Arizona Charlie and the Klondike Kid

Reviewed: July 20, 2003
By: Julie Lawson
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
32 pages, $19.95

Young Ben was fascinated by Arizona Charlie Meadows when the famous cowboy came to Dawson and opened up the Palace Grand Theatre. He watched his hero at practice and decided that he could develop his own skills through personal effort. He became an expert with a lasso and he got to be pretty good with his slingshot. Then through sheer accident, he got invited by the great man himself to join him on the stage at the Palace and assist him in his act.

Two things ruined Ben’s big night. The first was to discover that he was being asked to hold the little glass balls which were the targets in the sharp-shooting act. Why? Because Charlie had accidentally nicked his wife in the act the night before and he needed another helper. The second problem was that he had stage fright. He’d practised a lot, but always by himself. Ben shook so badly that Charlie had to cancel the shooting act, and he ran off the stage when it came time to do his own rope tricks.

Totally embarrassed, Ben is on his way home when he runs into a robbery and manages to save the day after all.

Lawson has given us a lively tale that kids should relate to. Everyone’s had a wish to be special and everyone’s had some kind of performance anxiety.

Charko’s blend of watercolours and coloured pencils gives us that Gold Rush Klondike era flavour. She’s accurate where she needs to be and evocative when she doesn’t have to be exact..

Arizona Charlie and the Klondike Kid is the third Klondike book that Julie Lawson has produced since her tenure at the Berton Home Writers’ Retreat a few years ago. First came a young adult novel called Destination Gold (Orca) and then a picture book called The Klondike Cat (Kids Can). We don’t know what else she has under way in her files, but nothing would surprise us.

Three Tales of Trickery
retold by Marilyn Helmer
illustrated by Noushin Pajouhesh
Kids Can Press
32 pages

Three Tuneful Tales
retold by Marilyn Helmer
illustrated by Kasia Charko
Kids Can Press
32 pages

The charming anthologies in the Once Upon a Time series probably sell themselves without much need for review, but I like to make mention of a well crafted children’s book when I can. The idea of taking classic stories and grouping them by theme has served this series well and the uniform styling of the books looks good on the shelf.

The decision to use a variety of artists to illustrate the books also seems to have worked. Of the two featured here I prefer the watercolour work of Charko, which goes very well with “The Bremen Town Musicians”, “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” and “The Nightingale”.

Pajouhesh’s gouache paintings are done is a more fanciful, childlike style, and it goes well with ‘Little Red Rising Hood:, “Hansel and Gretel”, and “Rumpelstilskin”.

As usual, Marilyn Helmer has done a fine job of retelling the stories in a more modern tone of voice.