Monday, August 27, 2012

Ratliff, Tom. You Wouldn’t Want to be A Pony Express Rider!

Ratliff, Tom.  You Wouldn’t Want to be A Pony Express Rider!      Scholastic/ Watts 32p  $26.10  978-0-531-20872-4     elem      Series: You Wouldn't Want To Be (Scholastic/Watts)   VG-BNS           

Lively and interactive, the upbeat, sometimes humorous text provides insight into the overland mail delivery service started in 1860: the Pony Express.  In a manner not too different from a role-playing or educational video game, readers learn about the Pony Express through the eyes of a 16-year-old pioneer rider looking for adventure and a paycheck ($25 per week, more than most people earned in a month).  However, riders had to cope with long hours in the saddle, inclement weather, disease, and even hostile Native Americans. 

The bright comic-book-style illustrations will draw reluctant readers in, while imparting meaningful historical facts.  Readers witness the first westbound mail run and life on the trail, and they learn about famous figures related to this service.  They discover that it was not the conflict with Native Americans that ended the Pony Express, but the Civil War (when the military mail contract was awarded to Wells Fargo) and the transcontinental telegraph.

The book provides an excellent springboard for discussion.  Readers may be prompted to find out more about the Pony Express, the Western Expansion, the Civil War, or Native Americans.  This is an appealing, interactive addition for most school and public library collections.
                                                            --Hilary Welliver

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