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Black Storm Comin' Hardcover – July 5, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6-10 -In 1860, Colton Wescott, 12, is determined to keep his Sacramento-bound family alive and heading west. His distraught white father abandons the family after accidentally shooting his son; the wagon master has ordered the mixed-race family to leave the wagon train; his freed-slave mother is sick from childbirth; and his two sisters cling to Colton in hopes of survival. When they finally arrive in Chinatown, 12 miles outside Carson City, NV, a sign for Pony Express riders captivates Colton, who lies about his age, passes for white, demonstrates his horse-handling skill, and is hired for the dangerous ride over the mountains. When he is injured in a fall, he loses his job but decides to take matters into his own hands. Eschewing the superintendent's orders and Pony Express protocol, he grabs the mail, rides his own temperamental horse, and heads for Sacramento, knowing he might be carrying news of two subversive plots "to blow up some forts and steal some ammunition" and to assassinate Presidential candidate Lincoln. Heroically, Colton delivers the mail, finds his mother's runaway sister, and gives her precious legal papers proving her freedom. Colton is determined, reflective, and courageous in his vivid, vernacular descriptions of moral dilemmas, treacherous trails, and exhaustion. Based on historical facts and footnotes, this fictional account offers an appealing, energetic, and provocative look at racial issues across America, the remarkable but short-lived scheme of Pony Express service, the fortitude of its riders, and the courage of one boy who stands up for family, himself, and his beliefs.-Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 7-10. On a wagon train headed to California, Colton is left to care for his family after his father accidentally shoots him and then runs off in horror. His mixed race family (Pa was white; Ma is black) is harassed, ignored, and finally abandoned by their fellow travelers, but Colton still manages to lead his mother and siblings to the eastern side of the Sierra Nevadas before Ma's illness stops them. Ma entrusts Colton with her sister's freedom papers and begs him to deliver them to Sacramento, their ultimate destination. To meet her request, Colton joins the Pony Express--a job that brings further hardship and danger as Colton braves the coming winter to carry the mail on its final leg into California. Set in 1860, with the pending Civil War as its backdrop, Wilson's novelsubtly exposes the dangers of being mixed race in a volatile society. Wilson masterfully creates a multidimensional character in Colton, who possesses both youthful impetuousness and the wisdom of a man who has seen too much sadness for his young years. Societal barriers, played out larger than life in Colton's heart and mind, are the ultimate strength of this story. Readers will absorb greater lessons as they become engrossed in the excitement, beauty, and terror of Colton's journey to California and manhood. Frances Bradburn
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 860L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry (July 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689871376
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689871375
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,692,503 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Cheryl Ann Reed on June 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Based on Wilson's research about the pony express, this story is filled with fascinating facts and tidbits about the old west. But what is so delightful is the intensity of the story, excellent horsemanship, and relationship of a small boy and his horse. It kept me on the edge the whole time. The young protagonist is also bi-racial, adding an interesting twist and subtheme to the entire story. I learned much about the pony express and its riders, as well as the challenges of being bi-racial in early America.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ann Jordan on June 22, 2007
Format: Paperback
A 12-year-old boy, Colton, tries to get a job with the Pony Express in this unusual "western". There are no Indians in the story, but race plays a part with the hero as a son of a white man and a free black woman, but who can pass for white. The family is moving west with a wagon train but is beset by the troubles of the trail--no doctors, difficult childbirth, broken wagon wheels, lack of food. A gun accident while in Nevada precipitates it all: the depressive father accidentally shoots the son in the leg, then takes off in apparent remorse, leaving the family to fend for itself. Racism is a theme of the story, but it is also about a boy's doggedness and the importance of cross-country communication on the eve of the Civil War. The prose is easy, in a colloquial style. Those who like horse stories and action-adventure will appreciate this one. I could hardly put this book down, and despite having to go to work I finished it in less than 24 hours. This book is heartily recommended, and should appeal especially to middle schoolers studying the pre-Civil War era as well as to horse enthusiasts, male or female. It would work well as a read-aloud for middle school, since the audience will be anxious to know how it turns out. It is devoid of love interests, but despite that it should serve a high school audience well, too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By bhr on October 31, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I'm not usually a fan of westerns. I don't get that whole prairie, horse, dirt thing that many find appealing.

But this story is not a typical western.

It's the story of a 12 year old boy and his family - a 12 year old who's forced to take responsibility for his family (an occurrance common enough in the past).

There's a lot of historical information and environmental vibes packed into this book - it fairly places you in the shoes of a biracial child who, quite guiltily, can pass for white in a time right before the civil war. It gives you an insight into the Pony Express - a wonderful group of kids who kept the country connected and informed.

In all, this is a good read, especially for young boys, which will open the mind and the heart.

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Judy A. Bernstein on October 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Like all of Diane Lee Wilson's books, we get some excellent historical background to a great story. Her characters are always interesting and nuanced, not the stock character so often found in young adult fiction. Her stories are set in interesting times and we always learn something we didn't know. In Black Storm Comin, we get an insiders look not only into the Pony Express but also the challenges faced by the bi-racial rider. And the horses! Wilson can write about horses like no one else - she's taking over where Marguite Henry left off. This is a great read and I look forward to her next one. I recommend it for any reader, young or old, male or female.
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Format: Paperback
The Black Storm Comin', by Diane Lee Wilson, is a tale about the aptly named Colton Westcott and his quest to provide for his colored mother and two sisters after his father left them after an accident on their way to California. With his ma sick, and no signs of his pa coming back for them, Colton is forced to veer off course and stop in Dayton until his ma is better, and they have enough supplies to continue. While looking for odd jobs around the town one day, Colton spots a poster for the Pony Express that reads, "WANTED. YOUNG, SKINNY, WIRY FELLOWS NOT OVER EIGHTEEN. MUST BE EXPERT RIDERS. WILLING TO RISK DEATH DAILY. ORPHANS PREFERRED." The job seemed perfect for a young man who thought he had nothing left to loose, so Colton ripped the poster down and prepared to leave for the location put on the poster, Carson City. His sisters, however, weren't quite as eager as he was about the job. Eventually he convinced them that he had an important favor to his ma that the job would help him fulfill this, and snuck off to Carson City that night.

After buying a horse and practically jumping through hoops to impress the man running the Pony Express office, Colton was given the job, and set off later that day. The path he rode was one of the hardest in the express; it took him on a trail winding through freezing mountains and down steep, narrow paths. But after a day of riding, he makes it to his destination.

The Black Storm Comin' is a good view of the time period it's set in, with interesting characters, and an a story that will keep you reading until the end. The book gives its readers an insight on how the Pony Express functioned as well, with details about the stations and changing horses.
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