________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 3 . . . . October 5, 2001

cover Ambush in the Foothills.

Bill Freeman.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2000.
163 pp., pbk. & cl., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55028-716-8 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55028-717-6 (cl.).

Grades 3-8 / Ages 8-13.

Review by Gail de Vos.

** /4


Jamie was worried. Never before had he taken on anything like this. To become trail boss on a cattle drive through unknown territory with hostile Indians was hard enough for a boy, but if he had to set out with only half a crew it might be impossible. Maybe Chisholm was right, and he should give up and return the herd to Kohr's Ranch.

But no. He was determined to take the cattle north. He owed it to Patrick to try and realize his dream, and the people in Canada needed the cattle. But how was he going to convince the cowboys that he could do it? That was the thing. They had to believe in him, just as they had believed in Patrick. The boy climbed into his bedroll after his watch with nothing resolved.

Fifteen-year-old Jamie and his thirteen-year-old sister, Kate, take on almost more than they can handle when they join Patrick McNeil, a former North West Mounted Police officer from Fort Walsh, on a cattle drive from the United States to Alberta. Their adventure is filled with jealous and petty outlaws, doubting cowboys, and visited all so briefly with historical characters such as the great Blackfoot Chief, Crowfoot, Commander James Walsh and the Kohrs family. The wilderness plays a large part of this tale of the early cattle drive into Alberta.

     It is a story, unfortunately, that is difficult to take seriously. Why would Patrick take two stranded children with him on such a dangerous enterprise and why, upon his death, would the success of the cattle drive reside upon a young boy on his first journey through the area? Kate is frequently making assertions of her ability to look after herself and then stands screaming when danger approaches. There are some positive aspects, however. Freeman adequately demonstrates the difference between the unpatrolled American and Canadian west. He also gives insight into the world of the cowboy in 1877, and the inclusion of photographs makes these insights even more concrete. It may be the fact that this book is part of a series about Kate and Jamie Bains that limits the believability of this story. This is regrettable as the adventures, themselves, are, according to an introductory note by the author, based on early Alberta history. While Ambush in the Foothills is not a believable tale, it does include some valuable tidbits of information about early cowboy life both here and in the United States.

Recommended with reservations.

Gail de Vos teaches Canadian children's literature and storytelling at the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alberta. She is a resident storyteller at Fort Edmonton Park, bringing history alive through stories, and the author of five books on storytelling and folklore.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364