From School Library Journal
Grade 3–6—Hot on the heels of How to Get Rich on the Oregon Trail
(National Geographic, 2009), Texas Cattle Drive
is the firsthand account of fictional A.J. "Little John" Larken's year as a wrangler on the Texas Range in the late 1800s. With tongue-in-cheek humor, an editor's note at the outset purports that the "manuscript" was rescued from the lining of a pet prairie-dog cage and further issues a disclaimer for any fun sustained while reading the "tremendously educational" pages that follow. Larken's observations and adventures include working for a not entirely honest ranch manager, interacting with ornery settlers in sod houses, and witnessing the Cheyenne Exodus. Ultimately, at the end of his drive and with the coming of the railroad and the fencing of the land, Little John joins up with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. Everyone is out to make a buck in this rough and tumble environment, Larken being no exception, and he records his income and expenses on an antique-looking ledger on various pages. A list of further reading and online resources are accompanied by a two-page "Encyclopedia of the Texas Cattle Drive" that defines historical figures and unusual words used within the text. Richly illustrated with a mix of historically authentic lithographs and "Little John Larkens's" illustrations, this book is a colorful and entertaining introduction to the period.—Madeline J. Bryant, Los Angeles Public Library
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After doling out sage advice in How to Get Rich in the California Gold Rush (2008) and How to Get Rich on the Oregon Trail (2009), the series looks at one of the more iconic careers in the Old West, the cowboy. Now, you might think that herding cattle isn’t the shrewdest way to make a fortune, and you might just be right. But that doesn’t make it any less fun to read about, and this book provides one of the better true-to-life insider accounts of what happens on a cattle drive: why the cattle are being driven, where they’re being driven to and from, and the multitude of daily chores and unforeseen obstacles along the way. Period photos and artwork, as well as original drawings, make for a lively design, and an ongoing ledger keeps track of the main character’s mostly modest finances. Oh, and the way to get rich turns out to be getting hired as a showman by Buffalo Bill and selling a book about it, so this will probably keep little wranglers’ expectations in check. Grades 4-8. --Ian Chipman