cover image Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads

Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads

Bob Shea, illus by Lane Smith. Roaring Brook, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-59643-975-7

Shea and Smith, the duo behind Big Plans, deliver a western yarn that’s long on cowboy slang and longer on screwball comedy. Mayor McMuffin of Drywater Gulch cannot abide the “hootin’, hollerin’, and cattle kissin’ ” Toad brothers, who are wreaking havoc in the arid one-horse town. At last, a boy in a 10-gallon hat rides “into town. Slowly. On a tortoise. Give him a minute.” He claims to be qualified as sheriff, due to his expertise on dinosaurs, and he stubbornly attributes the Toad brothers’ robberies and unusual treatment of cattle to velociraptors and tyrannosaurs. Kid Sheriff insists on reserving the jail for the likes of T. rex, absurd logic prevails, and the menacing Toads get their just deserts. Smith pictures sepia-tinted heroes and villains, and sets the action against an apt backdrop of cracked earth, speckled mesas, and spiky sagebrush. Shea maintains a deadpan drawl that mirrors the straightforward visuals. If children are more likely to know dinosaurs than B-movie chestnuts like “Gabby the town prospector,” adults can meet them halfway in this punchy read-aloud. Ages 4–8. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Oct.)