Age Range: 4 to 7
The Story: Cactus Annie doesn’t want to go to cowgirl school. On her first day she gets everything wrong and Miss Tumbleweed, the teacher, tells her that she must try harder. On the second day of school Cactus Annie arrives to find that the pesky rats have stolen all the cows so Miss Tumbleweed sends everybody home. On the way home Cactus Annie hears cows mooing in a nearby barn and discovers the pesky rats making cheese. After saving the cows Cactus Annie gets a gold star for being the best cowgirl in the town and the rats are sent to jail.
I went to a picture book writing workshop at an SCBWI conference last year which was led by Melanie Williamson. Having heard her talk about writing and illustrating Cactus Annie I was intrigued to read the the book. It is hilarious, quirky and very original but also conveys a message about bravery. At the start of the story Cactus Annie is timid and scared but after daringly rescuing the cows she gets a huge boost to her self confidence.
The humour in this story is conveyed through both through the text and the pictures, there are so many little details that make us laugh – the cheese making machine, the rabbits with carrots in their holsters, the pesky rats on their trikes to name but a few. It also introduced my daughter to new vocabulary with lasso practice, barn dancing and the spurs on the back of the cowboy boots providing us with lots to talk about. We also tried lassoing our rocking horse (which is harder than it looks!) and saying ‘Yee Haa’!
This very funny story is unlike any other picture book we have read and the wonderfully quirky illustrations provide great entertainment.
Author / Illustrator: Melanie Williamson