Saturday, December 15, 2007

Cybils Nonfiction Picture Book Nomination: Rough, Tough Charley

Title: Rough, Tough Charley
Author: Verla Kay
Illustrator: Adam Gustavson
Publisher: Tricycle Press, Berkeley
Source: received copy from publisher

I always enjoy reading about people of which I have never heard. So, when I received Verla Kay's telling of the life of Charley Parkhust, I was very pleased. Charley Parkhurst was one of those larger-than-life people of the Old West: a fearless and expert stagecoach rider.

We meet Charley wen he is a young boy-an orphan who is hiding in a stable. When found by the owner, the owner threatens to throw him out. Charley pleads with him, offering to help care for his horses. A deal is struck, and Charley gets down to business. Word of his expertise spreads quickly throughout the town, and Charley's services become in demand.

The West is need of able bodied workers, particularly stagecoach drivers. Unencumbered by familial ties, Charley sets out west. Once agai, Charley finds work, but it is not without suspicion and gossip. His rough ways and solitary nature creates gossip, but his reliable work wins and keeps admirers.

An accident causes Charley to lose an eye, but his work continues. Charley grows older, retires, and buys a home and a stage stop. He's not entirely solitary, since he joins a local lodge. Old age brings illness, and his friends ask him if he wants a doctor. Charley refuses, and he dies.

Upon his death, a major surprise is revealed. MAJOR. Skip to the second line of stars if you don't want to know.


Charley was a woman!


Told entirely in verse, this would make a good read aloud for a class as young as kindergarten. Illustrations of Charley riding and driving and the expanding west are crisp, clear, and lovely. Further facts about Charley are included at the end of the main text. Rough, Tough Charley would make a good addition to a horse or Old West unit.

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