cover image The Clever Cowboy

The Clever Cowboy

Angela McAllister, A. McAllister. DK Publishing (Dorling Kindersley), $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7894-3491-3

Proving that cowboys don't just herd cattle, this book's mild-mannered title character enters the Yippeeville Pancake Tossin' Competition. Everyone mixes up a mess of batter, and ""[a]t twelve noon all the frying pans were spit 'n' sizzling hot."" Each cowpoke flips one pancake (it doesn't matter whether they catch it or not) and Clever Cowboy's flies highest. In fact, it seems unlikely to come down at all, because suddenly: ""Everything went dark! `Reckon I tossed that pancake so high it just stuck on the sun and put the lights out,' said Clever."" While Yippeeville's citizens hold candles in the ""afternoon night,"" Clever invents a way to retrieve the far-flung flapjack. McAllister (Ice Palace) tells her tall tale in a western vernacular amplified by many a 10-gallon hat. Lodge, making her picture-book debut, favors mock-naive watercolor portraits. Stock characters (a badge-wearing sheriff, a handlebar-mustached judge and smiling ladies in prairie skirts) cheer for the pancake contestants, while horses and rattlesnakes decorate backdrops of scrambled-egg yellow and whimsical pink. The only disappointment is that a masked bandit's identity--revealed as an afterthought--receives so little fanfare. Otherwise, a spirited mood prevails, and the tale ends on an upbeat note with a celebratory hoedown. Ages 4-7. (Oct.)