________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 14. . . . March 14, 2003

cover Ollie Jolly, Rodeo Clown.

Jo Harper. Illustrated by Amy Meissner.
Portland, OR: Westwinds Press (Distributed in Canada by Whitecap Books), 2002.
32 pp., pbk. & cl., $12.95 (pbk.), $22.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55868-553-7 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55868-552-9 (cl.).

Subject Headings:

Grades 1-4 / Ages 6-9.

Review by: L.M. Sykes.

**1/2 /4


Ollie Jolly was a comical kid.
Dimple Davis tittered when she saw him
coming down the street. Gracie Garcia
got the giggles as he passed by. Buck Bell
chortled whenever Ollie said, "Howdy!"
Ollie Jolly gave folks the grins.
It wasn't that Ollie was silly.
It wasn't that Ollie was dumb. It
wasn't even that Ollie looked odd. Fact
is, he was cute as a frolicsome Appaloosa
colt- that is, if you like freckles and
chuckles and kinky red hair.
Whenever folks looked in his jolly
face, they couldn't help it.
They laughed. Just seeing Ollie Jolly
made them merry.

Ollie Jolly is a freckle faced, fun-loving boy who enjoys making others laugh. He is well liked by everyone in the town of Tahoka except for Shoat Shotley, the local bully, and Miss Tut Tuttle, his stern teacher. Although he is known for his antics, Ollie is not laughing one day when his class is assigned a paper on "What Occupation I Will Choose and Why." Unsure about a topic, Ollie passes time with his classmates after school at the Dixie Cup ice cream parlour and discovers that the rodeo has come to town. The students meet Limber Lem, "the bravest man in the rodeo," who demonstrates his rodeo clown skills. Ollie is impressed with Lem's routine but, moments later, Shoat Shotley releases Bad Medicine, the rodeo bull, from his pen, and the town is in an uproar. As the bull charges straight for the Dixie Cup, Lem attempts to distract him but slips on some ice cream. All appears lost until Ollie leaps to the rescue and uses his natural clowning ability to confuse the angry bull. After that, Ollie Jolly is inspired to become a rodeo clown and has no difficulty completing his writing assignment.

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     Jo Harper's Ollie Jolly, Rodeo Clown is a western melodrama complete with Ollie, the hero, Shoat Shotley, the villain, and a supporting cast of colourful small town characters. The story is told in a 'folksy,' conversational style with a definite South-western flavour, and Harper's text is filled with similes and examples of alliteration. For the most part, the language is very descriptive and provides strong mental images: "He turned cartwheels like a rolling tumbleweed"; "She was a lemon through and through"; "Quick as a winter wind" and "He sagged like a frost-bitten sunflower." At times, however, the language does seem awkward and the colloquialisms a little overdone; for example, "You look plumb-down in the git alongs" and "Shoot, Ollie you can't let her buffalo you." Young readers may not follow the meaning of all of the dialogue but will no doubt enjoy the fast pace at which Ollie's tale unfolds and the tension provided by Shotley and Tuttle.

     Amy Meissner's illustrations convey Ollie Jolly's enthusiasm and energy through the use of colour and motion. The story's characters are animated and literally leap across the pages. Readers will appreciate the expression and humour contained in the paintings though some pages seem rather 'busy.' The illustrations would be suitable for large group sharing.

     With much emphasis rightly being placed on the serious concern of bullying today, adults may want to discuss Shoat Shotley's character and actions in Ollie Jolly, Rodeo Clown. The bully in this case is dealt poetic justice when Ollie lands on him as he falls, but the story could initiate discussion as to how bullying is best handled in real life situations.

     Overall, Harper's Ollie Jolly, Rodeo Clown is bursting with images and action. It is an exaggerated western adventure that would appeal to the imaginations of elementary readers.


Lisa Sykes has worked as an early-years teacher and teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB. and has recently relocated with her family to Barrie, ON.


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

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364