By Louis L’Amour
Bantam reissue, June 2007
Originally published January 1968
Everyone was dead. Indian raiders massacred the entire wagon train. Only seven-year-old Hardy Collins and three-year-old Betty Sue Powell managed to survive. With a knife, a horse, and the survival lessons his father taught him, Hardy must face the challenges of the open prairie. Using ingenuity and common sense, he builds shelters, searchers out water, and forages for food. But as he struggles to keep them alive, he realizes that their survival will depend on his ability to go beyond what his father was able to teach him. Hardy bravely presses on, fighting off the temptation to give up, until a howling blizzard and a pack of hungry wolves force him to make decisions that no seven-year-old boy should ever have to make.
I picked this book to read as the blurb above indicated that the hero would be different to those I usually read about. Here we have a young kid instead of the fast-shooting drifter, gunslinger or lawman etc. My one fear was that L’Amour would make the boy too much like a young man, give him abilities that no child of his age would have. But I needn’t have worried; L’Amour does an excellent job in his characterization of Hardy Collins and Betty Sue Powell. They come across as children, children full of belief that Hardy’s father will find, and save, them.
There are some exciting action scenes too, although one of them stretched my belief a little, that of a fight between a horse and a grizzly, but still it was very entertaining and that’s what is asked from fiction right? If you agree with my last comment then you’ll also be able to overlook the other things that had me asking questions, such as how Hardy made a very good bow and arrows without any tools to speak of?
Forgetting the eye-brow raising moments, this is an easy to read book that offers a straightforward storyline that has a predictable outcome but still proves to be a very enjoyable read. In fact this book could be a perfect way to introduce young readers to westerns due to the fact that the heroes are children too.