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Monday, March 7, 2011

Dust Devil, written by Anne Isaacs and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. schwartz & wade, Random House. 2010. $20.00 ages 6 and up

"When the dust storm reached
Angel's ranch, the wind shrieked
like a thousand trumpets playing
out of tune. The barn began to
shake, the ground to quake, the
windows to break, the animals to
wake, and everyone's ears to ache!"

My gosh! It's been sixteen years since I first met Swamp Angel and I have missed her! She was a wonderful character then and remains so. This is another tall tale with luscious writing and artwork...what a tremendous collaboration! Anne Isaacs clearly has a way with words and Paul Zelinsky uses oil paints on a variety of woods to bring Angelica Longrider back to glorious life.

Angelica is a wonder of a woman, caring and kind, huge and hemmed-in by the borders of Tennessee. She needs open spaces and settles on Montana to provide them. Once settled, she sets about making the place her own, taming a dust storm into the spirited steed she has always dreamed of riding. When Backward Bart and his band of worthless hooligans terrorize and rob her neighbors, Swamp Angel sets out to show them who's boss. Dust Devil is the ace up her sleeve in her quest to tame their wild ways.

It's a story about a young girl with a big heart, and a penchant for doing the right thing:

"Pretty soon all her neighbors wanted a mountain. So Angel grabbed an armful and planted mountains one by one on the prairie. "That's a beaut", she'd say proudly every time she set one down. And to this day, every stand-alone peak in Montana is called a butte."

It's a story about a stunning stallion with a need to be tamed:

"And there, in the middle of the whirlwind, was a giant horse, bucking and wheeling and neighing like fury! Every time he struck his hooves together, bolts of lightning shot out."

It's a story about a scheming gang of miserable men whose leader is 'half rattlesnake, half badger, and half mad hornet'.

The young woman and her handsome horse set themselves on a journey to capture the Flying Desperadoes and bring them back to Billings and the 'single-starred, double-barred, triple-guard jail'. Turns out she is just the woman for the job!

Yes, it's funny; and the humor of the words is matched page by page by the humor created in the detailed, brightly colored artwork. The two work perfectly to create a most entertaining readaloud for one, or for a classroom full of captivated listeners. It's a keeper!

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