Book review: Last of the Name, by Rosanne Parry

Parry, Rosanne. Last of the Name. CarolRhoda, 2019. $17.99. 334p. ISBN 978-1-5415-41579-7. Ages 12-14. P6Q7

Left with only Granny as their family, 12-year-old Danny O’Carolan and his older sister Kathleen leave Ireland for New York alone after Granny dies during the voyage. Prejudice hits them from all directions—blacks for taking their jobs and whites for being Irish. Kathleen persuades Danny to dress as a girl to get a job, but he hates the way that he must dress. The Civil War draft riots leaves them without a job, a home, or money, but Danny’s connections from secretly raising money by dancing on the streets give them hope.

Verdict: Parry covers the historical angst of the times—poverty, bigotry, class inequality, slave work for the Irish as well as the black—plus the way that wealthy people buy their way out of the war draft. Danny’s and Kathleen’s lives are always unsatisfactory, and the angst sometimes becomes overwhelming.

May 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Let ‘er Buck!: George Fletcher, the People’s Champion, by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by Gordon C. James

Nelson, Vaunda Micheaux. Let ‘er Buck!: George Fletcher, the People’s Champion. Illus. by Gordon C. James. Carolrhoda. 2019. $18.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-5124-9808-0. Ages 8-11. P8Q8

Oil-on-board paintings match the conversational narration to chronicle the life of black cowboy George Fletcher who experienced both racism and kindness in Pendleton (OR) where he participated in the Northwest’s biggest rodeo. Most of the book concentrates on his show-stopping ride on the broncs in 1911. After his loss to competitors, white rancher John Spain and Nez Perce cowboy Jackson Sundown, from judges’ prejudice, Sheriff Tillman Taylor collected donations for prize money. Fletcher made more than the saddle he would have won.

Verdict: Faces in the paintings are rough enough to sometimes be indistinguishable. Yet the energy of the illustrations and poignant story overcome this problem. Nelson provides information about the main people in the book and chronicles the rest of Fletcher’s life when he found refuge on the Umatilla Indian Reservation. An inspiring tale complete with colloquial expressions about a man of color who faced the hatred of whites in the Old West.

April 2019 review by Nel Ward.