They're Off!: The Story of the Pony Express

Overview

In 1860, with North and South about to be divided by war, East and West were united through an extraordinary venture — the Pony Express. Over the course of ten days in April, eighty riders and five hundred horses delivered mail between California and Missouri — a mission that took three weeks by stagecoach.
Although it existed for only a year and a half, the Pony Express remains a legendary chapter in American history and a symbol of the bold, adventurous character of the Old ...

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Overview

In 1860, with North and South about to be divided by war, East and West were united through an extraordinary venture — the Pony Express. Over the course of ten days in April, eighty riders and five hundred horses delivered mail between California and Missouri — a mission that took three weeks by stagecoach.
Although it existed for only a year and a half, the Pony Express remains a legendary chapter in American history and a symbol of the bold, adventurous character of the Old West. The spirit of the brave riders and their ponies is captured perfectly in Cheryl Harness's lively, brightly illustrated, and information-filled account.

Relates the history of the Pony Express from when it began to carry messages across the American West in April 1860 until the telegraph replaced it in October 1861.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Donna Freedman
A good idea, but a somewhat muddled result. Harness knows a lot of interesting facts, but not all of them will be as intriguing to kids as they are to adults. The book's biggest problem is the lack of a consistent storyline. It goes from historical treatise (how mail was previously delivered) to action tale (a confusing, name-and-location-choked description of that first historic ride) and then slogs through the Paiute War, U.S. mail contracts, investors' debts and tales of certain brave riders. Additionally, the illustrations overpower the words so much that older kids who could use this as a reference work may disdain it as a picture book for tots.
School Library Journal
Gr 1-4-A history of this unique form of mail delivery with an emphasis on the historical events leading up to, surrounding, and eventually causing the demise of the Pony Express, as well as an introduction to many of the people involved. Harness's text is involving and filled with lively detail. Her busy and elaborate illustrations also create a panorama of the age. Tidbits of information such as the definition of mochila are given in many hand-lettered asides in the pictures. A list of all 182 riders is appended, and a one-page pictorial presentation of happenings around the world at the time should help children get a broader historical perspective. While much of the material here is similar to that in Steven Kroll's Pony Express! (Scholastic, 1996), Kroll offers more of a close-up presentation, with less historical context. The high appeal of the subject matter suggests that there may be room on most library shelves for both titles. Readers of both books may be puzzled since Harness says the rider leaving Missouri was Johnny Fry, while Kroll says it was Bill Richardson. Kroll's note explains that there is disagreement on this matter; Harness doesn't mention it. Bibliographies in both titles are totally different as well.-Louise L. Sherman, Anna C. Scott School, Leonia, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
In a volume subtitled "The Story of the Pony Express," Harness (The Amazing Impossible Erie Canal, 1995, etc.) traces the exuberance and the debt that—for a brief period in 186061—blazed the mail west in ten short days, half the time it had taken by stagecoach. The historical context is planted around the venture: the rumblings of civil war, Lincoln's pending election, the upheaval of native lands as more settlers pressed westward. Harness also dwells on the youth and instincts of the riders, who battled weather and fatigue, and provides factual asides that can be pored over once the main story is known, e.g., a list of 182 names of riders (the last died in 1955, in New York City). When paired with Andrew Glass's The Sweetwater Run (p. 1399), about Bill Cody's stint with the Pony Express, this book will be ideal for units on the West, for it makes historical events fairly roar with immediacy.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689851216
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 7/1/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 603,762
  • Age range: 7 - 10 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 10.40 (h) x 0.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Cheryl Harness is an author-illustrator, speaker, sometime sculptor, and harmonica player. She has created many acclaimed historical picture books, including Ghosts of the Civil War, Ghosts of the White House, Ghosts of the 20th Century, Mark Twain and the Queens of the Mississippi, and Three Young Pilgrims. She lives in Independence, Missouri, with her Scottie, Maude, and her cats, Irene and Merrie Emma.

Cheryl Harness is an author-illustrator, speaker, sometime sculptor, and harmonica player. She has created many acclaimed historical picture books, including Ghosts of the Civil War, Ghosts of the White House, Ghosts of the 20th Century, Mark Twain and the Queens of the Mississippi, and Three Young Pilgrims. She lives in Independence, Missouri, with her Scottie, Maude, and her cats, Irene and Merrie Emma.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2005

    They're Off! Misses the Target

    I enjoyed reading the book for the most part because I love history. It was confusing at times because it jumped from here to there. The drawings were way to busy. I turned the page and my eyes were overwhelmed with all the details. I don't really understand the reason why all the sites were listed that the pony express riders used. I did learn a lot and if you needed information for a report on the Pony Express there is a lot of information given. I would have enjoyed the book more if there were some incidents that I am sure each rider dealt with. The ride was hard and long and the weather must have been awful. I would have loved to hear their viewpoints.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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