Charlotte Parkhurst was raised in an orphanage for boys, which suited her just fine. She didn't like playing with dolls, she could hold her own in a fight, and she loved to work in the stable. Charlotte had a special way with horses and wanted to spend her life training and riding them on a ranch of her own.
The problem was, as a girl in the mid-1800s, Charlotte was expected to live a much different life--one without the freedoms she dreamed of. But Charlotte was smart and determined, and she figured out a way to live her life the way she wanted.
Charlotte became an expert horse rider, a legendary stagecoach driver, and the first woman ever to vote. And she did these things at a time when they were outlawed for women. How? With a plan so clever and so secret--almost no one figured it out.
This is one of those books geared toward younger readers that I really wish would be rewritten for adults. Charlotte's semi-true story of escaping from an awful orphanage, pretending to be a boy, and generally being all-around awesome with horses was too hurried. There were a lot of really interesting things going on, and I wish I could have heard more about them.
I particularly liked Charlotte's relationships with her kind men-friends, Vern and Ebenezer. They saw her for her skills and virtues, not her sex or the stereotypes that flourished during the 1800s (and today, let's be honest). The picture of the Wild West of that time seriously stirred up my wanderlust--pioneering into new land, every day an adventure.
Bonus factor: Brian Selznick, illustrator of Hugo Cabret, drew several pictures for this book. Naturally, they are awesome.
Four out of five eye patches.
Release Date: September 1999
Reading Level: Grade 4+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: BLUESTEM