BOOKS: Fun characters, humor make up for plot in tale of Calliope’s capers
By Jean Patrick
Republic Book Columnist
There’s something different about Calliope. She’s the shortest, dustiest, lumpiest horse that Rancher Rose’s ranch hands have ever seen.
That’s because she’s a rhinoceros.
“Cowboy Boyd and Mighty Calliope,” by Lisa Moser, is the story of a helpful duo looking for a home. Even though they’re not typical, Rancher Rose gives them a chance.
But things don’t go well with the fence mending and the rounding up of the strays. In fact, Calliope can only manage to bring home a stray prairie dog, a stray jackrabbit and a stray coyote. By the end of the day, more disasters have hit. Calliope has crashed through a pasture fence, a barn wall and the bunkhouse door.
At this point, Rancher Rose points them to the road. But all is not lost. When a thunderstorm hammers the Double R ranch, Calliope saves the day.
Although “Cowboy Boyd and Mighty Calliope” follows a predictable plot structure, a couple of things stand out.
Part of it is author Lisa Moser’s understated humor. When Hardtack and Slim accuse Calliope of being slow, Cowboy Boyd explains: “Calliope is not a sprinter. She’s more of a plodder.” Even her plodding is understated. When she heads across the range, she “KERTHUDS.”
Illustrator Sebastiaan Van Doninck uses an exaggerated slapstick style to accentuate the story’s humor. However, his style can be questionable. Rancher Rose wears a short skirt. The barn looks a little bit like a church. And the coyote looks nothing like a coyote.
However, the turtle makes up for any shortcomings. Often on the sidelines, he’s faithful to Calliope no matter how slow she is. By the end, he celebrates with Calliope by spinning upside down in the mud.
Moser is the author of several books for children, including “Railroad Hank.” Illustrator Sebastiaan Van Doninck lives and teaches in Antwerp, Belgium.
“Cowboy Boyd and Mighty Calliope.” By Lisa Moser. Illustrated by Sebastiaan Van Doninck. Random House, 2013, 40 pp.