cover image A Cowboy Named Ernestine

A Cowboy Named Ernestine

Nicole Rubel. Dial Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-2152-4

""Ernestine O'Reilly, with hair as wild and red as campfire flames, came all the way from County Clare, Ireland, to Lizard Lick, Texas, as a mail-order bride."" Dressed in a fine turquoise dress and ogled by scruffy buckaroos, Ernestine primly disembarks from a stagecoach. Her wide-eyed optimism fades when her fianc turns out to be a tobacco-spitting mountain man with a beard full of twigs, and her disappointment is complete when he orders her to cook and clean for his whole family. Ernestine quickly trades her ruffles for a Stetson and boots, and escapes into the desert. Disguised, she takes the name ""Ernest T.,"" joins a group of cattle herders and, in a romantic rodeo finale, meets a worthy male pardner at last. Rubel (Batty Riddles) follows a common mistaken-identity plot and closes with a fairy-tale wedding: ""Both bride and groom cleaned up right nice."" She chooses an Irish heroine, drawing attention to immigration (and the state of feminism) in the Old West. Using black ink and colored markers, she creates a vibrant landscape with clapboard saloons, cactus and critters galore; as befits the Texan setting, an armadillo hides in every picture. Fans of Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane will root for independent-minded Ernestine in this humdinger of a campfire story. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)