointed in his quest for gold, he soon finds that his family trade comes in handy. One spread shows, step-by-step, how he turns rabbit pelts into felt to make a snug tent, and later he applies the same technique to construct a broad-brimmed hat. When he returns east and resumes hatmaking, he designs the ""Boss of the Plains"" to guard Western heads from the ""burning sunshine, drenching rain, whipping wind, or swirling snow"" of the frontier. While the detailed sidebars may trip up the pacing of Carlson's (More Than Moccasins) narrative for some readers, accounts like the felt-making episode will satisfy even the most curious cowpoke. Meade (Hush!) composes busy paper, pencil and paint collages on speckled or pin-striped brown stock, suggestive of rocks, dust and Western apparel. She imagines Stetson as a grinning, rusty-bearded gent, and pictures folks of all ages trying on the signature hat. The fresh and lively art straddles East and West, adding panache to the facts. Young cowhands with a hankering for the Wild West will tip their hats to this tale. Ages 6-10. (Apr.)