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Children's Bookshelf

June 15, 1986|KRISTIANA GREGORY

WHITE DYNAMITE AND CURLY KIDD by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault; illustrated by Ted Rand (Holt, Rinehart & Winston: $11.95; 32 pp.; ages 5-8). This is not something to read to your children just before bedtime unless you want them wound up like banshees. The narrative here is rousing as a pep rally and meant to be yelled aloud so GET READY. Curly Kidd is a famous rodeo star ready to try his luck on the back of White Dynamite, "the meanest bull in the whole United States." As Curly tears out of the chute, listen to his kid, Lucky, who is perched on top of the corral fence in chaps, boots and Stetson:

"Oh! Dad's in the rocker now . . . floppin' back and forth! His head's goin' south! Bull's goin' north . . . Gone plumb dumb wild! KAN-sas, TEX-as, U-tah, MAINE . . . twistin' like a corkscrew straight down the right-away. His middle name's Doomsday! U! S! A!" Try that on a couple of 6-year-olds and watch them pitch right in, just as if they were leaning over that rodeo fence themselves.

The text is mostly Lucky's excited monologue interspersed with Dad's "Yep," "Nope," and "Me too" answers. He fits the stereotype of our American cowboy: lean, pensive, spare with words but with a heart soft enough for a child to love. Perhaps to emphasize this spareness, the authors omit the traditional he-said-and-she-said qualifiers which makes the dialogue sections a bit awkward to read aloud. It takes dramatic pauses and some raising and lowering of the voice to let the child know who is speaking.

Dust flies and mud spatters through Ted Rand's impressive full-colored, double-spread illustrations. His use of desert colors captures the rodeo in all its spirit and tension, even dabbing red into the eye of the bull. The clowns and rescue riders scatter around the ring as White Dynamite bucks. "Four seconds down, Dad! Four more to go!" The wild ride ends soon enough with a pleasant surprise waiting on the last page.

Bill Martin is probably most remembered for his best-selling "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" His resonant narrations have been heard on tape by thousands of school children as they watch their teacher show his pages in front of class. John Archambault is also a storyteller who has worked with Martin to teach youngsters about the joys of reading. They are a valuable duo with much to offer, as is evident in this unique adventure.

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