From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8–Since the death of their mother seven years earlier, Will, 15, has been responsible for his disabled twin. His desire to help on his father's ranch, ride off to the rodeo, prove himself as a man, and escape being his brother's caregiver is the pivot of the plot; the fact that Denny follows him, showing himself to be just as tenacious and stubborn as Will, drives the plot to another level. The unique bond shared by the boys is aptly described. Will is repelled by Denny and his needs, but he is also fiercely protective of him. He does get to the rodeo, and the description of his rides is exciting and realistic, bringing the arena to life. In the end, Will finally has a chance to talk to his father. Not all problems are resolved, but Nuzum leaves readers with the hope that both Will and Denny will be able to begin their lives as adults relatively unhampered by the past. The images of the stark 1940s Colorado countryside suffering from drought, and the wild animals that populate it, are clearly drawn with poetic turns of phrase. Characters, plot, and theme all combine to make a compelling story. Although Will is the narrator, readers also hear the voice of Denny through dialogue and through Will's projections of his brother's thoughts. Nuzum clearly knows her rodeo and she knows how to evoke a teen's ambivalent feelings toward a disabled sibling. A thoughtful, perceptive story, beautifully told.–Wendy Smith-D'Arezzo, Loyola College, Baltimore, MD
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Gr. 6-9. Since his mother's death, Will's job has been to look after his twin brother, Denny, who has Down syndrome. Their father's word is law on the ranch, and 15-year-old Will knuckles under as the story begins. But he soon devises an escape plan that leads toward the rodeo, and beyond, to spending his days as a cowboy without the responsibility of watching his brother. When Denny follows Will across the plains, that plan takes an unexpected twist, leading Will to confront the people he loves and hates most and forcing changes in all their lives. Set in Colorado in 1940, the novel transports readers to a vividly realized setting as the boys move across the country on horseback and encounter hazards from a poisonous snake to a swollen river. But external dangers are not the engine driving the plot. Will's frustration, determination, and flashes of anger give the story its momentum as he struggles to emerge from his childhood and finds no clear path toward becoming an adult. Part family tale, part adventure, part journey narrative, this coming-of-age story has an emotional core that will touch even readers who never dreamed of competing in a rodeo. An unusually fine first novel. Carolyn PhelanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved