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Stagecoach Sal
     

Stagecoach Sal

by Deborah Hopkinson, Carson Ellis (Illustrator)
 
Sal sure can sing. But she can also catch a fish with her bare hands, ride a wild bronco, and drive a stagecoach. And she's nobody's fool. When Sal makes her first stagecoach journey alone to deliver the mail for her sick pa, her ma is nervous. But the wild frontier is no match for Sal, and neither is Poetic Pete, the wiliest stagecoach robber in the West.

Overview

Sal sure can sing. But she can also catch a fish with her bare hands, ride a wild bronco, and drive a stagecoach. And she's nobody's fool. When Sal makes her first stagecoach journey alone to deliver the mail for her sick pa, her ma is nervous. But the wild frontier is no match for Sal, and neither is Poetic Pete, the wiliest stagecoach robber in the West.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A healthy dose of pioneer sass helps young Stagecoach Sal nab a notorious thief without firing a shot—she takes Poetic Pete (“the most polite bandit in all of California”) onto the seat beside her, sings him to sleep and delivers him to jail. Hopkinson’s (Home on the Range) winner of a tale is inspired by a historical figure (whose biography is supplied in an afterword), but the story of Sal’s all-night singing marathon is Hopkinson’s own. Ellis’s (The Composer Is Dead) artwork forms an unexpected but effective counterpoint to Hopkinson’s rambunctious prose. Delicate watercolors make the spreads light and limpid, and precise brown ink lines keep the doll-like figures of Sal, her parents and the pioneer landscape under firm control, the kind of restraint seen in embroidered samplers. It’s a counterweight to Sal’s bombast: “Why, I’m a gal who can plug a nickel from as far as I can see it, and shoot out a rattler’s rattles if I care to.” Loving parents give Sal lots of freedom, and she runs—make that rides—with it; she’s a charismatic role model of American pluck. Ages 4–7. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Beverley Fahey
There is nothing that Sal likes to do more than help her Pa with his stagecoach route. She helps collect the fares, keep the "grown-ups from brawling and the babies from bawling." She finally gets her chance to drive solo—with her feet not even touching the floorboards—when her Pa is injured. As Sal sets out, her ma worries that she may encounter that no-good outlaw Poetic Pete who conducts his holdups in rhyme. When she picks up a stranded, fancy dressed passenger she is not fooled at all. Inviting him to ride shotgun, Sal regales him in a booming voice with all the songs she knows from Polly Wolly Doodle to Sweet Betsy From Pike. Verse after verse she sings until she is hoarse and puts Poetic Pete to sleep. As morning dawns, she pulls up in front of the jailhouse and leads the desperado inside. This is a rollicking, lively tale with a spunky heroine sure to bring a smile to the lips of the reader. While the story has the feel of a tall tale, it is inspired by the true adventures of Delia Haskett Rawson, the first and possibly only woman stagecoach drive to deliver U.S. mail. Pen-and-ink with watercolor illustrations in sepia with touches of red and green lend an air of the old West. Just like the jarring stagecoach ride, the text bounces and winds its way across the pages and begs to be read aloud. For kids not familiar with these old chestnuts, there is a website listed to hear Sal's favorite songs. Here is a wonderful addition to units about Westward Expansion and Women in History. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey
School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—Spunky Sal loves to ride shotgun on her father's stagecoach. Perched there, she loves to sing to her dad, the horses, and the passengers. When an unfortunate encounter with a hornet's nest sidelines him, Sal finally gets her chance to "hold the ribbons." But her first solo trip entails a mail delivery with no passengers, and Ma and Pa are worried that she might encounter that no-good bandit "Poetic Pete," whose robberies are famous for their polite and rhyming verse. Sure enough, when Sal encounters the fancy-suited outlaw she must use her talents to outsmart the smooth-tongued desperado before he has a chance to steal her cargo. This high-spirited tale of a young heroine begs for an energetic read-aloud punctuated with song (and a well-placed pioneer accent). Sal is an engaging, adventuresome character sure to delight readers with her gutsiness and determination. The text is written in an exaggerated caricature style interspersed with period songs. Ellis's ink drawings washed in sepia-toned watercolor convey a daguerreotype feel, and the depiction of pigtailed Sal is delightful. A refreshing addition to a unit on Western migration, Wells Fargo, or heroic females in history.—C. J. Connor, Campbell County Public Library, Cold Spring, KY
Kirkus Reviews
Sally, so small her feet don't reach the floorboards of her Pa's stagecoach, loves to ride and sing (and she can shoot, too). When an encounter with a hornet's nest leaves only Sal to drive the mail, she sets off with no fear of Poetic Pete, the polite, versifying robber. When she encounters him, she invites him to ride shotgun with her and keeps him from speaking at all by singing "Sweet Betsy from Pike" and "Polly Wolly Doodle," then neatly cuffs him after he falls asleep. Both the text and the typefaces are as bouncy and lively as the songs and the story, skittering up, down and around the pages. Ellis's art places primitive-looking figures and landscape on white backgrounds so they float in space, as do pigtails, hats, luggage, feet-nothing is ever firmly planted. The images thus echo the rollicking text, which begs to be read aloud. Based on the real Delia Haskett Rawson, the first and possibly only woman to carry the U.S. mail by stagecoach in California, the story has a wonderful energy and verve. (author's note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781423111498
Publisher:
Disney-Hyperion
Publication date:
09/01/2009
Pages:
40
Product dimensions:
9.80(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.50(d)
Lexile:
AD740L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 7 Years

Meet the Author

Deborah Hopkinson is the author of many acclaimed books for children, including Apples for Oregon, an ALA Notable book and a Golden Kite Award-winner, and Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, winner of the IRA award. She lives in Oregon.

Carson Ellis is best known for her work on the album covers of rock band The Decemberists. She also illustrated The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and son.

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