978-0-8125-8913-9 / 0812589130

The Way to Bright Star

by Brown, Dee Alexander




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About the book:

In this rambling road novel, Dee Brown, author of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, draws on the fascinating historical episode of the U.S. Army's brief flirtation with camels. In the early days of the Civil War, the irascible Union officer Captain Lightfoot purchases two of the beasts from the government and hires wagon master Johnny Hawkes and his teenage sidekick, Ben Butterfield, to deliver the camels to his farm in Bright Star, Indiana. They set off from Texas by wagon, cart, and then on foot, beset with adventures and pursued or joined by various colorful characters along the way, among them a young bank robber who is soon revealed to be a feisty girl named Queen Elizabeth Jones. When Johnny is thrown in a Union prison for stealing back his own horse, young Ben and Elizabeth continue the long line of exploits alone. Shambling along like a dromedary, the story wends its leisurely way over the landscapes of 1862 Missouri and Illinois as the storm clouds of war gather, and country folk choose up sides. Chapters about teenage Ben and Elizabeth's escapades on the road alternate with Ben's reflections (as a randy old man) on the circus stint that followed their cross-country journey. Not an action-packed novel, The Way to Bright Star is nevertheless rich with vignettes portraying the people and lifestyles of late-19th-century rural America. (Ages 15 and older) --Patty Campbell

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