Book Review: The Old Chisholm Trail

Ages 4-8

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Rosalyn Schanzer continues her exploration of the Old American West with her delightful new book, The Old Chisholm Trail.

Like her other books, this book takes a light-hearted look at some part of the Old West, in this case the cattle drives of the Chisholm Trail.

The book is basically one long song, with many verses, all good and many very funny. I like the way the author rhymes without losing sight of her content or her audience. (Better yet, many of the verses are real, sung by real cowboys on the real Chisholm Trail!)

Here's an example:

The rain is pouring down and the river's in a flood.
and the cattle are a-sinkin' in the quicksand and the mud.
Red cows, brown cows, spotted steers and blacks,
We cross the muddy river by running on their backs.

The artwork is good, of course, and very funny as well. To illustrate the phrase above, the artist (which I assume is the author herself) has drawn a red cow and a black cow, as well as a cow with a frown because one of the cowboys is running on its back!

Another example of the fun art is at right. Notice the bird on the horn of one of the steers.

The other reason I really like this book is that it highlights a part of history that isn't always emphasized or even taught all that much. The Chisholm Trail stretched from Texas to Kansas. The cows were then sent by train to people all across the country. Cattle drives like these were vital to the continued prosperity of the country, yet history books rarely mention such things. The author even includes some of this history at the very beginning of the book.

Lastly, the inclusion of the lyrics and music to the original song is a very nice touch. Both can be found on the last page.

In all, I highly recommend this book. The vocabulary is low enough that elementary school students can read it, and the subject matter is such that middle school students can get a lot out of it. 

Graphics courtesy of National Geographic

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