Dust Devil by Anne Isaacs, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
This companion book for the wonderful Swamp Angel is filled with the same tall tale antics of the first. Swamp Angel grew too big for the state of Tennessee, so she had to move to the wide open spaces of Montana. Unfortunately, the sun woke her too early so she plucked some mountains and placed them around to create some shade, making the buttes of Montana. But her biggest problem was finding a horse that she could ride. They were too small to carry her. Then a huge storm came across the state, kicking up dust and sucking the roof off of her barn. Swamp Angel jumped onto the storm and rode it until it turned into a horse that could strike lightning with its hooves. When Backward Bart and his Flying Desperadoes enter the state, Swamp Angel and her horse, Dust Devil, have to combine their strength and size as well as a secret weapon to bring them to justice. A wild stampede of a story, this is a tale worthy to follow in the huge footsteps of the original.
Isaacs has a wonderful time with the language of tall tales, using words that dance and whirl, immediately placing readers on familiar ground but amping it up to a new level. Her description of the jail is worthy of note as a great example of her word play: “single-starred, double-barred, triple-guard jail.” Isaacs’ story is completely jam-packed with Angel being a tall tale heroine. She exemplifies everything readers want in adventure. Isaac also adds a punch of humor to the book from the rollicking words she chooses to the villains themselves. Backward Bart speaks his sentences in reverse-word order, which will have children listening very closely to be the first to decipher what he is saying.
Zelinsky’s illustrations are done in oils on cedar, aspen and maple veneers. This gives the illustrations a great framed effect that is rustic and perfectly suited to the story. Zelinsky enjoys playing with perspective in his illustrations, offering views that intensify the size of Angel and Dust Devil. The illustrations have a timelessness that is very appealing.
Swamp Angel is a girl who will give Paul Bunyan a run for his money, just as Dust Devil stands up well to Babe, the Blue Ox. This brand new tall tale heroine stands tall among giants. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade Books.
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