*Dust Devil by Anne Isaacs

Dust Devil, by Anne Isaacs, Illustrated by Paul Zelinsky, Schwartz & Wade, 2011.

Reading Level: Picture Books, ages 4-8

Recommended for: Ages 4-8 and up

Bottom Line: Dust Devil continues the tall-tale adventures of Angelica Longrider, the Tennessee “Swamp Angel” who tames the wild west.

In 1995 Swamp Angel won a Caldecott Honor medal for illustration, but it took fifteen years for the author and illustrator to get together again.  Dust Devil tells of the further adventures of Angelica Longrider, an American tall tale heroine with strains of Davy Crockett with Paul Bunyan.  Angelica at birth “was scarcely taller than her mother and could not climb a tree without help,” but from these humble beginnings grew (and grew) a legend bigger than life in every way.  In Swamp Angel she fought an epic battle with Thunderin’ Tarnation, a giant black bear who was eating Tennessee settlers out of house and home. 

Dust Devil details her adventures in Montana. beginning with a disclaimer: “On this earth, only one thing is as reliable as a Montana story, and that is a MONTANA FENCE POST.  Either of them may lean a little but they seldom flat-out lie.”  The picture book is as brilliantly illustrated in the early-American primitive style as its predecessor, with Angel’s larger-than-life personality bounding off of every page.  But the villain gets considerable time: not Tarnation with his limited repertoire, but Backwards Bart, who does everything backward, even talk: “Cash your gimme!”  Scarcely less evil than Bart are his gang, who are so mean they ride mosquitoes instead of horses.  (That would never be possible, of course, if we weren’t taking about Montana mosquitoes.)  But Angel has her own mount, Dust Devil, who emerged from a cyclone that Angel hopped aboard.  The two of them are more than a match for Bart’s gang, and Angel once again brings peace and order to the frontier.  And digs the Grand Canyon.  And sparks the Gold Rush.  But that’s another story.

Cautions: none

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Janie Cheaney

Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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