written by
Joyce Carol Thomas

Scholastic, 1987
ISBN: 0-5903-3638-X

Soon to be back in print as an Omnibus collection in November, 2007!

"A mountain's a task you fix for your spirit, a wild horse the challenge to your soul."

There was a boy and his father and his grandfather, and they were divided by a generation of anger. The ties that bound them had dissolved.

Then one magnificent horse and the legend of another rose out of the past to bind man to man and father to son. Here is their story.

With the same lyrical intensity that distinguished her American Book Award winner, Marked by Fire, Joyce Carol Thomas expands upon the story of a community, and brings to life the extraordinary essence of everyday people.

Carl Lee especially enjoyed hearing about the black cowboys and the Boley Rodeo. He had wanted to ride in the Boley Rodeo for as long as he could remember. But each year Gray said he was too young, too inexperienced. Everybody knew you had to be thirteen. And that was an exception; most folks didn’t ride until they were fifteen years old. Old men, thought Carl Lee.

But Carl Lee was anxious to prove himself. He couldn’t wait any longer. Thirteen was half a year away. An eternity. And next summer he’d be thirteen and a half, already an older man when the Boley Rodeo rolled around again.

He wanted to perfect some horse tricks but he palomino was too tame for the rodeo. Didn’t have a lick of spirit.

He couldn’t figure out yet just what he could do. He wanted to participate in the rodeo this Labor Day. Do something so wonderful they’d have to call him "cowboy" instead of "cowpoke."

The author of Marked By Fire has created a spirited, lyrical tale with a memorable cast of characters. Carl Lee, the son of a Cherokee mother (whom he has never known) and a black father, who is distant and unpredictable, has always felt closest to Gray Jefferson, his father's father, and often spends summers with him on his ranch, Golden Pasture. An ex-rodeo star, Gray is full of stories, and has plenty of time for his grandson. The summer that Carl Lee is 12, Gray tells him he may enter the Boley Rodeo if he's prepared. Carl Lee rescues an injured Appaloosa and then surprises his grandfather by being able to ride the wild animal. The boy rides the horse in the rodeo, and on his day of triumph the past and the present come together in a stirring event that also reunites father and son. The end to Thomas's story may be no surprise, but readers will stay with her fast-paced story. Thomas is a weaver of words, combining just the right ones to create a loving picture of three generations.

Publishers Weekly

Thomas tells with poetic, pictorial simplicity the fable-like ``growing up'' story of Carlton Lee Jefferson, a 12-year-old boy of black and Cherokee heritage, and of his complex relationships with his black father and grandfather and a beautiful ``raindrop'' Appaloosa rodeo horse. The contemporary setting is the ``Golden Pasture'' ranchland near Ponca City, Oklahoma; Thomas' love for this part of Oklahoma and empathy for her well-delineated characters emerge as she tells a story that has as its heart the idea that ``we can't build a fence around our feelings or the people we love.'' Such a fence of anger has isolated Samuel Jefferson from his father, Grayson, due to a rodeo incident involving the Appaloosa, and from Carl Lee because of the abandonmentpossibly by deathof the child by his mother. By the book's end, Carl Lee has performed in the local rodeo with the Appaloosa, and reconciliation with Samuel is about to take place. Some readers may feel that the apocalyptic-like climax of the book is somewhat contrived, but the story's tinges of realism and excellent characterization make the book a delight to read.

David A. Lindsey, School Library Journal

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