The Last Rainmaker

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Overview

Caroline Long discovers the family she never knew existed when she runs away and joins Shawnee Sam’s Wild West Extravaganza. “The Wild West show milieu and the effect it has on the Indians who work in it ring true, and readers will empathize with the eternal struggle of a teenager trying to find her place in the world.”-Booklist

Abandoned by her father, thirteen-year-old Caroline runs away to join Shawnee Sam's Wild West ...

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Overview

Caroline Long discovers the family she never knew existed when she runs away and joins Shawnee Sam’s Wild West Extravaganza. “The Wild West show milieu and the effect it has on the Indians who work in it ring true, and readers will empathize with the eternal struggle of a teenager trying to find her place in the world.”-Booklist

Abandoned by her father, thirteen-year-old Caroline runs away to join Shawnee Sam's Wild West Extravaganza in the hope of learning more about her mother, a performer who died in childbirth and whose origins have been kept a secret from Caroline.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Donna Freedman
This adventurous full-length novel has an ordinary premise (girl discovers family secrets after the death of a relative) with an extraordinary setting: the wild-west shows that were once as popular as the circus. Thirteen-year-old Caroline finds that her long-dead mother was not a noble Italian lady, but was in fact a Native American trick rider in Shawnee Sam's Wild West Extravaganza. Being part Indian was not something Caroline's family wanted anyone to know, since at the turn of the century, Indians were only slightly less loathed than blacks. In fact, prejudice rears its ugly head toward both groups at different times in the narrative. This could make for some interesting discussions, since Caroline is initially horrified to learn of her lineage, and although she is friendly with black servants, she also mirrors society's attitude toward them in both word and deed. The writing is at times melodramatic, but perhaps Garland is only trying to mimic the breathless, overwrought style of the era.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8Life becomes intolerable for 13-year-old Caroline Long when her beloved grandmother dies, leaving the girl in the care of her cruel Aunt Oriona. When Caroline's long-absent father arrives and takes her away, she discovers that he plans to let Oriona adopt her for $10,000, and the girl runs away to become a performer in Shawnee Sam's Wild West Extravaganza. While learning to be a trick rider, she befriends Crooked Feather, a teenage Indian boy, and Old Billy Big Tree, reportedly the last Indian rainmaker; with their help Caroline searches for the truth about her mysterious mother. She learns that the woman was a performer in the show and that she is half Indian. The overall theme of discovering one's heritage is enough to garner interest in the story, but the characters are stereotypes, the plot is manipulative, and the dialogue is stilted. Caroline's betrayal by her father is so total as to be unbelievable, and it serves to alienate rather than to affect readers. The inclusion of several pedantic lectures by Crooked Feather on the fate of Indians in the late 19th century impedes the story even more. Katherine Paterson's Jip, His Story (Dutton, 1996) is a much better exploration of this theme.Linda Bindner, Athens Clarke County Library, GA
Kirkus Reviews
The usually understated Garland (Letters from the Mountain, 1996, etc.) resorts to melodrama throughout this tale of a girl's search for identity.

With the death of her grandmother, Caroline Long, 13, finds herself in the middle of a power struggle between her no-good, often-absent father, Jackson, and her grandmother's twin sister, Aunt Oriona. Caroline entrusts herself to Jackson's care, only to be shipped off to a cousin's home without him. For most of her life, Caroline has tried to find out about her mother, who died in childbirth. Now cousin Mattie tells Caroline the truth—she is the illegitimate offspring of her father and a beautiful Indian woman who performed 14 years ago in Shawnee Sam's Wild West show. When Caroline overhears her father, Aunt Oriona, and Mattie plot her final custody (Aunt Oriona is paying Jackson off and Mattie wants a piece of the action), she runs off with Shawnee Sam's Wild West show, hoping to learn more about her mother. "Disguised" as an Indian, she soon understands how badly the Native Americans are being treated; she also locates her mother's father—her grandfather. Garland gives Caroline a "shattered" heart and the "bitter gall of betrayal" she needs to run off, then peppers her heroine's path with contrivances. The book is enlivened by the behind-the-scenes life of the Wild West show and some insights into what it was like to be a Native American in white society in the 1800s.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780152006525
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 5/15/1997
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Age range: 13 years
  • Lexile: 970L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 6.87 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

SHERRY GARLAND is the author of many award-winning novels and picture books, including Indio, The Last Rainmaker. She lives in central Texas. www.sherrygarland.com

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2008

    A reviewer

    When i started to read this book i was a little shakey on the whole thing. But as i went through the book i relized how well this was written. it is an old westren book with an old westren girl who moves to the big town, finds out about her mother who died while giving birth to caroline and now she is trying to find out about her. its good. im not finished but so far its awsome.

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