Rough Tough Charley

Overview

Charley was rough.
Charley was tough.
Charley wore fancy blue gloves.

Charley Parkhurst always was more comfortable around horses than around humans. One of the most respected stagecoach drivers in the old West, Charley also kept one of the biggest secrets anyone could keep.

Now, through thrilling paintings and Verla Kay’s signature cryptic ...

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Overview

Charley was rough.
Charley was tough.
Charley wore fancy blue gloves.

Charley Parkhurst always was more comfortable around horses than around humans. One of the most respected stagecoach drivers in the old West, Charley also kept one of the biggest secrets anyone could keep.

Now, through thrilling paintings and Verla Kay’s signature cryptic rhyme, readers are invited to explore an amazing real life, lived without limits.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Many folks thought they knew the real Charley Parkhurst (1812-1879): a scrappy orphan who possessed an almost magical rapport with horses and who became one of the bravest, fastest, saltiest and most respected stagecoach drivers in Gold Country. Charley was the kind of noble, tough-as-nails character who perfectly embodied the rugged individualism of the West. But everybody had Charley wrong, for as the doctor who certified his death discovered, Charley had successfully disguised the fact that he was actually a woman. As in her previous historical picture books, Kay (Homespun Sarah) writes in what she calls "cryptic rhyme"-terse four-line stanzas that evoke the no-nonsense speech of the frontier: "Charley working,/ Handles reins./ Learns to doctor/ Cuts and sprains./ Charley driving!/ Gaining fame./ Folks requesting/ Him by name." Kay's strict meter keeps Charley's inner thoughts at a distance from readers, so that Charley effectively holds onto her secret until the book's end, just as she did in real life. Gustavson's (The Last Day of School) lush, realistic oil illustrations are a lavish counterpoint to Kay's spare verse, are suffused with the romance and roughness of a bygone era. His vivid characterizations and cinematic framing would make John Ford proud. The twist regarding Charley's gender should come as a genuine surprise; readers will likely pore over the excellent timeline on the final spread to glean further details of this true and compelling story of secret identity and proto-feminism. Ages 4-8. (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature
Terse verses tell the exciting life story of Charley Parkhurst. Working in a stable as a youth, Charley sails to California when he hears that good drivers are needed there. Although he is considered “odd,” Charley successfully drives stagecoaches, defending them from bandits. He then runs a stage stop and joins a men’s lodge, but refuses to see a doctor when ill. It is only at “his” death that it is discovered that Charley is a woman. At a time when women were not considered rough, tough, smart, or strong, Charley proved otherwise. Gustavson’s oil paints are applied naturalistically but with a vigor that helps emphasize the rough-and-tumble qualities of Charley’s life. Effective double-page scenes demonstrate in particular the force of one-eyed Charley driving the coach and its six horses. Two pages of facts fill in this unusual story based on a real person. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Kirkus Reviews
Charley Parkhurst was a legend in his own time-a taciturn but well-respected, fearless stagecoach driver whose professional services were much in demand (although personally, people found him odd). Perhaps then, Kay's self-described "cryptic verse" is quite appropriate. Maybe its cadence is entirely intentional: The contracted rhyming text, with a twang writ' right in, is sometimes a bit of a bumpy road, particularly for younger readers. Perhaps Charley's lapse into what could be brogue ("Them's me beauties / they go fast / How I loves 'em- / DRAT IT! BLAST!) isn't accidental at all. Possibly the occasional odd turn of phrase (Six-horse stagecoach / Bounds along / Charley reins up / Flicks a thong) isn't really near-doggerel. In any case, this true-life tale of a woman masquerading all her life as a man-working, voting, joining men's associations and earning a reputation as the best at what s/he did-bears telling, and this offering may lead readers to Pam Mu-oz Ryan's Riding Freedom (1998), which tells it best, albeit for a little older audience. Gustavson's well-paced, rich oil-painting illustrations and a concluding time line add life and depth to the clip-clop content. (Picture book/nonfiction. 5-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582461847
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 6/1/2007
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 7 - 10 Years
  • Product dimensions: 11.12 (w) x 8.81 (h) x 0.41 (d)

Meet the Author

Author Verla Kay writes historical picturebooks in a special kind of poetry she calls "cryptic rhyme."This is her eighth book for children, two of which have been named Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People by the Children’s Book Council, and many of which have received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, and others. She and her husband, Terry, live in a little farming town in eastern Washington.

Adam Gustavson spent a whole lot of time doing research for this book, visiting horse farms and snuggling in with a stack of Old West books he’s had since second grade. He is a professional illustrator living in New Jersey with his wife, two sons, and an acute horse allergy. This is his eleventh book for children.

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