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Rhyolite: The True Story of a Ghost Town

Rhyolite: The True Story of a Ghost Town

by David Frampton (Illustrator), Diane Siebert

Long ago, in a proud desert town named Rhyolite, businesses thrived and children played and people had dreams that were big and grand. But Rhyolite survived only a few years before those dreams were dashed and the desert reclaimed the town. Now the streets are populated by laughing coyotes and the ghosts of happier times. What happened to this once-prosperous place


Long ago, in a proud desert town named Rhyolite, businesses thrived and children played and people had dreams that were big and grand. But Rhyolite survived only a few years before those dreams were dashed and the desert reclaimed the town. Now the streets are populated by laughing coyotes and the ghosts of happier times. What happened to this once-prosperous place? In fluent, compelling verse, this unusual and witty picture book tells the story of the rise and fall of a real-life Nevada town built near the site of a famous 1904 gold strike. Dramatic woodcuts by David Frampton bring this haunting tale of a ghost town stunningly to life. Author’s note.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Diane Siebert is a poet of the American landscape....an engaging story written in steady meter and perfectly rhymed couplets." NY TIMES BOOK REVIEW The New York Times Book Review

"recounted in Siebert's narrative verse and enhanced by Frampton's colorful woodcuts...A wonderful example of a well-crafted picture book." SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL School Library Journal

"insistent beat seems perfectly pitched...a haunting riff...woodcuts conjure the desert's dusk and heat...scrupulous in...attention to detail..." PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY, STARRED REVIEW Publishers Weekly, Starred

"Perfectly captures the roughness and elegance...the excitement and melancholy...as nonfiction in poetic form, this is almost perfect." KIRKUS REVIEWS, STARRED REVIEW Kirkus Reviews, Starred

"Handsome woodcuts...suit...historical tale..verses bounce listeners from...discovery...to..ghost-town...a story some children will find quite fascinating." BOOKLIST Booklist, ALA

"well-cadenced couplets...the book's final pages...lend a haunting quality to this story of an actual Old West ghost town." THE HORN BOOK MAGAZINE Horn Book

Publishers Weekly
Siebert's (Mojave) insistent beat seems perfectly pitched for this brief history of Rhyolite, Nev., a boomtown founded in 1904 that went bust six years later. She packs her rhythmic narrative with nuggets of information about the gold mining municipality's rapid rise and demise. "Wheels and hooves and human feet/ All made their way down Golden Street;/ .../ While fifty woolly, wild saloons/ Were filled with tipplers, talk, and tunes." Frampton's (My Beastie Book of ABC: Rhymes and Woodcuts) trademark woodcuts conjure the desert's dust and heat, their heavily outlined images stark against ochre backdrops and colorized with muted purples, greens and sunset orange. Ornate, symmetrical borders feature desert animals, mining cars and townsfolk, while facing pages contain full-page illustrations just as scrupulous in their attention to detail. One shows the multicultural effort behind the town's construction: men of many ethnic backgrounds work side by side to lay water pipes and raise wooden beams. The industrious scenes evince a Broadway show-like bounce, with eager expressions on the people's faces and angular presentations of repeated images. The townsfolk even appear to haul in the scenery-at the beginning, they lead in from the left-hand side of the spread; when they leave town, they exit from the right. A haunting riff (through it all, "The coyotes watched with laughing eyes"; "The coyotes heard what coyotes hear") culminates in the coyotes' eventual "take-over" of the ghost town. Readers can mine additional anecdotes from a concluding author's note. Ages 6-9. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Told in a sometimes galloping and sometimes ambling rhythmic rhyme, this is the fascinating tale of a town that grew out of the dust in a desert in Nevada on the wave of a gold strike. For a few short years it was a place full of life, bustle and prosperity. Then, on the whim of far-away investors who pulled out their money, the town died and the land went back to being the territory of the desert creatures. Throughout the tale we read about the coyotes who watch the goings-on in the town of Rhyolite seeing "what coyotes saw" and hearing "what coyotes hear," and watching with "laughing eyes" the folly of the humans. All the way through the book the coyotes remind us that there is something in Rhyolite that amuses them, there is something they know that that no one else knows. It is only at the end of the story that we know at least some of what they know, that Rhyolite is doomed to be a ghost town. Illustrated with stunning woodcuts that reveal every folly, every excess of the people of Rhyolite, this is a remarkable book about the rise and fall of a town in the forgotten place. The entire story of the town of Rhyolite can be found in the back of the book. 2003, Clarion Books,
— Marya Jansen-Gruber
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-Siebert's rhyming verses never miss a beat, as she narrates the rapid rise and equally breathless fall of a gold-mining boomtown in the Nevada desert in the early 20th century. An unforgettable piece of history, brought to life by evocative gold-tinted woodcuts. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An unusual treatment of an unusual subject breathes new life into narrative poetry in picture book form. Eschewing the cute, the sentimental, and the trite, rhymed couplets tell, in extended narrative that recalls Robert Service, the extraordinary story of the Nevada boomtown Rhyolite, which was founded in 1904 and utterly abandoned by 1919. The desert’s coyotes watch as prospectors strike gold, people flock to mine the vein, and a bustling community rises up to support the activity. "Each week more people lined the streets: / An ice cream parlor served up sweets, / The opera house rang out with song, / And townsfolk, now ten thousand strong, / Enjoyed their socials and their sports, . . . / While in the hills, where coyotes go, / The coyotes knew what coyotes know." Frampton’s (My Beastie Book of ABC, 2002, etc.) heavy woodcuts, colored mostly with browns and terra-cottas, perfectly capture the roughness and the elegance of this desert town, both in imagined former glory and in today’s ruins. Siebert (Motorcycle Song, 2002, etc.) captures the excitement and the melancholy of Rhyolite’s story with driving iambic tetrameter that pushes the narrative on to its inevitable conclusion. As nonfiction in a poetic form, this is almost perfect. (author’s note) (Picture book/poetry/nonfiction. 6-10)

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
9.25(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.13(d)
Age Range:
4 - 7 Years

Meet the Author

David Frampton is celebrated for his woodcut illustrations, which have appeared in many books, including several for Clarion. He lives in Richmond, New Hampshire.

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