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Off Like the Wind!: The First Ride of the Pony Express Hardcover – February 16, 2010
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Basing his book, as much as possible, on scanty historical records (the author suggests that files may have been deliberately destroyed after the short-lived company’s collapse to prevent lawsuits), Spradlin re-creates the Pony Express’ first rides east from Sacramento and west from St. Joseph, Missouri—naming riders and horses when he can, and providing a composite of various Express riders’ adventures. Johnson heightens the drama with evocative full-bleed oils depicting riders galloping away from cheering crowds and snarling wolves, ducking an arrow, trudging through a snowstorm, and, in a particularly exciting scene, struggling not to go down amid stampeding buffalo. For collections that don’t already contain Gare Thompson’s Riding with the Mail (2007) or one of the plethora of similar titles, this makes a good introduction for budding fans of the Old West, and provides a stimulating prelude to more detailed histories, such as Tim McNeese’s The Pony Express: Bringing Mail to the American West (2009). An afterword, lists for further reading, a map, and a time line round out the book. Grades 3-5. --John Peters
About the Author
MICHAEL P. SPRADLIN is the author of several books for children and teens, including Walker's Texas Rangers: Legendary Lawmen and Daniel Boone's Great Escape, as well as the Youngest Templar series with Putnam. He lives with his family in Lapeer, Michigan. www.michaelspradlin.com
LAYNE JOHNSON has illustrated more than a dozen picture books for children, including the acclaimed Farmer George Plants a Nation. Mr. Johnson is also a frequent speaker in schools and libraries. When not painting, he loves spending time with his family, gardening, and traveling to historic sites. He lives in Texas. www.laynejohnson.com
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This venture soon became known as the Pony Express. The riders were pumped, the mail was ready, the stations were set up and they were ready to go. The first day began in St. Joseph Missouri on April 3, 1860. Johnny Fry was the first man in history to mount a pony with his mail pouch, a pouch that eventually would make its way to Sacramento, California on the back of a pony. These "small locked pouches called `mochilas'" would see a lot of excitement along their eleven-day journey. There were storms, "nervous buffalo" herds to avoid, marauding Indians, wolf packs, skittish ponies, and difficult terrain to travel. In this book you will read about these brave riders and their exciting historical journey to deliver the mail in record time.
This was a mesmerizing and exciting look at the first Pony Express riders and their historical first journey. If the reader looks carefully at the fantastic artwork when reading the story, he or she can almost feel the excitement of the trip. I loved the "cowboy" art because it captures a slice of Americana and the old West perfectly. The end pages have a timeline, an illustrated map of the route and one of a mochila. The author's note sheds more light on the history of the Pony express, a note that could provide a stepping stone to a student's report. There are also additional recommended book and website resources for the young reader to consider. This book provides a nice historical slice of the old West you might want to take a look at!