The Ride: The Legend of Betsy Dowdy


One brave girl, one strong pony, one desperate ride to deliver a crucial message that would change the course of American history. Betsy is the girl power answer to Paul Revere.

Repeated for over two hundred years as an oral tradition, the legend of Betsy Dowdy is a classic American tale of a girl who simply believed she could be free. Inspired by the danger and daring of this ordinary North Carolinian girl, THE RIDE is a story about stepping up to help the cause you believe in,...

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One brave girl, one strong pony, one desperate ride to deliver a crucial message that would change the course of American history. Betsy is the girl power answer to Paul Revere.

Repeated for over two hundred years as an oral tradition, the legend of Betsy Dowdy is a classic American tale of a girl who simply believed she could be free. Inspired by the danger and daring of this ordinary North Carolinian girl, THE RIDE is a story about stepping up to help the cause you believe in, doing even what little you can, and building the United States of America.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A folk heroine from the Revolutionary War, crimson cape swirling behind her, races across the pages of this thrilling historical tale. The year is 1775, and teenage Betsy Dowdy secretly sets off on an all-night horseback journey to alert colonial militia to the British advance upon her North Carolina island home. Most spreads depict Betsy atop her horse, Bess, dashing through dark marshlands or dense forests. Swirls of deep royal and swaths of magenta evoke the eerie nighttime setting ("Through the trees Betsy saw moonlight reflect off a pair of staring eyes. She gripped the hilt of her knife. Was it a bear?"). Griffin's (The Foot-Stomping Adventures of Clementine Sweets) direct yet descriptive narrative recounts the calamities that befall Betsy, while the characters' cartoon styling lessens the tension. Priceman's (How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A.) trademark free-flowing lines speed the story's momentum, with winding ribbons of color pulling Betsy--and readers--along a treacherous path. Author notes remind that this is only a legend, but on these pages, the perilous ride and courageous girl who undertook it feel very real. Ages 4-8. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Della A. Yannuzzi
According to legend, in 1766 a young North Carolina girl named Betsy Dowdy wanted freedom from England, and decided to help it along. When Betsy's father announced that the redcoats were marching to the Great Bridge to capture supplies and ponies, Betsy knew she had to warn the freedom fighters. The militia's camp was fifty miles away so Betsy rode her horse Bess to the camp. They plunged into rough cold channel water, rode through spooky marshland, and fought off wild dogs. When Betsy finally reached the river, she begged Mr. Lamb to take her and Bess across the river on his raft. When Betsy reached dry land, she rode as fast as Bess would take her. She fought off sleep until it overcame her and she hit a tree bough that knocked her to the ground. Bess pawed the ground as Betsy climbed right back onto her horse. She rode and rode until the morning light washed away the darkness and she had reached General Skinner's camp. She told the General what the redcoats were planning to do. The General called Betsy a "remarkable woman," but she answered, "I just know how to ride." Seven months later after Betsy's ride, the American colonies united and claimed their freedom from England. The illustrations complement the text as they capture the dangerous journey of Betsy and her horse. Back material includes an Author's Note and Acknowledgments. Reviewer: Della A. Yannuzzi
School Library Journal
Gr 1–4—"She couldn't stop King George. She couldn't fight as a soldier. But she could ride." That refrain echoes throughout this gripping tale of a girl's courageous effort to alert Colonial troops to an impending attack on the barrier island of Currituck, NC. Although there is no proof that Betsy Dowdy really existed, her story is part of a long oral tradition, and whether truth or legend, it is inspirational. Upon hearing that Lord Dunmore's Redcoats are on their way, most likely to commandeer their supplies and the ponies her father keeps, Betsy determines to get word to General Skinner 50 miles away. Dressed in breeches, she mounts her beloved pony, Bess, and undertakes the long and hazardous journey to Skinner's camp, braving freezing water, packs of dogs, and the possibility of highwaymen along the way. Griffin's writing is nicely paced, galloping along much as Bess does. Priceman's signature swirling backgrounds and slightly off-kilter perspectives also help maintain the dramatic tension. This riveting read-aloud captures the spirit and determination of that journey to liberty fought so long ago.—Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ
Kirkus Reviews

It's 1775 and the people of North Carolina want freedom from England's rule, but "[w]hen sixteen-year-old Betsy Dowdy heard Papa talk about war approaching, she felt as helpless as a ghost crab skittering along the sand." The legendary Betsy of Currituck (her existence has never been proven) isn't helpless, though. She promptly saddles up her pony Bess and rides all night--50 miles over hill and dale--to warn General Skinner's militia about the incoming redcoats. In what may be the most Fauvist depiction of colonial America ever, Priceman's splendidly untamed gouache-and-ink spreads reflect the menacing inevitability of war with fiery oranges and the red-cloaked Betsy's phantasmagorical nighttime ride in deep blues and purples. Perspectives are distorted, buildings topsy-turvy, eyes of human and beast are wild and wide--even the sharp-toothed river fish look agitated, as in a crazy nightmare. The muddled story--more odd, atmospheric drama than history lesson--may just end up unsettling readers, though, despite the trumpeting clarity of its made-for-radio-voice refrain: "She couldn't fight as a soldier. But she could ride." (stylized map, author's note)(Picture book. 6-8)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416928164
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 8/31/2010
  • Pages: 30
  • Sales rank: 701,133
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD510L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.90 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Marjorie Priceman has won Caldecott Honors for her illustrations in ZIN! ZIN! ZIN! A VIOLIN by Lloyd Moss and HOT AIR: THE (MOSTLY) TRUE STORY OF THE FIRST HOT-AIR BALLOON RIDE, which she also wrote. She lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

Kitty Griffin was born in Germany and adopted by Americans. She has traveled from one end of the USA to the other, living at twenty-eight different “permanent” addresses, with much of her childhood spent in Virginia. She has worked as a counselor, a mailman, a waitress, a secretary, and, of course, as a children’s book author. She teaches in the MFA Writing for Children program at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA. She lives in Washington County, Pennsylvania with her husband and assorted furry friends. She can also be found at

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