Monday, August 11, 2008

The Misadventures of Maude March, or Trouble Rides a Fast Horse by Audrey Couloumbis

Main Characters: 11-year-old Sallie March and her 15-year-old sister Maude
Location: Iowa and Missouri
Time period: 1869
Genre: J Fiction, Historical Fiction, Western

This is a rollicking adventure that owes a lot to the dime novels that it gently pokes fun at. Sallie and Maude March are orphans being raised by their stern but loving Aunt Kate. Then comes the day when, leaving the general store, Aunt Kate is killed by a errant bullet fired in a drunken contest. The girls are taken in by the minister and his wife, who take advantage of the girls' willingness to work and of Aunt Kate's full pantry. But when they try to practically force Maude into a marriage with a much older man, Maude and Sallie decide to run away and try to find an uncle who was last heard of in Independence. Along the way, they have a series of adventures which get twisted out of recognition in the newspapers, which make Maude out to be a horse thief, a bank robber, and a murderer.

Sallie has long been a fan of dime novels, potboilers that were short on literary quality or accuracy but long on crowd-pleasing adventure. When they meet up with the dime novel hero, Joe Harden, she soon finds that he's not like his stories but he still is experienced riding rough and teaches them a lot that they need to survive. He also reveals that his name isn't really Joe, it's Marion--a nod to John Wayne, perhaps?

The Misadventures of Maude March was on the 2007-2008 Texas Bluebonnet Award list; there is a sequel, Maude March on the Run.

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