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Off like the wind! : the first ride of the pony express
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Trade Reviews
School Library Journal Review
Gr 2-5-This colorful and accessible picture book recounts the day-to-day adventures of Pony Express riders on the first transcontinental mail delivery system, from St. Joseph, MO, to Sacramento, CA. The book opens with a map of the overland route, a time line of major events in the Express's short-lived history (1860-1861), and a quote from Mark Twain's Roughing It. On the unprecedented journey, which took roughly 11 days, riders faced extremes in weather, buffalo stampedes, wolves, and encounters with Native tribes. The straightforward text in combination with the larger-than-life panoramic oil spreads capture the romance, excitement, and danger that riders experienced along the trail. An author's note explains that truth and legend are often intertwined when researching the Pony Express due to the destruction of records upon the cessation of service. Balancing the right amount of information with lively narrative, this book could easily be used in a history unit or as a general interest title.-Madeline J. Bryant, Los Angeles Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Booklist Review
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.--Peters, John Copyright 2010 Booklist
Horn Book Review
Spradlin describes, day by day, the first eleven-day run of the Pony Express, starting on April 3, 1860. The enterprise required planning, stamina, bravery, and multiple skills, all of which the detailed oil illustrations show in darkish hues. After a brief introduction, the text uses present tense to describe the daily challenges of the riders. Endpapers feature a map and timeline. Reading list, websites. Bib. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Review
In this rousing, as-historically-accurate-as-possible recreation of the Pony Express's first ride, Spradlin introduces readers to the crazy-wild brainchild of three businessmen to expedite mail over the near-2,000 miles from St. Joseph, Mo., to Sacramento, Calif. Accompanied by Johnson's artwork, which has the energy of rolling thunder and the colors of a sunset, and with an engaging sense of drama and urgency, the author follows the riders over the varied landscapes they covered, through the heavy weather they encountered and past the occasional hostile reception they received from Native Americans (though his bell-clear author's note clarifies that hostilities were rare). When he can introduce factual materialthe names of riders, the number and character of station stops, the price of $5 for 1/2 ouncehe does so with a light hand to keep the pedagogy at a distance. For all its iconic status, the Pony Express lasted for only a year and a half before the transcontinental telegraph drew a sleeve across its windpipe, but it was an inventive enterprise full of bodacious frontier spirit, which this book plays to the hilt. (bibliography, further reading, map, timeline) (Informational picture book. 7-10) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

In 1860, the first Pony Express rider set out on a trail from Missouri to California. With him, he carried a special delivery'the first mail ever carried by hand to the West. Over the next eleven days, he and many other riders would endure harsh weather, dangerous animals, and more, but nothing would diminish their unflagging determination and courage.
Meticulously researched and gorgeously illustrated, Michael P. Spradlin and Layne Johnson's Off Like the Wind! brings to life an adventurous journey, full of suspense and excitement, that celebrates America's can-do attitude and pioneering spirit.

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