Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Tween Tuesday Book Review: Crosswire, by Dotti Enderle (Calkins Creek, 2010)
Release date: November, 2011
Texas author Dotti Enderle's newest novel, set in 1883 during a grueling drought, brings the excitement of the Texas frontier to today's young people. Thirteen year old Jesse and his family find themselves in the middle of a battle between farmers and free-range cattlemen; with water scarce, fence cutting became a common practice as cattlemen cut through farmers' barbed-wire fences in a desperate search for water for their herds. Sometimes bandits were hired to do the dirty work, and they often left threatening messages behind and even tortured animals to get their message across.
Jesse's family is being torn apart, between the vandalism on the farm from the fence-cutters and his brother Ethan's gambling. When Ethan steals the family's cash reserves to settle a gambling debt, their father disowns him and Ethan is forced to leave in disgrace, breaking their mother's heart. Jesse knows his father thinks he's a weakling; he's unable to shoot a gun since an earlier hunting accident where he had accidentally shot and killed his own dog. In one scene, Jesse's father comments that "this boy will never grow up."
When a mysterious stranger rides into town, Jesse's father hires him to help out on the farm. Jesse doesn't know what to make of Jackson Slater. Snooping around, Jesse discovers that Slater is keeping company with some rough men, and what's worse, he's hiding a pair of wire cutters and a fancy pistol in his living quarters. Is this mysterious stranger friend or foe, and can Jesse summon up the courage to help his family through this crisis?
This fast-paced, action-filled story, written in brief chapters, is narrated by Jesse in a colloquial tone, filled with colorful slang and expressions such as "I felt anger churning inside me like a tornado sweeping through the fields," or "dumber than a turkey." While I imagine it will especially appeal to Texas readers, this book will be enjoyed by anyone who likes an exciting Western story, filled with adventure, danger, and even the Texas Rangers.
At a quick-paced 135 pages, this book would be a good story to recommend for reluctant readers, particularly those looking for a historical or adventure title. The author includes an afterword with additional information on the history of the Texas Rangers, the introduction of barbed wire fencing, fence-cutters, and a brief bibliography.