cover image Campfire for Cowboy Billy

Campfire for Cowboy Billy

Rising Moon, Wendy K. Ulmer. Rising Moon Books, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-87358-681-8

In Ulmer's sincere, rather sentimental debut children's book, an imaginative boy remembers his beloved late grandfather as he goes about his day. Bent on delivering a letter he's written, Billy rides his stick horse through the city streets, pretending he's on a pony-express run. As he makes his way through canyons (composed of skyscrapers) and Badlands (a giant park complete with ""Big Kid Bandits""), his thoughts intermittently turn to his grandfather. He recalls watching the stars with the kind man, who told Billy, ""Stars are the warm, twinkling campfires of special souls telling someone on earth how much they still love them."" And it's his grandfather's advice that prompts Billy to hide from the Bandits (menacing older boys on bikes). Back at home, the young cowboy heads for the roof, where he spies Grandfather's ""campfire"" and thanks him for the ""trick."" Spengler (How Jackrabbit Got His Very Long Ears) adds a good passel of whimsy with stylized gouache art, and offers some playfully skewed perspectives (e.g., the ""canyon"" in southwestern shades of pine and terra-cotta towering above Billy as a car with a longhorns hood ornament crowds the foreground) as well as diverting extras (like a reappearing mouse, dressed in either cowboy or Indian garb). Though the juxtaposition of plot and memories make for a rather bumpy ride (and the letter's recipient goes unknown), this story may well spark a reassuring adult-child dialogue about the death of a loved one. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)