For city slickers Todd and Amanda, the chance to spend a
week at their uncle’s ranch in Wyoming is fraught with equal
parts excitement and worry. The excitement part comes from
the chance to see and live the life of ranchers. The worry
part, particularly for ten-year-old Amanda, is having to
spend time away from their parents in an unfamiliar place.
The children soon get used to living in a rugged cabin
surrounded by vast expanses of nothing and enjoy hobnobbing
with their cousin Drew.
Max Elliot Anderson sets up the rapidly unfolding plot
by means of several action packed set pieces. The ranch is
in the imminent danger of being hit upon by rustlers who
have mounted a big-scale operation in the area. Adding to
the intrigue is the character of Travis, a young ranch
worker with a troubled past who may or may not be helping
the rustlers. Anderson maintains the suspense till the very
end and offers a very believable and satisfying denouement.
There is an interesting subtext in the story that adds a
particular nuance to the book. As twelve-year-old Todd
uncovers Travis’ past and attempts to find evidence to link
the ranch hand’s involvement with the rustlers, he sees a
parallel between his own actions and those of the villains.
For Todd is not a pristine child. He has a habit of running
with the wrong crowd at school and has broken the law
several times, albeit through minor trespasses. He has never
been caught but carries the guilt with him to Wyoming.
Anderson juxtaposes the motives of the rustlers with that of
Todd and allows the young boy to resolve it in a brave and
courageous way. Since the book is targeted to young readers,
the resolution of a typical dilemma – does one go with the
crowd even when the crowd is doing something wrong? – is
sure to strike a chord. Anderson’s adventure story goes
beyond the mundane by confronting head on basic moral issues
faced by children.