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*Dust Devil* by Anne Isaacs, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
Also illustrated and/or written by Paul O. Zelinsky:

Toys Meet Snow

Toys Come Home: Being the Early Experiences of an Intelligent Stingray, a Brave Buffalo, and a Brand-New Someone Called Plastic

Awful Ogre Running Wild

The Wheels on the Bus (Pop-up Books)

Toy Dance Party

Toys Go Out

Click here for the interview with children's picture book author and illustrator Paul O. Zelinsky
Dust Devil
by Anne Isaacs, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
Ages 5-9 48 pages Schwartz and Wade September 2010 Hardcover    

Climb aboard Isaacs and Zelinsky’s newest collaborative picture book, Dust Devil, for an original tall tale of the Old West as the story of the giantess Angelica Longrider continues.

The book begins where the first story of Angelica, Swamp Angel, left off. Angel has grown too big for Tennessee and moved west to Montana, “a country so sizeable that even Angel could fit in.” Her first problem is that the sun wakes her up too early in the morning, so she looks to the Rocky Mountains in the west, grabs the tallest mountain peak and sets it down in her yard for shade. Soon her neighbors want their own shade mountains, and every time she sets one down, she says “that’s a beaut.” To this day, stand-alone peaks in Montana are called buttes.

One day, a powerful dust storm begins to ravage the state. When it reaches Angel’s house, she jumps right on and attempts to tame the storm by digging her feet into the ground. Today that trench is known as the Grand Canyon. When the rain finally settles the dust, right in the middle of the storm, Angel discovers that she has been riding a horse which she names Dust Devil.

Soon after the storm, one of the biggest, baddest outlaws in the entire West and his gang of friends start to rob and terrorize the entire state. Backward Bart and his Flying Desperados ride giant mosquitoes which fly faster than any man on horseback and have already beaten the sheriff’s men with their stingers. Backward Bart himself is quite the character, doing everything from talking and walking to flying backward, because when he was just a youngster in a baby carriage he frightened people so much that the mayor forbid him to show his face in public.

Angel and Dust Devil pursue the bandits and eventually lure them back to the jail. On the way, the bandits lose their teeth and create the Sawtooth Range, while their fillings roll down the mountains to California, initiating the Gold Rush - but that’s another story.

This amusing, imaginative tall tale can stand on its own, but is even better after having read Swamp Angel. Isaacs’ folksy storytelling voice reads as if the story is being told by the campfire. Dust Devil is a wonderful read-aloud for middle elementary readers, a perfect complement to Paul Bunyan and a terrific mentor text for students who are writing their own tall tales explaining natural landmarks and other phenomena.

Zelinksy’s folk-art painted illustrations are all set against a wood grain background. The layout varies as the reader turns the pages, with two-page spreads interspersed with one-page scenes within oval frameworks. All the pictures extend the stories, adding additional details and building an atmosphere of the exciting Wild West.

Most beguiling are the paintings of Angel; Zelinsky captures her sheer size in relation to her environment. The perspectives are astonishing as Angel hops onto the dust storm with one foot in the foreground and her little dog riding along on her toe. Oftentimes, the illustrations on just one spread convey a sense of movement through time, with multiple pictures of Angel in pursuit of the bad guys.

The villains riding mosquitoes and the physical comedy of Backward Bart and his gang of outlaws combines with the tall tale genre to create an engaging story which is sure to bring a smile and a laugh to any reader’s face. Highly recommended.

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  Kristine Wildner/2011 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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