Category Archives: Book Reviews

Wyoming Book Reviews

Last Rides, Cowboys, Indians, Generals & Chiefs: The Legacies of the Early Photographers of The American West
Paul Jensen
[Greybull, Wyo.] : Pronghorn Press, 2018

As an avid history fan, Last Rides took me on an enjoyable journey into the lives of General George Armstrong Custer and three photographers, David Francis Barry, John C.H. Grabill, and L. A. Huffman. Jensen reveals a captivating story about the American West remembered through photographic history combined with research into the lives of these men.

The title and organization of the book had me confused. I thought the book was going to be about the photographers, however it started with a history of General George Armstrong Custer and what led to his demise. The second part of the book discussed three photographers in detail. Even with this issue, the book was interesting and informative.

Krisene Watson, Administrative Services Manager
Campbell County Public Library

Wyoming: The Next Question to Ask (to Answer)
Tyler Truman Julian
[Georgetown, KY] : [Finishingline Press], c2018.

I don’t advise treading into this collection of poetry lightly. While the sensory descriptions are stellar, the voluminous use of metaphorical verse may not appeal to all audiences and the content material is rather heavy. However, local references repeatedly mentioned will likely ring a bell in the heart of every Wyomingite.

While this book is a collection of poems broken into four sections, each has a strong connection to the piece prior or post. Nearly every poem has a crystal-clear reflection of the vocabulary and imagery mentioned before, creating a seamless transition into the dreamlike reality of Julian’s Wyoming, where metaphors and reality sway closely together. The poems’ subjects — neighbors, home, and the fear and confusion of death — are universally relatable and easily followed through to a complete and thoughtful ending.

Jessica Dawkins, Collections Technician
Wyoming State Library

Wyoming Book Reviews

Wedge of Fear
Eugene Gagliano
Fort Collins, CO : Crystal Publishing LLC, 2018

Tony Greco and his parents have just moved to Wyoming from New York. Tony is in 6th grade and worried about starting over at a new school and the prospect of trying to make new friends. Tony wants to prove to everyone, especially his mom, he can take care of himself, but first he must prove it to himself. When faced with a terrifying medical crisis involving his mother, in the middle of a Wyoming tornado, Tony proves himself to be more than capable of taking care of himself and others. Eugene Gagliano has done a good job of portraying the thoughts and feelings of a 6th grade boy. He paints a vivid picture of small town life and country living in rural Wyoming. I think this book would attract reluctant readers, especially boys.

Twila Pilcher, Certified Library Support Staff
Hulett School Library

Ghost Walker: Tracking a Mountain Lion’s Soul Through Science and Story
Leslie Patten
Far Cry Publishing, 2018

I approached Patten’s Ghost Walker with the caution I’d use hearing of a recent mountain lion sighting. After all, much of my childhood was deep in the Bitterroots, in one of the areas where Patten researched mountain lion (‘cougar’) activity. I soon enjoyed reading about Patten’s consultations and work with wildlife experts, studying the lions in their home ranges throughout the West. Patten’s writing style makes a scientific topic understandable, relating the history of human-mountain lion interactions and the current positive work being done. This is a realistic writing of how mountain lions live, die, and interact with humans.  Read Ghost Walker – you will come away more aware and appreciative of the mountain lion’s place in Wyoming’s eco-system.

Nancy Venable, Extension and Volunteer Services Manager
Campbell County Public Library

Wyoming Book Reviews

Return of the Grizzly
Cat Urbigkit
Perseus Distribution Services, 2017

Cat, a Wyoming sheep producer and author, has done an exceptional job distilling information about what is either our most loved or hated top predator, the grizzly bear. Despite its factual basis, the book is an easy and engaging read, if slightly unnerving when she discusses human-bear conflicts. Living in Cody, I especially appreciated the range maps depicting grizzly bear expansion from 1980 to 2010. Cat’s narrative centers around the grizzlies of the Upper Green River, but she does an inclusive job of presenting the state of the bears across the entire region. As a public lands recreationist, I generally focus my data-gathering on hiking-related bear conflict information, but I learned quite a bit about the challenges experienced by livestock producers in grizzly country. This is an excellent resource for all libraries.

Leslie C. Tribble, Technical Services Manager
Park County Library

Wyoming from A to Z
K.W. Bunyap
Createspace, 2017

Take a walk through Wyoming from A to Z with this delightful children’s alphabet book. A creative use of photos illustrate the state from the black-footed ferrets for the letter B and the Town of Van Tassell for the letter V. Iambic pentameter makes this work flow from page to page. Little ones will enjoy the rhymes, while older readers will enjoy the factual content. One excellent example is, “D is for Devils Tower. It was the first National Monument, but that’s not all, this flat-topped column of stone is 867 feet tall.”  Readers who enjoy this book, may also enjoy other theme-based alphabet books like F Is for Firefighters, by Dori Butler, or ABC’s in Nature, by Daniel Nunn. A great non-fiction browser or read-a-loud. What better way to learn about your state without ever leaving home.

