Gr 4-6-- Myers is an author worth keeping an eye on, for behind a decidedly unattractive jacket illustration a very fine first novel. Jessie, 12, is growing up in Oklahoma during the dust-bowl Depression. She is a strong child with wisdom beyond her years. When her young sister dies of pneumonia, she watches her father sink into a severe depression, making him lethargic and unreachable. Jessie comforts her mother and watches after her brother, H. J. When her aunt and uncle leave their farm to seek their fortune in California, she tries to make their nearly wild dog a pet. Ring is shot by a neighboring farmer, and Jessie sees a tie between the wounds the dog and her father suffer. This is a well-written, spare story. The waves of heat in late summer countryside emanate from the pages. Every member of this family comes to life, and the hard work and isolation on the farm are evident. Jessie and her brother's feelings are so real at times that readers will hurt with them. There is also humor in the actions of H. J. and down-to-earth dialogue and action. Coyotes and wild dogs add excitement that leads to a cliff-hanger climax. This is good historical fiction and a sensitive family story. Recommend it to Wilder fans, or for teachers to read aloud. --Susannah Price, Boise Public Library, ID
Told through the character of 12-year-old Jessie, Myers' story is a poignant tale of a Depression-era Oklahoma family struggling valiantly against hard times. When Jessie's younger sister dies of pneumonia, the emotional strain becomes too much for Papa, who sinks into a near-catatonic depression. Wise beyond her years, Jessie comforts her mother and brother, and hopes for her father's recovery. When her aunt and uncle move away to start fresh in California, Jessie becomes determined to tame and adopt their nearly wild dog, Ring. The children desperately need a pet that will respond to their love, and somehow Jessie equates taming Ring with her father's recovery. Both seem nearly impossible, yet her tenacity (which has earned her the nickname "Red-Dirt" Jessie, after the tough, red Oklahoma dirt that is almost impossible to wash off) compels her to try and ultimately helps her to succeed. An exceptional first novel, with inspiring characters and a gripping conclusion; pair it with Stanley's nonfiction title "Children of the Dust Bowl".