Sunday, July 27, 2008

NonFiction Monday: Texas Rangers

Dewey: 976.4

Texas Rangers: Legendary Lawmen
by Michael P. Spradlin, illustrations by Roxie Munro. Walker & Co., 2008

Here in the Lone Star State, the social studies curriculum calls for teaching Texas history in fourth grade and seventh grade. I have spent many an hour in the exhibits at TLA searching out related nonfiction. For the most part there are a "specialty" publishers who feature biographies of heroes of Texas independence, governors, and journalists.

ften these books are "one size fits all" attempts that they hope to sell to junior high and elementary schools. Many of the titles are written on a grade 6 reading level, splitting the difference between fourth and seventh grade? This is not helpful to elementary school librarians.

When I saw Michael Spradlin's profile on JacketFlap, I noted this new book and sought it out at the TLA library conference this past spring.

Spradlin's story of the Texas Rangers progresses chronologically, from their origins as Texas "Minute Men," through the days of the Republic to the oil boom of the early 20th century through today. I did not know that the Texas state legislature mandates the number of Rangers serving, there are only about 120 at any given time. A single vacancy can attract over 100 applicants.

Much of the history of the Rangers is founded in the personalities who wore the badge. John B. Armstrong, Lone Wolf Gonzaullas, Frank Hamer were responsible for the capture of some of the most notorious outlaws in American history, including John Wesley Hardin and Bonnie and Clyde.

The picture book aspect might discourage junior high librarians from adding this title to their collections. Do not make that mistake.
Spradlin's writing is concise but not simplistic.

Roxie Munro's clear, bright illustrations depict the daring-do of the Rangers. Her distinctive style commemorates the landscape and the personalities who shaped the state.

Many libraries here own her Inside-Outside Texas, 2001.
I have to believe Spradlin must have done a happy dance when he heard she was to be his illustrator. The layout and even the typeface evoke the history that shapes the Texas outlook today.

I would urge publishers to follow suit with more lovely, full color Texas nonfiction. I am thankful to Spradlin and Munro for this gift.

I believe they will sell a copy to every library in Texas. As iconic as the Texas Rangers are, there is a place for the title in American history collections across the country.

Now, will someone, please, offer a similar treatment for Stephen F. Austin a.k.a. "the father of Texas?"

Michael P. Spradlin website
Roxie Munro website


Anonymous said...

Michael, I'm pleased to inform you that Bright Sky Press, a publisher of 3 Roxie Munro's wonderful children's titles: Ranch, Wild West Trail Ride Maze and Rodeo; has a wonderful new Texas Hero Series debuting at the 2009 TLA. There will be a series directed to K-3rd graders and a different series directed to 4th-7th grades. We will start with Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin and Davy Crockett and Jane Long; then progress further with more in the coming seasons. We look forward to seeing you at TLA!

Camille said...

That is WONDERFUL news! Thank you, thank you.

Anonymous said...

Camille, thank you so much for this review. Our library had a copy, and I enjoyed reading it to Jr. My parents are native Texans, so this was a great choice for our family.

Camille said...

I am so glad Jr. liked it.

As I read the book to prepare the review, I found myself addressing those present with comments like, "hey, listen to this..." or "wow, who knew?" I finally read the entire book aloud to the assembled throng (my children and husband.) That rarely happens. This book was a home run in every way.