Joan Brinkley, Director
Goshen County Library

Wyoming Book Reviews

The Geysers of Yellowstone, 5th ed.
T. Scott Bryan
Louisville, Colorado : University Press of Colorado, [2018]

T. Scott Bryan knows his geysers, as evidenced in the fifth edition of his book The Geysers of Yellowstone. In this conveniently organized and very thorough field guide, Bryan shares detailed information about hundreds of geysers in the Yellowstone National Park. Grouped by geyser basins, learning about individual geysers is simple in this easy-to-use guide for park visitors.

I have visited Yellowstone National Park only twice, and can only assume this is an exhaustive list of all geysers in the park. The information Bryan shares on these spectacular feats of nature includes historical background, eruption activity, location relative to surrounding geysers, and any special identifiers. The guide also contains numerous photos, maps, charts, and sketches, as well as an appendix of geyser fields around the world.

From basic information about geysers to maps of their locations, this field guide is a must-have for park visitors and geyser lovers alike.

Lisa Scroggins, Director
Natrona County Library

Georgia Rules
Nanci Turner Steveson
New York, NY : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2017]

Georgia is home for Magnolia Grace (Maggie) and her mother. They have lived a comfortable country club lifestyle for as long as she can remember. Her father and his Vermont farm are a shadow of a memory. When he unexpectedly passes, Maggie and her mother must move to Vermont to fulfill the requirements of his will. The move flips Maggie’s world upside down and shakes out all the dusty corners. As the dust settles she finds parts of herself she didn’t known were missing.

In Georgia Rules, Nanci Turner Stevenson takes on the real struggles of life. Without downplaying the intensity of life’s challenges, Turner uses language and context in which young readers can relate. Those who are holding the tension between being young and growing up will connect with Maggie as she deals with the themes of friendship, love, loss, and forgiveness in real world situations. And for those of us who have already grown up, Stevenson paints such a vivid picture it is instantly recognizable as the harrowing journey between being a child and an adult.

Ami Vincent, Library Assistant II, Adult Department
Fremont County Library System-Lander

Wyoming Book Reviews

Memoir of a 1950’s Yellowstone Horse Ranger
Bob Richard

Cody, WY: Elliot Rivers Publishing Co., 2018

The author, Bob Richard, has the distinction of being the first of the modern Yellowstone National Park horse patrol rangers, from 1957-1960. This marvelous booklet is a collection of photographic essays,  with brilliant black and white images illustrating the professional and personal life of the YNP horse patrol ranger, including many shots of “Big Red,” his Morgan horse.  Each section is introduced by a short text, with detailed captions accompanying each image. The photographs are mostly selections from the archives of the author’s father Jack Richard, of Cody, Wyoming, supplemented with a few of the author’s own. Besides being a nostalgic memoir, this work also doubles as a useful sampling of the extraordinary Jack Richard Photograph Collection of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.  It will doubtless be a desirable item to collectors of Yellowstone National Park history and photography.

Nathan E. Bender, Technical Services Librarian
Albany County Public Library

Blue Springs
John D. Nesbitt
CreateSpace, 2017

John Nesbitt has taken Wilf Kasmire, a modern-day Wyoming cowboy (cowboy part-time and seasonal jack of all trades) and put him into an unexpected mystery. I enjoyed Blue Springs, an adventure that reads like a country western song. Old pick-up trucks, small town bars, cold beer, trail horses, hard sweaty physical labor, campfire songs, memories of old girlfriends and hopes for new are all part of this cowboy’s search for Dawn, a missing ex-girlfriend.  After she leaves Wilf’s single-wide without a trace, his gut instinct tells him to take on the searh when the police can’t. Dawn’s job-hopping history leads Wilf to the Blue Springs Guest Ranch where he is hired on as a ‘drain wrangler.’ Watch for western slang and a variety of jokes as you travel with a cowboy that is determined to do right by an old friend.

