Gus and His Gang
Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Author, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Illustrator
What is it about the French and their interest in the western genre? Generally, it's a good mix, and often a great mix. This book is the latter. Cowboy Gus and his gang rollick through 13 interconnected stories, serial reels of sorts. Gus and his two buddies are on the lam, but none can stand to be away from women—any and all women—so they all sneak off to town and find themselves on the run from both the law and their girls. Blain's drawing line is expressive and full of life, and the eight-panel page structure reins in his loose style to great, calming effect. This one-two punch of all-out energy and rigid formalism hurtles the reader through the stories, which often veer into romance, as Gus's entourage takes turns bedding tough frontier women and hiding out from the law. The most interesting flip comes at the end when one of Gus's outlaw cohorts, Clem, begins to navigate a return to his family while his former love interest, an independent woman who's a sort of artist/photographer, turns to robbing banks. Blain starts the book strong and finishes stronger, creating a rich story line with characters whose ups and downs come alive on the page.
Reviewed on: 10/20/2008