The Last Ride of Caleb O’Toole


Twelve-year-old Caleb O’Toole’s last ride is motivated, like all his other actions in this adventure tale, by the dying words of his mother: “I need you to be strong.” Cholera, a lawless mob, and murdering thieves have made the family home of Great Bend, Kansas, a dangerous place to be in 1877. Caleb, along with his older sister Julie, younger sister Tilly, and dog Tumble barely escape with their lives. After witnessing murders by the Blackstone gang, Caleb and Tilly are rescued by Civil War veteran Henderson, afterward accused of the Blackstones’ crimes.

The children begin a journey to the ranch owned by their aunt in the Bitterroot Mountains – over a thousand miles distant. The way takes them over parts of the Oregon and Bozeman Trails. They experience the company of both hostile and friendly Indians, thieves, tornadoes, deserts, and hungry wolf packs. The Blackstone gang is in pursuit. Henderson and his mighty horse return with allies and are ready to lend a hand in the final showdown.

Rife with incident and spine-tingling excitement, this classic journey Western could have used one more pass with an editor’s pen for cliches and repetitions. The level of violence and body count may be a little high for its targeted younger-young-adult age group. Ages 8 and up.

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12 of the best stories selected from the 2012 Historical Novel Society Short Story Award







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