Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Last Ride of Caleb O'Toole by Eric Pierpoint

The Last Ride of Caleb O'Toole by Eric Pierpoint
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
ISBN: 978-1402281716
Published Sept 3, 2013
Paperback, 304 pages
Ages: 9-12

I was surprised by how much I liked this book. I couldn't put it down. It's packed with Wild West action and adventure and plenty of emotions. The story starts with a bang and doesn't let up until the last page.

Caleb O'Toole is a twelve year old boy who just lost his father to cholera. His mother is now dying from it and a group of religious zealots are burning the houses where cholera has struck to cast out the evil. On the night his younger sister Tilly runs out in the street to look for their dog Tumble, Caleb goes searching for her and witnesses the Blackstone brothers coldheartedly killing some townsfolk. Another mysterious rider is seen at the scene of the crime, but he escapes and becomes wanted for these murders.

Before Caleb's mother dies that very night she tells her children, Caleb, Tilly and their older sister Julie to go to their aunt who has a ranch in the Bitteroot mountains. The orphaned and grief-stricken children leave that very night with their wagon and horse Dusty to begin a journey of three and a half months over 1300 treacherous miles that will test their wits, strength and courage. They experience a flash flood, Indian raids, sickness, theft, injuries, kidnapping and intense fear as they are pursued by the Blackstone brothers.

They also experience the kindness of the Pawnee Indians and meet a cast of wonderful characters, some of which are based on real life, such as Blue Hawk, and chiefs Sitting Bull and Touch the Clouds. Caleb learns to ride a war horse and can shoot while riding. The children build character and become adept at survival skills. Caleb feels responsible for the well-being of his sisters and in little time becomes the man of the family. Julie is inspired by Dr. Sullivan and is soon helping to nurse others they meet on the journey. Little Tilly is adorable and charming.

There is so much I loved about this book. It's a story about an orphan trio of siblings who must learn to survive on their own as they trek to find their aunt. They are good kids who sacrifice much for each other and also for others. They are proactive and face their fears. The author seemlessly includes many historic events in the story that is full of suspense, heart-pounding action and intense moments. I learned a lot about the Oregon Trail and the Wild West.

This is a great well-written Western book that keeps the reader engaged throughout. I rooted for the O'Toole kids and wondered many times how they would get out of certain situations. I also admired them for taking charge of their lives after their parents died, and it made me think of all the orphaned children out there. This is a beautiful story. I am Eric Pierpoint's newest fan.

Note: This book is rated V = violence (moderate). The story doesn't gloss over what life was like in the Wild West and includes scenes of violence such as shooting, killing, gambling scuffles, hanging, and Indian battles but does not include gory details. Caleb learns to use a gun to hunt and to protect his family. I began to read the first few chapters of this book with my 9 year-old son and he found there was too much death. The scene where the mother dies is heartbreaking. Some sensitive children may find some scenes too intense.

Reviewed by Laura

Disclosure: Thanks to Sourcebooks Jabberwocky for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

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