Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Seasoned author Fleischman (The 13th Floor) returns with a spirited novel set against the California Gold Rush. Plucking a character out of historyJoaquín Murieta, an infamous 1850s Mexican outlawhe expertly crafts a fictionalized tale that takes a clear-eyed look at bigotry and racism, while steering away from the twin pitfalls of pedantry and sermonizing. Told from the point of view of Annyrose Smith, an orphan in search of her brother Lank, the story starts with a bang (she's swept off with the banditos) and never lets up its fierce pace. All the trademarks of one of Fleischman's rollicking yarns are here, from treachery aplenty and multiple cases of mistaken identity, to colorful rascalsall delivered with a double helping of humor (as when Annyrose attempts to teach the outlaw to read and he remarks, "They tell me my name starts with a J. Yes, I have seen that shape on wanted posters"). Fueled by brisk dialogue and lively descriptions ("my heart sounded like woodpeckers in my ears"), the story moves as swiftly as a whitewater stream, carrying readers along for an exhilarating ride. It's not all thundering hooves and gunfire, however. Fleischman also tucks in weightier issues, as Annyrose ruminates on such concepts as revenge, villainy and friendship while riding with the outlawwho, as it turns out, is hardly the bloodthirsty figure he's been painted to be. Food for thought packaged inside a most enticing adventure. Illustrations not seen by PW. Ages 8-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Fleischman (The Abracadabra Kid, 1996, etc.) tells a meandering but effective story of a Mexican outlaw and a spunky ``gringo'' girl. During the Gold Rush, when recently orphaned Annyrose, dressed as a boy, escapes from her brutal caretaker, she is taken in by the infamous bandit, Joaquín Murieta. He gives her food and protection in exchange for teaching him to read; he also helps Annyrose in her search for her brother, and she helps the bandit fake his death. Her loyalty to Joaquín is only tempered by her strong sense of ethics (in fact, her moral haranguing is constant); despite his great charm and unusual kindness he is, after all, a murderous outlaw (whose crimes occur mostly offstage). Based on the exploits of bandit Joaquín Murieta, this story wanders all over the map, literally and figuratively. What holds it together is the tense but warm relationship between Annyrose and Joaquín; Fleischman infuses their scenes with charm and offers plenty of excitement set in an intriguing historical period. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction. 8-12)
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