Angel’s Return

h1 September 21st, 2010 by jules


“Dust Devil blasted hot air from his nostrils with such force that he snorted the Desperadoes halfway to Kansas. But the gale nearly blew Angel off; and as she grabbed for the reins, she dropped her bolts of lightning. At once the Desperadoes moved in and aimed their mosquitoes. It didn’t look good for Angel,
up in that thicket of thorny thieves.”

(Click to enlarge spread.)

This image right here gives me the heebie-jeebies is what it does. And I mean in an awe-inspiring kind of way, given my weird phobia of monumentally large things. When the copy of Athena was erected in the Parthenon in Nashville’s Centennial Park years ago, it took me about thirty minutes to look up at her, and my honeymoon trip to Rome, needless to say, was challenging. But, as usual, I digress.

That’s the colossally big Angelica Longrider, a.k.a. Swamp Angel, and—as promised yesterday—I’m here this morning to show some spreads from the sequel to her first story, the 1995 Caldecott Honor winner, Swamp Angel. Yes, Swamp Angel fans will be very happy to know about this continuation of Anne Isaac’s original folktale—sixteen years later!—paired once again with Paul O. Zelinsky’s illustrations, rendered in oils on cedar, aspen, and maple veneers. (Here’s my ’08 interview with Paul, and I’m fairly certain that opening photo remains my favorite interview photo thus far in all my eleventy hundred 7-Imp interviews.)

Dust Devil is the name of this one, and here we have Swamp Angel, who has grown too big for Tennessee (as a Tennessee-dweller myself, I have to say: aaaaawwww, man!), moving west to Montana, “a country so sizeable that even Angel could fit in.” It’s 1831, and “Montana was nearly perfect” for that. When a dust storm hits, why, Angel springs right onto its back (thereby forging what we now know as the Grand Canyon), and when the dust washes away, she’s got herself a giant horse, whom she names Dust Devil.

Now, you can come to expect a wild ride of exaggeration on this tale, and Isaacs and Zelinsky do not disappoint with the outlaws of the story: Backward Bart and his Flying Desperadoes. They ride mosquitoes, no less. I won’t give it all away, but suffice it to say that Angel aids Sheriff Napalot in his attempt to catch the Flying Desperadoes.


(Click to enlarge.)

If you want reviews, they’re all glowing. There’s Betsy Bird’s detailed one, and this page at Zelinsky’s site covers the starred professional reviews. I have to concur: This book, like its predecessor, is a tour-de-force. A wild ride. A study in picture-book excellence, as Swamp Angel was.

Also not to be missed is Zelinksy’s Dust Devil saga over here at Publishers Weekly. Here are more illustrations from the book. Enjoy.



(Click each of the above two spreads to see the entire spread from which they come.)


“When Angel began to farm, she soon learned that
Montana soil is rich enough to open its own bank…”

(Click to enlarge.)


(Click to enlarge.)

* * * * * * *

DUST DEVIL. Text copyright © 2010 by Anne Isaacs. Illustrations copyright © 2010 by Paul O. Zelinsky. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Schwartz & Wade, New York, NY.





5 comments to “Angel’s Return”

  1. Some of the paintings in the book (not specifically the ones in your post) remind me of Maestro dell’Osservanza’s work. I wonder if Paul knows him (I don’t mean personally).


  2. I love Paul’s work! His illustrations are always so fantastic, and this looks to be no exception. Any book that has me grinning so much while looking at sample pages has got to be good, no?


  3. Jules,

    I LOVED “Swamp Angel.” It was one of those books that I so enjoyed reading aloud to young children. What a great pairing of text and art!
    I can’t wait to read this new book by Isaacs and Zelinsky.

    Sorry I haven’t been around much lately. Some family matters have kept me busy–including cleaning out my mother’s house.


  4. Since I write about (adult) dust-devils trying to blow the life out of my people, I found this book and its illustrations compelling. Those gold-pink sunsets….They’re really real.


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