Nancy Venable, Extension and Volunteer Services Manager
Campbell County Public Library System

Wyoming Book Reviews

Betsy Bernfeld
Georgetown, KY: Finishing Line Press, 2018

The poems in Betsy Orient Bernfeld’s Eve are strong and varied. This collection of poetry is an engaging and emotional read. It is full of history, fragile and enduring connections, the natural world, and both the soft touch and resilient strength of the feminine. Some of the poems explore the past, others speak of the present moment, and some examine what-if scenarios, both historically and personally. There is a satisfying balance between specific details and the deeper emotional currents. There is hope and loss, tender beauty and heavy tragedy. All against the backdrop of scenes like bright gold aspen leaves “like candles lit” and the “blue green sky to fill my wide blank eyes.” Whether she is analyzing a work of art said to be representative of female sexuality, reviewing evidence in court, bleeding in the wilderness, counting the miles along a beaten path, or building a house with stained glass windows, Betsy Orient Bernfeld has the poet’s ability to make the familiar seem strange and the strange seem familiar.

Rykki Neale, Children’s Librarian
LaBarge Branch Library

Karen Henderson, illus. Lisa Nicholas
AuthorHouse, 2017

Karen Henderson’s Floating is a relaxing and fun story about a family-time tradition. The author happily recalls memories of the sights and sounds of the river and takes the reader along, describing in sweet detail all of her favorite critters and insects. The rhyming lines and cadence give the story a cool and meandering feel, just like floating down a nice, refreshing river.

The illustrations by Lisa Nicholas lend the story a touch of nostalgia, as if each moment were a still-image from a child’s memory, intimate and playful.

Floating is a fun adventure that highlights the magic of time spent out in nature, sharing laughs and splashes with your loved ones!

Angela Wolff, Reference Librarian
Laramie County Library System

Wyoming Book Reviews

Chronicles of the Roc Rider
By Aaron Volner
[United States] : [CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform], [2017]

In this fantasy novel, Tanin Stormrush is a warrior whose battle partner is a raptor large enough to kill and eat a moose. It is a brilliant premise that took me a little time to really immerse myself in. In the wake of the murder of Tanin’s wife, he embarks on a mission of revenge. Tanin is convinced he’s really fulfilling his deathbed promise to his wife. The antagonist is a complex and often confusing character who is a little more than typically elusive. This story is not your typical fantasy and reaches into a battle of light and dark magic, with enough historical accuracy of the earth’s resources to keep you engrossed. There are several twists that were not entirely expected and kept me turning the pages to see what happened next. Although I am not typically a lover of fantasy, I am eagerly awaiting the release of volume 2.

Kathleen Horton, Library Paraprofessional
Burns Jr./Sr. High School

Kicking Up Dust
By Robert Twing
[United States] :, Inc., 2018.

This collection transports the reader to the world of Buffalo, Wyoming during the Great Depression. Each short story that recounts a different moment in Twing’s life, from boyhood through adulthood, deftly suffuses autobiography with humor and tension, faith and a strong sense of family. His engaging, accessible prose and keen eye for detail allows the reader a unique glimpse into history through the eyes of one ordinary man and his family and friends. Stories like “Once Upon a Time,” which recalls crafting homemade slingshots to use in games at recess in a one-room schoolhouse, and “Divorce? Never! Murder? Maybe!” illuminate how attitudes and social mores have changed in the years since, while fully immersing the reader in the story and time period in which it occurs. This collection is not only a fascinating resource on Wyoming history, but a moving portrait of a time gone by. Immersive history at its best.

Danielle Price, Digital Initiatives Librarian
Wyoming State Library

Wyoming Book Reviews

Rusty and His Saddle: a Rusty the Ranch Horse Tale
by Mary Fichtner; illus. Roz Fichtner
Cheyenne, Wyo. : the author, 2017

Rusty and His Saddle is a great example of the Wyoming code of ethics: “The Code of the West.” Each page depicts a characteristic with a specific word that will help readers understand these cowboy ethics.

Rusty is a wonderful ranch horse that all readers will relate to. He is not a fancy show horse. He does not have a fancy prize saddle. He is just a good old, hard-working ranch horse. Rusty will help teach readers the cowboy ethics during a working day on the ranch. And what really matters on the trail…how we ride.

Fichtner has written several stories, in rhyming text, based around her real-life ranch horse Rusty. The beautiful, bright colored illustrations, done by Fichtner’s daughter Rozlyn, bring Rusty’s world to life. Join Rusty the Ranch Horse for more adventures: Rusty Under the Western Skies, Rusty Goes to Frontier Days, Rusty and the Pot of Gold, Rusty and His Friend the River, and Wrong Color Rusty.

