cover image The Ghosts of Luckless Gulch

The Ghosts of Luckless Gulch

Anne Isaacs, , illus. by Dan Santat. . S&S/Atheneum, $18.99 (45pp) ISBN 978-1-4169-0201-0

Once again Isaacs creates an indelible tall-tale heroine, even though the pairing here with Santat (The Secret Life of Walter Kitty ) proves less than felicitous. Back in the days of the Gold Rush, plucky young Estrella Rivera is renowned for her sprinting skills (“she could run to the Pacific shore and back again” in a matter of minutes), her healing way with animals (including those that appear to be extraterrestrial) and her pluck. Those talents come in handy when phantom miners steal her beloved pets to work in horrible Dead Man Mine. As usual, Isaacs embellishes the story with heapin’ helpings of tangents, details and folksiness; in previous books the idiosyncratic talents of Mark Teague (in Pancakes for Supper ) and Paul O. Zelinsky (in Swamp Angel ) provided Isaacs’s quirky narratives with both visual ballast and momentum. While Santat’s acrylic paintings are energetic and generously detailed, they feel far more literal, letting much of the humor escape and failing to quicken the pace. Ages 6–9. (Nov.)