My children love the silliness of a tall tale and Dust Devil written by Anne Issacs and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky doesn’t disappoint though it is definitely a story you need to be in the right frame of mind to read.
Like many people who relocate, Angelica Longrider was homesick and kept comparing Montana to Tennessee. She really missed the shade provided by all the trees in Tennessee “where trees grow so thick that deer have to take off their antlers to get through the forest,” so she plucks the tallest mountain from the Rocky Mountains and puts it east of her ranch so the sun will stop waking her up to early. The seedlings she plants on the farm grow quickly enough to take things with them, like cows, which weren’t seen again until the fall. When a bad dust storm hits, she climbs onto the back of a whirlwind, accidentally creating the Grand Canyon with her heels as she tries to bring the storm under control. When the rain starts and the dust washes away, she discovers a horse in the middle of the whirlwind, sending of sparks of lightening every time he strikes his hooves together, just the right size for her to ride and just in time for Backward Bart and his Flying Desperadoes to arrive and start terrorizing the state. “Bart and the Desperadoes were too ornery for any self-respecting horse to carry. So they rode mosquitoes” which measured ten feet from mouth to tail, with stingers as long as swords. As someone who has been kept awake from the buzzing of mosquitoes, they certainly sound as if they’re ten feet long!
The language of the story including Backwards Bart’s inverted sentences made my boys giggle as we read about Angelica’s adventures and her efforts to tame a state that is known for its untameable rugged beauty. Montana is home to both Glacier National Park and Yellowstone, both of which are great places to visit with children and should be part of every family’s bucket list! -Including the geysers that were drilled by Bart’s mosquitoes…..