Title: The Last Ride of Caleb O’Toole
Author: Eric Pierpoint
Age Range: 9-12
Grade Level: 4 – 7
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (September 3, 2013)
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Publisher for tour
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
About the Book:
Danger looms for Caleb and his sisters on every mile of the Oregon Trail.
Epic in scope, populated by unforgettable characters, this debut wild west adventure novel by popular Hollywood character actor Eric Pierpoint will thrill young readers.
Caleb O’Toole and his two sisters are left orphaned after a cholera outbreak in their hometown of Great Bend, Kansas. Attempting to fulfill their mother’s dying wish, they strike out on a one-horse wagon to travel the treacherous road along the Oregon Trail to the Montana Territory to live with their aunt. Caleb promised to keep his two sisters safe. But safety is thirteen hundred miles away in the rugged Bitterroot Mountains, past the dust-choked deserts, monstrous tornadoes and ravenous wolves of the Oregon Trail. And after witnessing a crime by the infamous Blackstone Gang, Caleb and his sisters have no choice but to brave the dangers of the trail, trying to stay one step ahead of murderous outlaws.
“The fast-paced adventure serves up a hearty history lesson with side dishes of political, social and environmental commentary. Realistic and complicated characters give the familiar story of the pioneer’s journey fresh life. . . a suspenseful adventure with heart.”—Kirkus Reviews
“The pace doesn’t let up TV and film actor Pierpoint offers a rowdy Wild West adventure in his first book for children. . . Readers seeking action, history, and adventure aren’t likely to mind.”—Publishers Weekly
“In this action-packed debut novel…Pierpont has created a suspenseful, enlightening read featuring worthy allies (including several tribes of Native Americans) and wicked enemies (including a bad sheriff and his murderous brothers).” —Booklist
“A pioneer story that will keep readers on the edge of their seat. Part Wild West tale, part quest, part historical fiction, part family drama, the novel moves easily among the genres; it is probably strongest as a Western, drawing detailed descriptions of lawless towns, packed saloons, and bloody gunfights. . . Caleb is a remarkable protagonist who gains considerable maturity over the course of the adventure, and his interactions with his sisters add warmth to the story. This isn’t a historical lesson but an adventure, and it’s a fine one at that, sweeping readers along with breakneck pacing.”
—Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
About the Author:
Eric Pierpoint is a veteran Hollywood actor has been on stage, screen, and television for nearly thirty five years and whose credits include Hart of Dixie, Parks and Recreation, Alien Nation, The World’s Fastest Indian, and Holes.
Inspired by his family’s heritage as part of the pioneer migration along the Oregon Trail, including a great-great-grandmother born in a covered wagon, Eric piled Joey, his trusty dog, into his car to trace his family history, experience first-hand what the pioneers must have seen during the Western Migration and learn the history of this amazing era: the American Indian Wars and tribal culture, the hardships of the wild west and friendships that formed because of the dangerous journey. The author’s journey and his research was transformed into THE LAST RIDE OF CALEB O’TOOLE, a unique adventure novel of America’s pioneer past.
Interview with Eric Pierpoint:
If you could visit any time or place, when and where would you go?
I would love to have been around to hear the discussions about and arguments for the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Meeting our forefathers, listening to their views about forming our country would be thrilling!
If you could only read 3 books for the rest of your life, what would they be?
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Call of the Wild, and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I love stories about people who have lost everything and must overcome great odds to win in the end. Many children in our world have suffered loss. I am inspired by their strength and courage to learn, move forward, and succeed in life. I also love books that have action, history, and struggles between good and evil. I want children to discover their inner hero as they read my books!
What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Jamoca Almond Fudge
Is there anything that your audience should know about you?
I am also an actor and an artist and was a pretty good athlete in my day. I love dogs and horses. While I had a very active imagination as a kid, I never wrote much. It’s now caught up to me. It’s never too late to start something new.
First of all, if you haven’t read the interview with the author, please do. Eric has some awesome answers! I especially love the 3 books he would read for the rest of his life. Fantastic choices! Now for the review:
This is the ultimate book for western loving kids. Caleb O’ Toole and
his sisters must flee their home upon the deaths of their parents. They
make their way to the Bitterroot mountains in Montana and have many many
adventures along the way.
There is so much to love about this book. It is marvelously researched
and well planned. The dangers and setbacks that Caleb and his two
sisters face were very real for that time. Books like this never fail to
impress upon me the responsibility that was often shouldered by kids
during this era. They had to grow up fast and that is exactly
what Caleb, Julie, and Tilly do. Caleb and Julie both change quite a
bit over the course of the book as they rise to face the challenges that
confront them. Julie becomes quite adept with the medicine bag and
Caleb learns to ride, shoot, and make allies in unexpected places.
The author impressed me with his story telling ability. I was sucked
right into the story and felt like I was riding alongside the
characters. This book would make a fantastic movie.
There is a lot of action in the book and sometimes there is almost too
much going on. There are gunfights galore, wolves, tornadoes, thieves,
murderers, scoundrels, Indians, stampedes, and one pathetic saloon girl.
The kids are shown kindness, cruelty, compassion, and hostility. They
are treated as outlaws and hailed as heroes. In the first 50 pages
especially, I felt like I didn’t have time to catch my breath. But after
that the pace evened out a bit and moved along at a good clip.
Overall, I loved it. Some things didn’t strike me as completely
believable, but it was a cross-country western adventure that I won’t
Content: Lots of gunfights. People die. The details are minimal and tempered for the age group.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for the tour in exchange for an honest review.
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