July 9, 2009

Crows & Cards - by Joseph Helgerson

When Zebulon Crabtree turned twelve in 1849, his parents sent him up the Mississippi River to serve as an apprentice to his uncle, who worked with animal skins as a tanner.  Along the way, Zeb got sidetracked by a professional gambler, a professor who plays violin for his pet chickens, and Indian chief and his daughter, and a host of other wild characters.  Zeb never did make it to his uncle, but the adventures he had instead make for a very exciting and interesting story.

This book is a quick-paced historical adventure, the only drawback being that it's written with kind of an old-timey voice, and today's readers won't understand some of the words used.  The author tried to fix that by adding a dictionary (glossary) to the back of the book, but I'm not sure how much that will help the average fourth grade reader.  This is such a new book (published three months ago), that I haven't talked to any kids who've read it, and I may be (as I usually am) pleasantly surprised by how they don't get bothered by language as much as I do.
Read this if you like rollicking tales of the old west, or if you want to see what happens to a boy the age of today's sixth graders who has to survive on his own in a wild city at a wild time in the wild west.  It's funny (if you get the jokes), historically accurate (with an afterward explaining everything at the end), and a book you can learn from at the same time as you enjoy yourself.  It's a book with a cool cover, a boring title, and unforgettable characters.
If you like this, you may also enjoy The Misadventures of Maude March and Gary Paulsen's Mr. Tucket stories.

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