Hands down the only thing more resilient than our canine companions are children. Their optimism, willingness to laugh and ability to readily forgive are astounding. It can also be said there are a couple of things near and dear to their hearts. Their best friends are extremely important whether it's a real person, a pet, a stuffed animal or an imaginary being. If this pal should suddenly vanish, it's cause for a major ruckus. Also of value is their position in the family hierarchy, especially if they are a first child.
If the loss of this status as the only child should coincide with the disappearance of their best buddy, you might want to take cover. In her debut picture book author Maripat Perkins takes a look at this unwelcome scenario giving it an Old West slant. With the illustrations of Caldecott Honor winner (Flora and the Flamingo) Molly Idle Rodeo Red (Peachtree Publishers, March 1, 2015) is a rootin' tootin' romp.
I go by the name of Rodeo Red.
My best friend in all the world is my hound dog, Rusty.
To be perfectly clear Rusty is a faithful stuffed toy. The happiness shared by the duo is rudely interrupted by the arrival of none other than Sideswiping Slim, a baby brother. And wouldn't you know it; the girl's parents love this new guy.
Before long the rambunctious nature of Slim shows itself in ways contrary to the status quo. Rodeo Red makes every effort to offer advice on boundaries which are notoriously ignored. She is fit to be tied with the entire situation.
One day, though, this meddlesome desperado makes a serious mistake kidnapping Rusty. To make matters worse, the Sheriff and her Deputy (mom and dad) side with Sideswiping Slim. Rodeo Red even lands in the dreaded time-out chair after her lassoing attempt causes her brother to howl louder than any chorus of coyotes.
An entirely unforeseen delivery of something no cowgirl worth her spurs would ever find useful lights the tiniest spark of a red-hot plan. The newcomer never has a chance against the seasoned Rodeo Red. Yippee-i-o-ki-ay! It's time to head home.
By the time you've finished the third sentence in this story you will be firmly planted in life on a ranch. Author Maripat Perkins ropes you with her words and draws you into her story like a stray steer brought back to the herd. Rodeo Red is a gal who sees life through cowgirl eyes. Her determination and savvy will have you grinning from ear to ear. Trusty Rusty is one lucky hound dog. Here is a sample passage.
I eased up and tried to slip Rusty out real gentle-like, but Slim was squeezing that dog tighter than a greenhorn riding a bucking bronco.
I tugged and pulled, but it weren't no use.
"Dadburnit, Slim!" I hollered. "Give me back my dog!"
Well, that woke him up. He set to squawling like a fire truck heading to a wiener roast gone bad.
When it comes to facial expressions the characters drawn by Molly Idle, using Prismacolor pencil on paper, tell a story all their own with a look, lift of an eyebrow or a tilt of their head. You can easily tell with a glance at the front of the matching dust jacket and book case, there is trouble brewing. On the back a picture seen inside the book is featured. Rodeo Red has entered her bedroom as if she has just stepped into the local saloon, legs spread and arms stretched out to hold the doors open. A rustic dusty red provides the background for the opening and closing endpapers. Toy cows and a bull are scattered about on both pages with a meaningful addition in the back lower right-hand corner. Across the title page and verso Rodeo Red is riding her rocking horse with joyful abandon; Rusty at her back and her herd spread around her.
Idle varies her image sizes and framing depending on the narrative. Even though a picture might be edged with a fine red line, elements will appear outside the border. Her small vignettes depict passages of time. Two page illustrations, edge to edge, define turning points. At one particular spot she focuses entirely on the characters' faces and eyes; readers will pause as the characters ponder.
Careful readers will see words spelled in the toy blocks in the siblings' room. Not only are Rodeo Red and Sideswiping Slim appropriately attired befitting ranch residents but items in both their rooms signify a fascination with the west; a hanging horseshoe, a toy stagecoach, and a cactus clothes tree. You can't fail to notice the position of Rodeo Red's body in the timeout chair as she faces readers.
One of my favorite images is of Rodeo Red standing in the doorway to Slim's bedroom. The light behind her casts a long shadow toward his bed as he sleeps in dreamy bliss holding Rusty. The two are a study in contrast.
I've spent several days smiling whenever I read Rodeo Red written by Maripat Perkins with illustrations by Molly Idle. It's one of those read aloud books, you'll want to share over and over. I would pair it with other western favorites like Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads, Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy, Meanwhile Back At The Ranch, and Frog Trouble and Eleven Other Pretty Serious Songs.
To learn more about Molly Idle please follow the link attached to her name to access her website. She was interviewed at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast not once but twice by author and blogger, Julie Danielson. Molly Idle was interviewed by Matthew C. Winner, teacher librarian, at his Let's Get Busy Podcast. Peachtree Publishers has started a board at Pinterest, Rodeo Red's Roundup. If you want to have your own Rodeo Red's Roundup Peachtree Publishers have created a sixteen page event kit guide.