Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Wanted: Books about the West - December 2011/January 2012

Selected and annotated by Anna Holland and Laurel Halfar


Enderle, Dotti. Crosswire. Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills, 2010. 143 p. Gr. 6-9.
Thirteen-year-old Jesse Wade and his family do the best they can to keep their farm afloat when a drought devastates Texas in 1883. Things go from bad to worse when free-range cattlemen begin unlawfully cutting down the Wades’ fences to water their herds, dangerously depleting the Wades’ water supply. When Jesse’s father hires a mysterious farmhand to help out, Jesse must overcome his fear of firearms to protect his family.

Hallowell, George. Wagons Ho!; by George Hallowell and Joan Holub; illus. by Lynne Avril. Whitman, 2011. 32 p. Gr. 2-4.
Jenny Johnson and Katie Miller—two girls who live almost two centuries apart but travel the same route across the country with their families from Missouri to Oregon—share the joys and hardships of moving West. For Jenny, a pioneer, the trip takes five months. Katie, on the other hand, will settle into her new ready-made home and stay at a hotel with a pool, but reflects with a sort of envy on Jenny’s journey. 

Harness, Cheryl. The Tragic Tale of Narcissa Whitman and a Faithful History of the Oregon Trail. National Geographic, 2006. 144 p. gr. 5-8.
As a passionate missionary, Narcissa and her husband Marcus Whitman head West along the Oregon Trail to bring salvation to the Native Americans and meet an unhappy end. Complete with detail-rich black and white drawings, excerpts from the diary of Narcissa and other eyewitness accounts, as well as bibliographic information and index.

Holt, Kimberly Willis. The Water Seeker. Ottaviano/Holt, 2010. 320 p. Gr. 6-10.
Amos Kincaid has a gift. Like his father, he is a dowser. He’s also nearly an orphan. When Amos’ father returns from his latest hunting trip with a new wife and seems determined to claim Amos as his own, Amos struggles to reconnect with the father he barely knows. With a twist of supernatural elements, this westward-ho! novel epitomizes the makeshift, pool-your-resources, support that Old Western neighbors do best.

Hopkinson, Deborah. Home on the Range: John A. Lomax and His Cowboy Songs; illus. by S. D. Schindler. Putnam, 2009. 40 p. Gr. 3-6.
This picture book biography introduces the American folk song collector, John A. Lomax.  Lomax grew up near the Chisholm Trail in Texas where he overheard cowboys singing songs as they drove their cattle. Later in life, Lomax was inspired to document the revered songs of his youth, so he traveled across Texas with an old fashioned recording device and a notebook coaxing cowboys and gypsies to share their tunes.

Hopkinson, Deborah. Stagecoach Sal; illus. by Carson Ellis. Disney/Hyperion, 2009. 32 p. 5-8 yrs.
When Sal’s father gets accidentally injured, she must take the reins of her family’s stagecoach and deliver the mail overnight. On her journey she encounters Poetic Pete, known as the most polite bandit around. Sal knows Pete would never interrupt a lady and uses her vast knowledge of tunes to drive Pete all the way to jail before he can say, “It’s a stick up!” This lively picture book was inspired by real characters of the Wild West.

Larson, Kirby. Hattie Big Sky. Delacorte, 2006. 289 p. Gr. 6-9.
In this twentieth century homestead novel, sixteen-year-old Hattie Brooks doesn’t see much future in Iowa. When chance to prove up a homestead claim in Montana presents itself, Hattie jumps on the opportunity of settling somewhere she can once and for all call home.

Moser, Lisa. Kisses on the Wind; illus. by Kathryn Brown. Candlewick, 2009. 32 p. 5-8 yrs.
Lydia’s parents are busy packing the wagon to begin the long journey West, but Lydia does not want to say goodbye to Grandma. This gentle and sweet picture book illustrates how love is something that can be carried the greatest distances.

Nelson, Vaunda Micheaux. Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy Marshal; illus. by R. Gregory Christie. Carolrhoda, 2009. 42 p. Gr. 3-6.
Deputy U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves is an unsung champion of the American West. This biography chronicles Reeves’ life prior to becoming a freeman, how he ended up on the wrong side of the law, and the riveting adventures of his career as a deputy marshal. Compiled as an appealing picture book with rich historical notes, glossary, photograph, timeline, and action-shot paintings, this book is an easy introduction to the Bass Reeves lore.

Olson, Tod. How to Get Rich in the California Gold Rush: An Adventurer’s Guide to the Fabulous Riches Discovered in 1848; illus. by Scott Allred. National Geographic, 2008. 48 p. Gr. 4-7.
The fictional Thomas Hartley and his two friends journey West to guide young readers through the 1848 Gold Rush. Full of colorful illustrations, believable narrative accounts, real-life characters, and factual details, this “Encyclopedia of the Gold Rush” has struck it big! Young history buffs take note.

Olson, Tod. How to Get Rich on the Oregon Trail: My Adventures Among Cows, Crooks & Heroes on the Road to Fame and Fortune; illus. by Scott Allred and Gregory Proch. National Geographic, 2009. 47 p. Gr. 4-7.
On a realistic-but-not-real adventure West, William Reed travels the Oregon Trail with his family in 1852. Clever and business-smart, William and his older brother are quick to realize cash opportunities along route. This fun and engaging account reads like an illustrated journal with all the nitty-gritty informative details to please any historical non-fiction fan.

Parry, Rosanne. Heart of a Shepherd. Random House, 2009. 176 p. Gr. 5-7.
As the youngest of five brothers, twelve-year-old Ignatius “Brother” Alderman has not had to worry much about running the family’s Oregon ranch. Good thing too, because he’s not sure if he’s tough enough or got the heart for ranch-life. But when Brother’s father is called for service in Iraq, and the older boys are away at school, Brother finds himself with only his grandparents to help him man the homestead. Eager to prove his worth, Brother commits himself the to care and upkeep of the farm.  

Paulsen, Gary. The Legend of Bass Reeves: Being the True and Fictional Account of the Most Valiant Marshal in the West. Lamb, 2006. 137 p. Gr. 5-8.
Real and imagined stories bring one of the West’s best heroes to life. Born into slavery, then turned freeman and federal marshal, Bass Reeves lived a life of courage and justice. Catching countless outlaws under thick gunfire, but never drawing his gun first, Reeves is a unique and legendary hero of the Old West.

Ritter, John H. The Desperado Who Stole Baseball. Philomel, 2009. 272 p. Gr. 5-8.
Set in 1881, twelve-year-old orphan Jack Dillon embarks on a quest to find his long lost Uncle Long John Dillon, who owns a ball club of rowdy bunch of Wild West fistfighters who claim to be greatest baseball league in the Nation. Heading West on horseback, Jack brushes shoulders with the infamous Billy the Kid and rides himself straight into the biggest, baddest baseball showdown of the West.

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