Bonnie Stahla, Youth Services Librarian
Crook County Library

Is It True?
by Eugene Gagliano, illus. Sarah Bradstreet
Jackson, Wyo. : Sastrugi Press, 2018

Is it True? What a fun book of funny children’s poetry. The illustrations are simple black and white drawings. From the poem “Is It True?”: …Is it true if I keep making this face, it will probably stay this way? Somebody please tell me I need to know today. Various topics are covered including upset moms, tall girls, school, food, pranks, families, and chores — things of interest to children. From “You Are What You Eat”: You are what you eat, Mom told my little brother. So now he doesn’t eat one thing or another. …He won’t drink a glass of milk ‘cause it might make him moo. The book includes things you may need to talk to your children or grandchildren about, that are misunderstandings of common expressions The “Heard That Before” poem says, The dog ate my homework, is what I said. The teacher frowned. I wished I was dead. … My dad said the evidence might make you gag, But I brought you the proof right here in this bag.

Deb Kelly, Librarian
Northwest College Hinckley Library

Wyoming Book Reviews

Along the Sylvan Trail
Julianne Couch
Jackson Hole : Sastrugi Press, [2017]

Along the Sylvan Trail is a journey. Not only do we get beautiful descriptions of the trail itself but of a multitude of characters that pass upon it. Julianne Couch’s character building is absolutely insightful. The relationships of the characters with each other and with nature is authentic and relatable. We get a glimpse of each character’s journey and the thoughts and emotions that led them to certain decisions. Like the trail, all these characters interconnect in some way but we get to learn their stories as if we were looking out on the landscape, sometimes looking at the most recent piece of geology, but often looking back across time. Couch does a great job weaving all these intriguing tales into a book that leaves you wanting, more than anything, to go and explore the natural beauty of the West. As a newcomer to the West, I greatly enjoyed her vivid landscape descriptions. This story is a journey worth taking and I highly recommend immersing yourself in this book.

Glory Taylor, Library Specialist
Emmett D. Chisum Special Collections, University of Wyoming Libraries

Rudy Mudra: Master Saddlemaker
By Kathy Muller Ogle
Cheyenne, Wyoming: Coyote Publishing, 2017

Rudy Mudra is well known among northeast Wyoming riders as well as other leatherworkers. This book chronicles his life starting with his parents who were Bohemian immigrants and his father was a harness and saddlemaker. Rudy started learning leatherwork as a child. As he grew up, he lived in Nebraska then moved to Montana then to Wyoming following the saddle work. He worked with saddleries such Miles City Saddlery, Otto F. Ernst Inc. Saddlery, and others. The book detailed the economic and transportation changes during this time as well as the changes to western saddle making during his life.

The book was well researched with great pictures. It included a history of who bought saddles made by Rudy, and other interesting details that helped me understand what life was like for the Mudra’s during this time period.

Anyone interested in local saddle making will find some interesting information in this book.

Krisene Watson, Administrative Services Manager
Campbell County Public Library – Gillette

Wyoming Book Reviews

Atlantic City, Wyoming 1868-2018: Voices From a Powerful Place
[Atlantic City, Wyoming?] : Atlantic City Historical Society, Inc., [2017]

The entire 150-year history of a patch of earth high on South Pass is laid out in this work. Bob Townsend and the Atlantic City Historical Society compiled this trove of stories and photographs from folks for whom Atlantic City holds a special place in their hearts and lives. The photographs alone are worth a perusal, but the stories will make you long to have been a part of such a powerful place. Early on, people came to Atlantic City for rumored gold. Some faded away as their dreams died, others stayed on and made a community. Atlantic City has ridden the cycle of boom and bust for years, but always managed to hang on with a few locals even during the most lean times. Although it was riches of the earth which called to the founders of Atlantic City, it’s the treasure of place which keeps the town going today.
Leslie C. Tribble, Technical Services Manager
Park County Library

Gathering from the Grassland: A Plains Journal
Linda M. Hasselstrom
Glendo, WY : High Plains Press, [2017]

I was entranced to read Linda M. Hasselstrom’s bounty of a book, Gathering from the Grassland. This paean to the prairie lands of South Dakota is a journey completely and lyrically human. Hasselstrom’s 1987 journal Windbreak explored her complex ties to family and homeland. She now returns to that format in a move that feels as inevitable as the Wheel of Time. Linda is living on the ranch, poring over old journals, and daily divining the unpredictable weather and the constant wonder of nature that surrounds her. She struggles to reconcile past wounds while searching for small signs along the trail for the way to carry her beloved land safely into the future. This book will speak to those who cherish small towns and our western way of life, those confronting their mortality and that of ill and aging parents, and to anyone examining their history in an effort to release long-held pain after a loved one has passed. This is a beautiful book, not to be missed.

Tamara Lehner, Circulation/Adult Programming
Glenrock Branch Library