"This gripping coming-of-age story combines vibrant local color with a backdrop of timeless and universal themes. The young adults I teach will be sure to enjoy this book-a good read that carries a punch."
Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, Ph.D., Prof. of English Education and Dir. of Boise State
"As our nation's urban population grows, I feel the gap in understanding rural problems also widens. Realizing our youth are our tomorrow, I was excited to read Jan Young's The Orange Slipknot. Her story, directed to young readers, brings 'country life' alive."
"This is an exciting story of cattle ranching in the Great Basin of the western United States. Here, modern ranching techniques and practices mix with old Spanish vaquero tradition.…Author Jan Young fills her story with details of ranching life ... four-wheelers, horses, rifles, and wildlife. With a fourteen page glossary of Ranching Terms & Cowboy Slang and a comprehensive study guide, the book could be a useful tool for classroom instruction."
"Real-life Ranch Reading
Want to shake up your kids' reading list with a rough and rowdy book that will actually keep their attention? Consider "The Orange Slipknot," a new piece of fiction by Winnemucca, Nev., author Jan Young.
Young tells the story of 12-year-old Ben, a boy who lives on a ranch near Elko, Nev. When a prank backfires, Ben learns to take responsibility for his actions and tries to save his dad's job.
The descriptions of modern ranch life pull the reader in as much as the conflict. Ben has to get up early, take care of the horses and help recover lost cattle in the mountains.
Young's depiction of hard-working ranch children is accurate, said Carey Hurd, manager of the Y-3 Ranch in Jackpot, Nev.
"My kids are 6, 9 and 12 and they got chores, you know. They got to feed horses," he said.
The hard work, Hurd said, gives them an unusually deep respect for material possessions for their ages.
"They know that it takes some work to get what they have," he said.
In the book, Ben is also trusted with adult responsibilities like driving and owning a gun. Hurd lets his children do the same, saying he would give a gun to his 12-year-old son sooner than to a cocky 25-year-old.
"Just depends on how mature the 12-year-oldis," he said.
Letting children drive tractors and trucks on dirt roads doesn't pose a safety issue like it would in the city, Hurd said.
"It's just gravel roads," he said. "There's nobody out for a long ways."
Young's book brings up other issues that affect ranch life, such as gophers tearing up fields. Ben earns money by trapping gophers for his neighbors, saving their alfalfa fields from destruction.
Here too, "The Orange Slipknot" is on target.
Hurd said gophers, ground squirrels and rabbits cause problems on a lot of ranches in northern Nevada.
"Rabbits are really bad about eating the bottom of the haystacks in the winter," he said. To solve the problem, Hurd lets his children shoot the animals. The family also floods out gophers.
The children's novel glorifies the tough, dirty lives of ranchers and their families. It will resonate with children who live in the country - and with city kids who are interested in working with horses.
Young paints a vivid picture of Ben's family's life on the ranch and does a fine job explaining some tough issues, like why horses with broken legs have to be euthanized and why gophers are dangerous for farmers trying to make a living.
Susan Guinn, whose children take care of their horses at their home outside Buhl, said the book seems like it could draw city children to the country.
"City kids just have an awe about horses," she said.
The book might be a little intimidating for young readers who have no experience with livestock, however - the cowboy lingo peppered throughout the story is foreign to most city slickers. A glossary in the back explains words like "riata" and "snaffle," but the words pop up often enough to potentially alienate some children.
But for a true-to-life, gritty depiction of living on a ranch, "The Orange Slipknot" lassos its target audience - children passionate about country life.
Being twelve years old is an awkward age as a young boy is not yet a teenager but no longer a little kid. As most adolescent boys do, Ben Lucas wants nothing more than to earn the respect of his father and prove his capabilities and maturity.
Ben's desire to follow in his father's footsteps as a well respected cowboy and ranch hand in the beautiful Nevada landscape leads him to come up with what he believes is the perfect plan for showing his father just what he can do. Only the plan doesn't go as Ben hopes. Using his quick reflexes, Ben is able to lasso a ground squirrel. Full of pride, Ben races off to the corral of the ranch where his family lives and his father is the Head Ranch hand. Upon entering the corral, the squirrel not wishing to be a trophy starts to go crazy, spooking the horses. Chaos ensues as the horses break through the fence and run as far away from the squirrel as they can get with one horse stepping in a hole and breaking his leg. To Ben's dismay, horses with broken legs are only taken care of in one way.
Ben's father, Pete Lucas is disappointed in his son and now has to clean up the mess as well as pay his crotchety old boss, Fred, fifteen hundred dollars for the horse. After learning how much the horse cost and having a run in with Fred (who never liked Ben anyway) Ben decides to get a job to pay for his mistake. His parents never really had a lot of money and besides, this would prove to his dad how responsible and mature he is. A ranch hand suggests Ben start a gopher trapping business where he will have the potential to earn the money he needs.
When the California Crud runs rampant through the ranch causing all the cowboys to be ill, Pete Lucas has no choice but to enlist the help of his son in leading the rest of the stray horses back to the ranch. When tragedy strikes and Ben is called upon to help Fred, will he have what it takes to follow through or will Ben's dad be disappointed again?
Will Ben be able to earn his father's trust and respect again? Will Ben be able to smooth things over with the grumpy old Fred? Is Ben destined to achieve his goal of being a Buckaroo and someday owning his own ranch?
THE ORANGE SLIPKNOT is a wonderful adventure into one boy's coming of age story. Perfect for children and adults, this book promises to make a lasting impression. It is entertaining as well as educational as it contains a glossary in the back defining terms commonly used on a ranch and not well known to city folks. Ms. Young does an excellent job painting a descriptive background and creating a captivating story.
Midwest Book Review, "Children's Bookwatch," Feb. 2008 issue
The Orange Slipknot
Tutor Jan Young draws from her husband's real-life experiences as a cowboy in The Orange Slipknot, a novel set on a Nevada cattle ranch for young readers in the middle grades. Twelve-year-old Ben doesn't want to be treated like a child, but he's at wits end trying to deal with his short-tempered father and the old cow boss with a grudge against him. A salt-of-the-earth, modern-day tale about riding and roping, and coming of age.
A teacher review
I assigned this book to a group of my 6th grade boys with learning disabilities. They loved the book, and I particularly loved the curriculum. It contains chapter by chapter comprehension questions, which are challenging and interesting. It also contains all kinds of interesting projects and activities sorted by disciple. The author has really created a multi-disciplinary curriculum. It is obvious that she has been a teacher for many years. You don't need to do any extra work if you don't have the time, but I supplemented with videos from Youtube, because my students need that visual connection. My one suggestion would be to emphasis the themes of the book more than the author does - When does a boy become a man?, What does taking responsibility for your actions really mean?, What is the Cowboy Mystique? What makes a good parent? What does it mean to project your problems/ unhappiness/negative character traits onto someone else? How do recognize when you are doing this, and how do you handle it when someone else is doing this to you? My students learned a lot, and really enjoyed the book. There was no eye-rolling, moaning or whining when it was time for reading. That is remarkable, because reading has always been such a struggle for my students that they avoid it like the plague. Not so with this book. Many thanks to the author.